With graduation season upon us, we've asked four entrepreneurs in the sought-after fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to share their best advice for brand-new college graduates — and it turns out, most of their advice can apply to graduates in any field.
Jessica Alter, co-founder and CEO, FounderDating.com:
Focus on learning and finding people that you can learn from — not salaries or titles. Relationships are the most important thing you can build.
Find a mentor — let it happen naturally, of course, but find a mentor.
Read up! The Hard thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a great book to start with. Follow people on Twitter that you admire or think are interesting and stay up to date on what they are reading, but don't only read about tech — there is much to be learned from being exposed to things happening in the world and in other industries.
Always have a side project - always.
As you get older it becomes harder and harder to take risks you're never taken. So don't keep putting off things you want to do.
In general, what holds most people back is the image in their heads of what they are supposed to be or supposed to do. Don't worry so much about what's cool or what's expected.
Be willing to do everything and anything — so few people go above and beyond. What separates the good from the great is attitude, not intelligence.
Trevor Ewen, Computer Scientist and Software Engineer at Neosavvy
Focus on what you are becoming, not what you are. Join a company that gives you mentorship and room to grow. If you chase numbers alone, you will peak out early in that role.
Understand that some of the hardest problems are not technical or logical. It's been said that communication is the hardest problem. Early in my career, I made the incorrect assumption that I was only in a position to solve technical problems. I now understand my value lies in a combination of technical and people skills.
Gary Tuch, founder, Professor Egghead:
- Solve a problem! Everyone has problems and it is usually a "STEM Head" who finds a solution using science, technology, engineering or math. The world is filled with copies and unoriginal technologies. Find a problem, develop a solution and you can guarantee your success.
Courtney O'Connell, Education Innovation Expert, Speaker and co-author of What Happens On Campus Stays on YouTube:
Get an awesome letter of recommendation by asking your professor or advisor for one in person instead of online. When you approach your professor, be prepared with a list of jobs you're applying to. This will show you mean business and encourage a more genuine letter.
Replace your paper resume with a digital one! Research shows that if your LinkedIn profile is 100% complete, you will receive 40 times more job and business opportunities than someone who doesn't have a complete profile.
Use social media to connect with industry leaders: don't be afraid to Tweet out to those you admire in the field you wish to pursue. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms, there is no longer a gatekeeper standing in the way of your dreams or the people you want to meet.
Make use of online resources: As any entrepreneur enters the workforce, it’s important to know how to lead. I find myself constantly coming back to these TEDx Talks when I need inspiration in my field: Start with Why by Simon Sinek and My Digital Stamp by by Erik Qualman.