They say that college is the best four years of your life, and whether you believe it or not, it is a time unlike any other. Thinking back on my time at Oxy, I feel incredibly grateful to have attended an institution that supported me not only academically, but also professionally and socially. While college is a great place to broaden your horizons in the classroom, it is the soft skills I’ve gained that I find have the most lasting impact. Here are my top 5 skills that I learned in college that have stuck with me post-graduation:
Use your time wisely
On the first day of my first class at Oxy, my professor told us that the key to success here is budgeting our time wisely. What did she mean, exactly? College provides students with such a sense of freedom, but with freedom comes great responsibility. Learning how to budget my time in school between classes, extracurriculars, homework, friends, family, errands, etc was a tricky juggling act until I realized the value of one simple word: no. College taught me to resist saying yes to others when it means saying no to yourself. With all of the opportunities available to you, it may seem like you are being pulled in 10 different directions at once. It is perfectly okay to take time for yourself and prioritize what is most important to you.
Find your voice
One of my most challenging assignments at Oxy was writing my senior thesis for my Diplomacy and World Affairs major. I spent hours trying to figure out what I wanted to argue in that paper! With all of the literature out there, it was difficult for me to think critically to make my own unique argument. Taking a stance was only half the battle, however; now I needed to defend it. Being able to defend yourself is a huge skill I internalized at Oxy that stuck with me for the long haul. In the working world, I have found that, in many cases, we are commended for speaking our minds (respectfully, of course) and challenging the norm; the status quo can be boring, so how will you command your voice to make a change?
Resources, resources, resources
I used to be ashamed of asking for help because, in my mind, it showed weakness. However, I quickly learned in college that reaching out for help was not only encouraged, but rewarded. Oxy provided me a safe space to reach out to my professors, friends, and community when I needed guidance, whether it be academically, professionally, or personally. Ultimately, college taught me that we are our own best advocate. When you want something, you can’t stand by and wait for it to magically appear; you need to ask for it.
One of the most critical resources that Oxy gave me was the Emmons Wellness Center’s counseling services. College is an incredibly exciting time but can also leave students feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Mental health should never be sacrificed, so I encourage you to use your resources on campus to ensure that you are taking care of yourself. Platforms like Headspace are great resources as well and also many times offer free trials.
Watch those dollar signs
As a small liberal arts school in the heart of LA, Oxy provides students a wealth of opportunities to take advantage of all that the city has to offer. However, all that indulging may leave you with some anxiety as you watch your bank account dwindle every month, especially if you are not working. Therefore, I recommend keeping a monthly budget. I use Mint from Intuit and love how easy it makes it to track my spending and customize the breakdown of my budget. Moreover, something you may want to think about is building credit while in school, assuming this is a feasible option for you. Many banks offer credit cards specifically for college students and serve as a stepping stone toward eligibility for advanced credit cards down the line.
Put yourself out there
Two months into my freshman year of college I went out on a limb and applied to join the Executive Board of Oxy’s chapter of Hillel. Joining the board endowed me with the leadership skills, teamwork experiences, and friendships that have driven my success in and beyond school. So, all I can say is: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try something new. Being active on campus not only provides you an outlet to engage beyond the classroom but also prepares you for a world that rewards you for building your personal brand. Life after college isn’t so different than what we experience at school - there are a variety of organizations to join, people to meet, and ways for you to explore your passions. Sometimes it pays off just to raise your hand.
By Jenna Feldman
Jenna Feldman graduated from Occidental College in May 2018 with a dual degree in Diplomacy & World Affairs and Spanish. Upon graduation, she landed her first post-college gig as the Special Assistant to the Director of Regional Affairs and Development at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, DC, where she played a key role in the operational success of the Development department. After 2+ years in Washington, Jenna moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is transitioning into a career in customer marketing at Genesys, a leading omnichannel contact center software company. Jenna currently works as the Senior Customer Advocacy Program Specialist, where she manages the company’s customer loyalty program. She also contracts part-time with DC Startup Week, a non-profit that engages the startup community in DC.
While at Oxy, Jenna was fortunate enough to take advantage of several unique semester offerings, such as studying abroad in Granada, Spain, as well as interning at the Rwanda Mission to the United Nations in New York through the Oxy-at-the-UN program. Both of these experiences, coupled with her DWA and Spanish double major, allowed her to develop a deep passion for global affairs and multiculturalism. She strives to incorporate a global mindset when tackling various projects at work as well as in her personal life.
When she’s not working, you can find Jenna traversing the many trails scattered throughout the state of California, testing out the latest gluten-free recipes, and spending time with her friends and family. When it is safe to travel again, she looks forward to flying to the first country that will take her!