Dear Class of 2021: Start Hustling Now

To the Class of 2021,

As you get your college decision letters and plan your senior skip day, here’s a piece of advice from someone who’s about to leave college forever. Take it or leave it. It’s probably not something you’ll hear during those copy-paste Intro to College meetings or the 50 free “Join Our Club” events during your Orientation Session, but if you heed it properly it can lay the groundwork for a successful career for both your collegiate and professional life. It’s short and sweet: start your side hustle now.

What exactly is a side hustle? It’s whatever you want it to be. If you’re like me and are really interested in tech, it might be just building websites for whoever’s willing to pay you for your given experience level. It might be starting your own club or mini-venture to address a problem that you feel is pertinent but is being ignored.

Running short on ideas? Spend a few moments looking at the academic websites for some of your favorite professors — you might be stunned to learn about what some of them are up to or how many resources they have at their disposal to get things done. Do your homework on each person, brainstorm some ways you can make yourself useful, and start knocking on some doors.

You don’t have to overload yourself and take on a bunch of different jobs at once (I had 5 jobs totaling 25 hours a week for the last two academic quarters and it hasn’t turned out particularly well for me), but you need to do something so that you have an appreciation of the fact that (unless you’re 100% sure you want to spend your entire career in academia) the classroom experience alone and your mandatory advisor meetings will probably not be sufficient to getting you the career skills you need to keep pace with the changes that are happening in the industry.

Here’s a few nudges that can get you in the right direction:

  • Check out your college’s Job Board and start mapping out your path to success. If there is no Job Board, ask whoever’s in charge of Career Services to commission you to make it for them.
  • Go to a professor’s office hours and ask them what they do for research (in a well-thought out manner of course).
  • Create a list of every single person you admire and want to either work with or learn from and either reach out to them directly or position yourself to be in their sphere of influence in a few years (e.g. some of the people on my list are Gab Marcotti and Chance the Rapper).
  • Start a blog. A podcast. Your own tutoring service. Anything to increase your presence to be more than just a face in the crowd to your classmates and your future audience.
  • Be a freaking pest. A few years ago (I’m not sure when) the concept of actually talking to people and having conversations with anyone outside of your immediate social circle became considered to be weird. It’s not, and some of the best working relationships I’ve made have come as a result of me contacting classmates from afar or entrepreneurs I had never met before and pitching project ideas.

You have 4 years to make or break your college career and get your professional career on a positive trajectory. Make the most of them.

Yours,

The Class of 2017