Advice for college students: What is your five-year plan?

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As the fall semester begins, it is time to start a new academic year for students and professors alike. Let’s make this year different. Instead of just going to class, let’s think long term and plan out our future.

When thinking about your future and being successful, the one word that stands out for me is PASSION. Those who are most successful at school and in their careers have an inner drive and motivation to do something. They have a passion for what they do and just keep going.

These people do not need to be pushed or told what to do. They love what they do and love going to work each day. For these people, they wake up Monday morning, excited and ready to go to pursue their passion. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs could have retired at an early age with all the financial resources they accumulated. They did not do that because they loved what they did each day and loved the challenges they faced.

This is the key for you. Find what your passion is, pursue it and turn it into a career. Do something that you love! You have probably listened to someone say they do not care for their job. When I hear someone say this, I simply respond by saying, “Find a new job.” Why do you spend 20, 30 or 40 years doing something that you do not enjoy? Life is to short.

Listen to your inner self, which is your intuition. Your intuition is usually right. On a personal level, while in college, my intuition kept telling be to be a college professor. I worked as a Financial Advisor for many years but ended up becoming a college professor. My intuition was right.

I recently completed the autobiography written by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. Knight was a runner in college who loved the sport. While working on his MBA at Stanford University, he wrote his dissertation about importing running shoes from Japan. At the time, Japan was the low cost producer of running shoes.

Knight worked as an accountant for many years but it was a job. He loved running, the challenge of designing better running shoes and the challenge of having his own business. Being an accountant for him was a job to pay the bills. Knight changed his career, pursued his passion and you know the rest of the story.

The one piece of advice that Knight has given to people for years is, DON’T STOP. Find out what you love to do, have a passion for and keep doing it. DON’T STOP doing this one thing. This is your career and you can see how it worked out for him.

Let’s get on the path to fulfilling your passion and being successful in your five-year plan. Write down a list of things you enjoy doing. Take a course in one of these areas, read about this, talk to people in the field, secure an internship or get a part-time job in this chosen field.

As an example, let’s look at the field of being a financial advisor with one of the major brokerage firms. The path I would look at is to take some courses in investments or finance. Read the Wall Street Journal on a daily basis to learn about the markets. Set up an internship through your college with one of the local financial services firms to get hands-on experience. Continue to build your resume by then getting a part-time job in the field.

Once you get started with the internship or part-time job in your field, try and find a mentor. This is someone you can reach out to, ask questions of and learn more about the field from. You may have to ask around, but there are always people willing to help others. While working at Merrill Lynch many years ago, I was very fortunate to have a senior person take me under his wing and help me as my mentor. His help made me a better financial advisor and helped in my career.

You will also need to always network and talk to people. Most people have obtained a job along the way because they knew someone. Don’t be shy because another person is always trying to get that job.

Planning is very important to achieving success. Take a few minutes to think about and write down your five-year plan so you will be a SUCCESS!

spanollo-copyJohn DeSpagna is a business professor at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York.

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