An Open Invitation to be the Entrepreneur of Your Education

Hello! My name is Lauren Perez. I obtained my bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in English and American Literature. I am now pursuing a Master’s degree in Communication Studies from the same university. My academic career has opened the door to numerous opportunities, including developing youth programs, participating in community mobilization projects, and traveling for two study abroad trips to Indonesia. I am also a soccer fanatic and always make sure to fit in a weekly game on my city league team. As a graduate student and instructor of undergraduate public speaking courses, I like to consider myself an entrepreneur of out-of-the-box learning and motivating. Now that you know a little about me, I look forward to sharing college-life experiences and tips with you!

From day 1 in our long academic careers, from elementary and beyond, we are told that school will help us get a job and that a job will help us make money. This is what we unarguably call success. We are told that upon receiving this piece of paper, our life will change as we know it. In a flip of the switch, we will suddenly become professionals with the qualifications to work wherever we choose.

What if I told you that this piece of paper is not the key to your success, but only a hinge on the door that you will open to get through the threshold to your greatest endeavors? The key to unlock that door is far greater. It is made up of every action you take while embarking on your academic journey.

The following are 3 key habits I invite you to adopt. By practicing these habits, not only will you have a more successful academic career with greater prospects for landing a job, but you will also harness abilities that extend far beyond your imagined potential and you will experience the invigorating and fulfilling possibilities of academic life.

Here it goes!

1. Trust the Power of People. When it comes to finding a job the age-old saying is “It isn’t what you know, but who you know”. If that is the case, why do we continue to sit in straight lines in class rooms, silently staring at the back of each other’s heads each semester? Take every opportunity to get to know the people around you. Get to know your fellow classmates, get to know your professors, get to know the chair of your department, and get to know the best in your field (as well as the worst). Find every opportunity to meet people that are doing the kinds of things you like to do or want to do in your professional life. More importantly, never underestimate anyone. Everyone you meet is a potential friend and mentor. Not only may these people be powerful factors in your growth, but you might have the opportunity to be a significant part of theirs.

2. Just do it! Okay, I know I stole this from Nike, but it really hits home (sports pun intended). I often hear students explain what they plan to do as professionals – “I want to be a nurse because I want to help people” or “I want to be a journalist because I want to promote human rights”. Then, they scour through endless pages of books and articles searching for how to be professionals in their field. Well, let’s take a step back and look at professional athletes. Do you think that Abby Wambach, Tom Brady, or Usain Bolt spent their adolescence reading books on soccer, football, and sprinting and then showed up for tryouts when they felt ready? Of course not! They built their life around it. They went out and practiced. We spend so much time planning what we want to do that we lose out on opportunities to actually learn how to do them through practice. So go out and do what you want. If you want to be a nurse, go to a hospital or clinic and ask, “how can I be apart of this”. If you want to be a human rights activist, go out and start actively supporting human rights.

3. Hi-jack your education. Yes, it is true that some presumably qualified group of professionals sat in a room and decided what classes would best prepare you for entering into the field of your choice. But the truth is, you cannot rely on others to decide what it is you need to know in order to do the things you want to do. Stop assuming that teachers are experts and the ones responsible for your education. Of course, they are important facilitators of your education, but you are the expert of your ability to learn. Thomas Suarez, for example, is a 12-year-old who decided he wanted to learn how to develop phone apps. His school certainly did not provide him with the knowledge and information for creating this technology, so he ventured outside of the classroom and looked for the right people and tools to teach him what he wanted to know. So, again, I say hijack your education. grab hold of the reins and let your curiosity move you.

Following these three steps will give you more than a degree or two. You will build a lifestyle and habits of the mind that not only land you jobs, but also offer your the chance to become a true expert of your role in any endeavor you choose to embark on. I invite you to cultivate these habits and be the entrepreneur of your education!

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