Kim Diggs grew up in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. After high school, she attended Eastfield College in Mesquite and Wade College in Dallas where she began a journalism major, but decided to switch majors to graphic design. While in college, she was a member of National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Student Life. She also served as the vice president of the Journalism Club and assistant editor of The Et Cetera newspaper. Throughout her two year stint with The Et Cetera, she won numerous statewide collegiate journalism awards and one staff award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She is currently the arts and entertainment editor of 14 Star Local Media newspapers in North Texas.
Life and the American economy have one thing in common – they’re sometimes unpredictable. So, the best thing you can do for yourself is to prepare for the worst. What if you spent all four years of your college career solely focused on your specialized and you can’t find a job in your field? Now what? Do you go back to school for four more years and pursue a new field or do you forgo your passions all together?
In order to be best prepared to land a professional job in such a fickle economy within a year of graduation, it’s best that you pursue several strengths or interests so the odds are stacked in your favor.
This doesn’t mean you have to double major or minor in different subjects (though this will impress any employer.) This means if you’re majoring in education, but you’ve always been interested in radio, get an internship at your local radio station or start your own podcast. If you’re a science major, but you’ve always been interested in event planning, visit your student union and find out what organization plans all of the events. Step two, don’t just join the organization. Try to become the president.
In order to be successful early on, you have to expand your definition of education to include hands on experience and aim to excel at everything you’re involved in.
These aren’t words that I dug up and polished from someone else’s self help book or think piece. These are words that I lived by in college and at the root of it all is my dad.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I read my first book at three. When I entered college, a Journalism degree seemed like an obvious choice. I would be getting a regular check for something I loved to do. However, as I went through the motions of getting my degree and learned how hard it is to break into this industry (and how long it sometimes takes to be taken seriously), I quickly realized I needed a new plan.
I heard my dad’s voice in my head: “The game is chess, not checkers.”
Why was I paying thousands of dollars a semester to gain skills that I could acquire for free by joining the newspaper staff? I knew I wrote well which was most important. I also found out there were weekly ethics lessons that mirrored the same class I would’ve paid thousands for. There were also lessons in AP style, article writing and more taught by a seasoned journalist who was acting as the newspaper advisor. I knew that with this experience, I could pursue another major and be well versed in both fields.
So, one semester and thousands of dollars later, I switched majors from Journalism to Graphic Design. As I pursued my degree, I worked as hard as I could on the newspaper staff. I went from part-time staff writer to Assistant Editor. I created an arts and entertainment section in the newspaper. I wrote an article about President Obama visiting the campus, I interviewed two living Tuskegee Airmen and I won numerous statewide collegiate journalism awards.
I wasn’t just gaining valuable experience. I was trying my best to make my resume look irresistible in more ways than one.
I was also getting paid.
Because of my strategic decision to switch majors, I’ve been granted incredible opportunities that many people in their 20s couldn’t fathom.
I wrote and designed several training manuals for Macaroni Grill at the age of 22. I was paid $1 per word from the Dallas Market Center to write articles for their seasonal magazine, The Source. I’m currently the youngest person in the editorial department of Star Local Media and I’m the arts and entertainment editor of 14 newspapers.
I received all of these opportunities because I had a background in both graphic design and journalism.
I’m not suggesting that you forgo getting a degree in a subject that you love or you are gifted in. What I am saying is if you enter college understanding that education comes in many forms, you will graduate college with a diverse set of skills that will make you much more competitive in a job market where almost everyone has a degree.
Let’s add some color to those tips:
Hit the clubs
Find out about the clubs, organizations and fraternities or sororities on your campus. These organizations can sometimes lead to internships, entry-level jobs or valuable connections within a company. To hedge your bets, pursue an organization within your field and one in another field of interest for you.
Just do it
If you are a business major, but you’ve always wanted to be an artist, use the knowledge from your classes to start yourself a baby art business. If you’re an accountant and you’ve always wanted to be a writer, start a blog and start sending those articles out to prospective clients. Gaining experience in various areas will make you more valuable for a company or give you the perfect foundation to write your own ticket. The business major with an art background could become an art director. The accountant with a background in freelance writing has the potential to be a public figure in finance like Dave Ramsey.
Now, the reality is you will most likely start out in an entry-level job. Most of us do. But, what’s important about that entry-level job as a newlygrad is … you’ve been invited to enter. We all have to pay our dues, but, when you work hard and think outside of the box, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself where you want to be.