On Campus — Be Your Own Action Hero


On Campus — Be Your Own Action Hero

What Are You in College For?

By Patrick Jones, Founder & CEO, VocatioLogo small


While it seems like eons ago, one memory from my first day at college has stuck with me. My work with students over the last 10 years has made it even more poignant. My dad was never one to emote too freely, but that day, after unpacking and a couple pats on the back, he said one thing that has lingered with me:

“Son, don’t let your books get in the way of your education..”

And just like that, he and Mom were gone.


Discover   |   What is Your Talent?

Now, Dad wasn’t saying that your grades don’t matter. He was saying that there’s far more valuable things to be learned and acquired from the college experience than just academics and the corresponding grades.

As a frequent speaker to students today, I have two favorite questions I like to pose. I believe the job of a well spent 4+ years of college is to not only become educated but to cultivate and develop answers to these questions:

  1. What is(/are) your talent(s) or superpower(s)? And,
  2. What do you feel passionate and purposeful about?

What you get out of college is largely a function of your own self-agency. You must view yourself as the “Hero” in an epic story that is your career journey. You’re a protagonist who must overcome all sorts of obstacles, distractions, and villains in order to achieve something of extraordinary value to yourself (and your village or family). In the framework of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” this accomplishment is mythologically called the Reward.


The item of extraordinary value is not the degree itself. What many students realize after the fact is that the degree is an insufficient proxy for the real prize. Plenty of students will walk across a stage with degrees in hand but no real prize. As a matter of fact, even in a good economy it’s likely that
45% of college graduates will graduate and be unemployed or underemployed for the first 12 months after graduating. The real prize that you (and your family) take on great debt for are the immediate opportunities you’ve afforded for yourself through and after college.

So don’t go through college with mere ‘graduation’ as your end goal. Some more appropriate potential rewards for the college experience could be:

  • Start a business that benefits your fellow students in a unique way
  • Take on a leadership role on campus where you accomplish something noteworthy or never done before
  • Get a “who would have thunk it” internship
  • Land a high-fit “no waaaayyy” job



Ready Your Potential

While developing academic prowess is helpful, it’s not enough, unless your ultimate goal is academia itself. Out in the real world–or the ‘Marketplace’–your perceived potential is more a function of your clearly demonstrated aptitudes, attitudes, skills, and experience. These items are most often developed and best demonstrated outside of the classroom where you can show proof of initiative, curiosity, risk-taking, follow through, teamwork, project management and even failure. And I’m not just talking about just joining clubs – it means nothing to an employer that you were simply in a club. I’m talking about actually getting shit done. Whether it’s a student organization or a job: what did you do, and how did you add value? That will be what piques employers’ interest and makes you stand out in an interview.

In the event you’re not a great student, don’t fret or unduly stress yourself out. Rather, create an advantage for yourself by taking on a diverse manner of projects meant to challenge, develop and showcase your Marketplace potential. And do it from the day you first step on campus, otherwise you’ll get caught up in a lot of “busyness” that comes along with a too acute focus on grades.



Find Your Fit

Now remember the second question I asked? What do you feel passionate and purposeful about? That question is your own “why am I here” at college question. It gets to the heart of your intrinsic motivation; of what really drives you and brings out the best in you. After all, the expense of college in terms of time and money is significant. You don’t want to be there just going through the motions, or because everyone else is doing it, or because it’s “safe.”

In finding your own unique fit for your talents and interests, free your mind and the rest will follow. Liberate yourself from thinking that your major or minor is solely determinant — especially if you’re a liberal arts major. Rather, use the full complement of your school’s resources and other platforms like Vocatio to access the broad palette of job-roles, industries, and employer types that exist around you and beyond. Be open-minded yet picky and pursue opportunities for exploration that fit your own intrinsic Hero’s “calling.” There are plenty of employers across diverse industries looking for motivated, high initiative talent to add to their teams and organizations.




So as your respective semesters and quarters pick up momentum, be inspired and encouraged to demand more of yourself and of the college experience you’re heavily investing in and paying for. Be a Hero in your own Career Journey. Let your unique talents and superpowers be the focus of your development. Find your own unique fit and don’t wait around hoping a random opportunity will find you.

Peace out!

Don't let your books get in the way of your education Share on X Don't wait around hoping a random opportunity will find you. Share on X Be a Hero in your own Career Journey. Share on X

This entry has 1 replies

  1. AJ Jackson says:

    Great read!!