How to Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis by Making the Most Out of College : Under30CEO How to Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis by Making the Most Out of College : Under30CEO
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How to Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis by Making the Most Out of College

| September 10, 2010 | 8 Comments

Quarterlife_Crisis_shirtCollege is an incredible opportunity, and I’m not referring to the classes. Many students in college enjoy a financial freedom that they’ll never again experience after graduation. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone, but there are certainly a lot of you out there. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you shouldn’t spend time in college partying & hanging out with your friends because those are some of my favorite memories, but I am going to tell you that there are a lot of other things you can & should be doing to make the most of those four years.

As part of the business school, I found it very easy to be swept up in the internship game. It’s hard to ignore the loud girl behind you in Managerial Accounting talking about her $20 an hour internship or your parents repeatedly telling you about a family friend working in a prestigious summer position. Find anyone College of Business ’07 from Fordham, and they’ll probably tell you that I was the Queen of Internships. I busied myself holding five internships/externships over four years, thinking I was securing myself a key to success.

While I do think holding some jobs/internships is important, I made a few huge mistakes. First, I let internships consume my college experience. Yeah- I joined a few clubs (the ones that promised to lead to the best jobs), but I didn’t make time to explore anything that I was truly interested in. If you’re like I was, you’re reading this article thinking that’s a waste of time. Time is money & college is about finding the best job- right? Well, three years out of school I can tell you that isn’t what it’s all about. I got that first big job & was making more money than most of my friends by a long-shot, but I wasn’t happy. Two years later, I decided I didn’t want to be dissatisfied with my career any longer and quit to start all over again.

My next mistake was letting money make my decisions. My first internship was unpaid, and yes, that sucks. I was working two other jobs just to manage my bills. After that, though, I secured an internship that I really enjoyed at CBS that was paying me $8 per hour. While $8 per hour doesn’t get you very far in NYC, I really liked what I was doing. I let it get to me, though, when people told me I was being taken advantage of and should look for something higher paid. “The Big Four pay over $20 an hour and take you out every night.” The next two internships I had were significantly higher paid, but I never again really enjoyed them again like I had at CBS.

Something that haunts me to this day is my decision over my final internship. When I got back from studying abroad, I was flat broke (gotta love that Euro). I thought money was the most important thing when in reality, I should have been concentrating on finding an internship that I truly liked being that I was now entering senior year. I was offered a well-paid internship at a hedge fund & at the same time, called in for a 2nd interview at Spa-Week, which would be paid much less but offered the opportunity to grow with the company. I didn’t hesitate to take the hedge fund. Now, Spa Week has grown into a well-established national organization, & I will always wonder if I could have been part of that.

My last regret is that I didn’t take time to start a business in college. I had thought about it and even started to design a product. With my schedule of internships, though, this always took a back seat. Now, after starting two businesses, I realize how wonderful it could have been to pursue start-ups in college with a built-in network of customers (the students), a personal advisory board (your teachers), and the financial freedom to take some risks.

I hope that after reading this, you can take some time to really think about what you want after college. Don’t let yourself get swept up in other people’s ideas of what you need to be doing. You have four years- use them to really find out and pursue what makes you happy.

Written by: Tina Paparone is the co-founder & CEO of the unique gift company BeMe, which creates products to inspire girls to embrace their individuality. Find out more about BeMe & Tina’s other projects at www.TinaPaparone.com.

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  • http://HowtoBeExtraordinary.com Cameron Plommer

    This is really great advice.

    I’ve really pondered all this myself as a December 09 graduate. It’s really easy to think that life is about money and how it will solve all your problems. What I’ve since realized that money isn’t such a big thing. I’d rather be happy and doing what I love with a middle-class income, than rich, stressed and overworked.

    This attitude, of working for the money, is why I think a lot of college students switch major constantly. They are being told my the culture that money is what is important, not happiness. So they listen to everyone else and not themselves when picking a major. All of this leads to a lot of confusion. The first step is to figure yourself out and know what makes you tick.

  • http://twitter.com/nguyenw Win Nguyen

    Your post resonates with me very much. I’m entering my final year of the business degree. I’ve done 7 co-ops (similar to internships) and have been “thinking and talking” about starting my own business forever. Chances are, it’s not gonna happen before I graduate.
    The part I like the most about your post is the quarter life crisis part. Something I’ve been pondering lately as well. 1 final year to fix it all eh? Wish I had read this post earlier!

  • http://www.Want2BeMe.com/ Tina Paparone

    It’s never too late! I re-started at 25 and while there are certainly more challenges now, I would definitely do it all over again. Best of luck!

  • http://www.Want2BeMe.com/ Tina Paparone

    I completely agree! There is a lot of pressure in college, especially if you attend a business school, to aim for the highest salary instead of focus on what makes you happy. At least there are places like under30ceo, though, were we can get some different perspectives! I wish I had read sites like this back then.

  • http://blog.mpdaugherty.com/ Mike Daugherty

    While I understand what you’re saying, I’m afraid your post may come across as more anti-internship than you mean for it to be. I also concentrated a lot on finding internships during college, and I highly encourage people to try them because you’ll learn very different skills than you do in class.

    However, it’s important to think of them as opportunities to learn, and not about ways to make money. I had internships in different cities and at very different sized companies (~5000 people in my department vs. 40 people in the whole company) in order to figure out which environment I preferred. In the long run, the money I made during the internships, even at $25/hour, is just a drop in the bucket. It seems like more at the time, though, because your bucket is usually empty as a student.

    Funnily enough, I’m 26 now and left my job last year to start my own company. Still, I wouldn’t trade the first years on the job or the internships, because they’ve taught me what I want. Sometimes you can figure it out just by thinking, and other times you need to go through life for a few years first.

  • http://www.Want2BeMe.com/ Tina Paparone

    Hi Mike,

    I definitely didn’t intend for it to come off as “anti-internships” & hope it didn’t give that impression to many people. More so, I want to encourage students to participate in the internships/activities that they are really interested in rather than making decisions based solely on pay like I did. I completely agree- the $25 an hour internship in college is incredibly attractive because at that time in your life, it is a huge paycheck.

    I’ve never been one for sitting around thinkingm and I agree that the best way to learn is to get out there and try things. I just hope that more students in college take the time to really explore their interests- whether it be through internships, clubs, or anything else. I was always too busy hunting down the best paid jobs and attending events that assured me a job after college to really figure out what I liked.

  • Usama

    “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay
    Do what you love and sure enough you’ll be happy and successful, if lucky.

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