Ask The Cougar: Long-distance friendships, career advice
In this week’s Ask The Cougar, Editor-in-Chief John Lomax and Managing Editor Cindy Rivas Alfaro tackle questions about coming to college, graduation and how to prepare for the workforce.
How would you recommend building the foundation to a strong career while you are in college? What advice, if any, would you share from your experiences?
So this is a great question and one I’d wish I would have asked myself a whole lot earlier. The answer is actually pretty simple. It all comes down to getting as much relevant experience as possible for the career you’ve chosen before heading to the workforce
For me, that meant getting involved with The Cougar my first day on campus. For context, prior to coming to UH, I spent a little over three years in the military. By the time I was out, I was sure of two things. First, I didn’t want to do another push-up ever again in my life. Second, I was dead set on pursuing a career in journalism.
Before I joined The Cougar, I was qualified to shoot a gun and perform manual labor — two things I’d be perfectly comfortable with never having to do again. Now, I have around 80 articles under my belt — a number I at least hope qualifies as a strong foundation toward working at a big-boy publication.
But it’s about more than just another bullet point on your resume. It’s about finding out whether or not you truly have what it takes to work in the field you have in mind. Expectations are often a far cry from reality, and it’s better to learn an ugly truth earlier rather than later.
That being said, since you’re asking this question I assume you have a good understanding of what it is you want to do. To bring this answer back home, you need to find and join whatever club is closest to your ideal career. Now, perhaps thankfully, for some majors there is no student media equivalent (I’m not sure I’d trust a bridge built by “student-engineers.”)
While it may not be as obvious, there’s almost certainly at least one organization on GetInvolved that can provide some relevant experience. Don’t stop there though, apply for as many internships, volunteer opportunities and fellowships as you can to help broaden your portfolio.
At the end of the day, put yourself in the shoes of a potential employer. Generally, they want to hire someone who they can put to work as quickly as possible. In most professions, the more training and effort it will require to make you capable of doing the job, the less inclined they will be to hire you.
How would you recommend branching out and forming strong friendships after moving away from home and to college for the first time?
Personally, the way I got out of my comfort zone and met new people was by messaging people on Instagram. Granted, this was during the COVID era but the IRL equivalent would be attending socials on campus and any other events put on by student organizations. Branching out is always scary but I think the benefits you get out of it will always outweigh the “scaries.”
As for forming strong friendships, I say find common ground and build off of each other. For example, if you both like Taylor Swift, go watch the Taylor Swift movie! If you both have to study for a test, pick a time to study at Cougar Grounds or The Nook and make it a constant thing.
If you really enjoy hanging out with someone, there will always be something for you both to bond over. I met some of my closest friends in class, so make sure you are going farther than just the icebreakers!
I am the oldest out of my college friend group and out of the friends walking the stage with me, all of us are taking jobs in different cities. How would you recommend staying close while being so far away?
Congratulations on graduating and getting a job! I think your best bet would have to be a lot of virtual get-togethers. Discord is a really good app for keeping in touch with friends, especially with the options of streaming, group chats and voice chats. There are also games like Jackbox where you can play silly little games.
If you’re looking for stuff outside of simple gaming, I think having an iMessage or WhatsApp group chat for all of you would be really cool to send any updates throughout your day! When I graduated high school, my trio of friends made sure to send a selfie a day to make sure we stayed connected.
When it comes to planning in-person things, I think inviting everyone to your birthday party or any celebration regardless if you think they’ll come or not is a really good way to stay in touch. Even if they aren’t able to show up, the invitation still shows that you are thinking of them! If all of you feel down for it, picking a place in the middle of the map where you can meet and planning accordingly can also lead to good adventures. The biggest issue I think would be scheduling conflicts and of course, money, but I think if you are all on the same page and care about each other, you have nothing to worry about! Again, congrats on making it through college, and I hope this was able to help!