dr. Mary Mason is the CEO and founder of Small medical school.
It’s that time of year when I, like thousands of other hectic parents, try to make the last minute arrangements to ensure my high school graduate gets sent off to college. And in the struggle to find the perfect mattress topper for those notoriously awkward dorm rooms and make sure my son has signed up for the perfect class schedule, I’ve been thinking about the advice I want to leave him with. In doing so, I realized that much of what leads to a successful college experience translates into a successful professional experience.
Here are five lessons that work just as well for a businessman as they do for a student.
1. Always make your bed.
The bed is the centerpiece of a college student’s 180-square-foot dorm room—much like a person’s desk is the focus of their office—and making the bed in the morning says, “I’m ready for whatever the day brings.” This sets a productive tone for the school day, and it can do the same for the workday.
When I walk into the office, I make sure my desk is empty. A clean workplace prepares me to organize my day-to-day tasks, and it creates a more conducive environment for engaging in discussions with colleagues who may drop by.
2. Set your priorities for the day.
Whether you’re studying for an exam or preparing for a big meeting, it’s unbelievable how much you can accomplish in one day if you stick to a schedule. I am so often hit by fire drills in the office. Keeping that schedule ahead allows me to prioritize and complete my scheduled tasks when the unexpected ones come my way.
3. Dare to think outside the box.
Education is so often about learning the rules and staying within those boundaries. But college is the time to challenge those thoughts and think about the different ways to achieve a goal. Learning to push boundaries is an essential mindset that will serve you well throughout your career. In the business world, even though it can be risky to creative thinking, you have the opportunity to reap great rewards. Don’t miss that opportunity.
4. Identify (and ignore) the gatekeepers.
When entering a challenging study or profession, we often encounter self-proclaimed leaders who try to restrict others’ access. If I had listened to those types of people in college, I would never have gone to my dream medical school or reached my dream career as a doctor.
It’s easy to come across the same kind of people in the workplace. They are the ones who want to put their money into your projects or tell them to review and approve your ideas. While some may have the best intentions, it’s vital to determine whether their input is actually helping or hindering your success. Learning to recognize and ignore these self-proclaimed gatekeepers is an important life skill, both in the classroom and in the workplace.
5. Work hard, play hard.
While what’s learned in the classroom is the main reason you go to college, the social lessons you’ve learned along the way are just as important. Just like figuring out how to make time for friends in addition to schoolwork and studying can improve the college experience, finding the right work-life balance is the key to survival in a corporate or corporate role. By developing this skill, you will not only be successful, but also be happy.
Transitioning to the next stage of life, whether it’s going to college, landing your first major job or reaching the pinnacle of your career, will always come with challenges. But with these lessons in mind, you can easily navigate through them.