Michael Dutcher, director of undergraduate career education at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business, has been working in higher education for more than 15 years. So, when he ran into a former student at an Alpharetta restaurant a few weeks ago, the conversation was familiar, but no less gratifying. The alumnus who approached Dutcher was excited to share his current success in the business world.
“He remembered his final semester,” Dutcher shared. “He was working through different things, and I was able to help him out with his networking strategy and make some connections with other alumni that could help him find a job.” The student remembered Dutcher’s dedication; in his own words, he saw Dutcher “go to bat” for him. Their conversation ended with a high five and a reciprocal, “Go Jackets!”
These full-circle moments keep Dutcher inspired as he sits on the front lines mentoring Scheller students. When he first meets a student, he observes the little things about them – including their confidence and potential. He always finds himself wondering at one point in their academic and professional journey the student will “flip the switch” and realize the true value of what they bring to the table. For a lot of graduating students, Dutcher observes, receiving a full-time offer at the cusp of graduation is the catalyst to that switch flipping.
As Scheller students approach their graduation date, and the impending real-world experiences that are sure to quickly follow, Dutcher shares seven tips for success beyond the classroom.
1. Refresh Your Personal Brand
You only have so many chances in life to refresh your personal brand. The last time you refreshed your brand was likely when you left high school and transitioned to Georgia Tech. Now that you are graduating, take this fantastic opportunity to do another refresh.
Evaluate who you are today and what direction you want to take in life. You have a new skill set and a fantastic degree to build on. Ask yourself what communities or causes you want to impact. Your personal brand will be shaped by your career after you leave Scheller, as well as in the communities you make your own.
2. Stay Curious
When it comes to life at Georgia Tech, you had a lot to be curious about. How did you decide which student group to join, which major to pick, or what parts of academic life to really dive into and make your passion?
This curiosity should follow you into life after graduation. Be curious about the community you move into. Continue to be curious about your career to maximize growth. Think of yourself as an explorer of experience and knowledge.
Two great ways to put curiosity into practice are asking the right questions and listening with the intent to learn. You can communicate your curiosity through asking questions, then take the time to listen to those responses and gather insights for continued learning.
3. Build a Personal Advisory Board
You’ve learned how important it is to have a network. During your undergraduate studies, you had a team of people invested in your future, helping you progress through your academic journey. Whether it's your professional, academic, or personal network, keep a group of trusted people close.
These are the people you know you can count on to help you out. You don't have to have regular formal meetings. But, if you want to bounce an idea around, or you are thinking of making a career pivot, it’s nice to have someone to turn to.
Your board can be made of mentors, former teachers, or previous career coaches. Perhaps some of the new community members you've had a chance to collaborate with in your career after college will become trusted advisors as you navigate the future.
4. Be Coachable
Being coachable is a great way to thrive in any environment you go into. It can manifest in a couple of different ways. Take ownership of what you do with feedback. When you get feedback on your work, highlight the fact that you enjoy receiving feedback and the ways it is relevant to your career progression. Then, apply it.
When others see you are coachable, they are likely to dedicate more time to your growth.
5. Start a Brag Folder
I think sometimes we focus so much on obstacles that we lose track of the successes and things that come to fruition because of the hard work we put in. As you progress through your life and career, you're going to have accomplishments to be proud of. Every once in a while, you are going to find a need to check-in, whether it's for a promotion or a pivot into a different industry. Whatever the case may be, keep track of what you have accomplished in the last six months to a year in a brag folder. It will help you understand your successes and articulate them to others.
The period of time between graduation and your new job start date can be the perfect window for reflection. Take that time to reflect on what you gained during your time at Scheller. What are you proud of? What are things that you thought were a great success? What are some of the obstacles that you tackled to get to where you are now? Capture those reflections in a brag folder.
6. Keep Promises
Keep track of the promises you make. In all the new spaces you’ll be navigating, you want to be taken seriously. You want people to appreciate your knowledge and your background. Take ownership of the promises you make, so that if a new opportunity comes along, you have an idea of how many promises are out there that you have to follow through on before you can pursue that new opportunity.
This will help you manage your personal brand and your reputation in the workplace. Ultimately, it will drive your confidence because you will become a person that follows through and delivers. When you keep your promises, you will always be prepared for the new and exciting opportunities that are bound to come your way.
7. Practice Double Gratitude
When you are networking and starting a career, you are going to get lots of advice, and I know you’ll want to apply all of this advice to advance in your career. But be sure to pause along the way and practice double gratitude. Double gratitude allows you to reconnect with mentors as you follow-up with them and mark the ways they’ve guided you.
First, thank them for the time they spent talking to you. Second, once you follow their advice and can see the results, reach out again. Now you can communicate with added insight and experience the specific ways that advice helped you.
When you circle back, just give them an update. You don't have to take them out to coffee again or make it complicated in any way. Even a quick email that gives them an update is perfect. Something like, “Thank you so much for talking to me last year. I was able to apply your advice, and it really helped me get to this point. I want to let you know the advice was really helpful. I appreciate it.”