Confessions of a university graduate – Sam Howie

Our parents tell us that, in order to have a good career, we need to finish high school, go to university for a few years, find an entry level position, and work our way up the ladder until we’re a company executive. That’s a pretty standard conversation in most households with teenagers.

Sam Howie thinks there’s one valuable piece of the puzzle they could be leaving out though: experience. Life experience, work experience and industry experience all teach you lessons that can’t be learned in a classroom, and in his recent blog post, “What University Didn’t Teach Me,” Sam says more graduates and under-graduates need to be educating themselves.

“University was always part of the plan,” Sam said, “and I still firmly believe it provides a good foundation for people to improve their writing, researching, and presentation skills. I thought it would also provide some clarity as to what direction I should take after university.

“Oh, and [I went] to play rugby, party, and meets girls of course,” he added.

Sam now works as an Account Executive at Aamplify, an innovative and modern marketing company that focuses a lot on demand generation. Samuel Williams, now Managing Director of Aamplify, hired Sam in early 2012 when he was VP of Marketing at Zeacom, a Canadian-owned technology company based in Auckland.

“Samuel [Williams] is a great mentor and leader,” the young account executive said, “and when he ventured out to create his own company in 2013 and asked me to come with him, I had no hesitation. We both shared the view that marketing and technology together are changing the ways that people do business. We believe there is a gap in the market for a marketing company to help organisations engage both the left and right sides of their brain – where creative and emotional meets rational and logical – by building brand equity, using marketing technology, and understanding the buyers’ needs.”

I asked Sam if, looking back, he thought university was worth it and if he’d do it all over again, now that he has a qualification and a good job.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

“My years at the University of Otago were the best of my life. I made my closest friends there, and had a lot of fun.

“In hindsight, I would look to venture more into the startup environment. Two years on, I see vividly the value of working in start-up: the different technologies you experiment with, the diversity of the people you meet, and gaining an understanding of the many facets of how to make a business survive.”

The experience Sam has picked up since he left university has led him to believe that there are four main areas in dire need of attention among younger professionals.

Understand technology.

“When I left university, I had never heard of terms such as ‘the cloud’ or ‘marketing automation,’ but these things are really changing how business is done now.”

Personal development.

“Don’t get an unpleasant surprise when you leave university and are expected to have intelligent conversations about topics you’ve never heard of before. Get some work experience while studying, take a summer internship, or offer to work for free – just gaining that little bit of experience will pay dividends (if you’re interested we’re looking for people, talk to me).”

Build your network.

“Use your contacts. As the old saying goes ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Building relationships and networking could be difference between you getting ahead in world, and not. Learn how to initiate the right conversations with people, and use your ingenuity to influence people in the right way.”

Be multi-talented.

“Hybrid professionals are the future. Increasing your knowledge across a range of skillsets is key. The days of specialising in one area are gone. Learn how to create a website, shoot and edit a video, write copy, manage social content – master as many skills as you can. The more you can do and have experience in doing, the better.”

There’s no way to learn these essential skills while sitting in a lecture hall, Sam says. “I’m no expert, but if you want my advice – get yourself out there! It’s in these work experience environments that you will be exposed to the latest technologies and speak the language spoken in today’s market.

“Get a LinkedIn and Google + profile, and always use your picture in your profile. If people are searching you, make sure you have a presence.”

Sam isn’t saying that a Bachelor of Life (BLif) is all you need. He’s merely suggesting that you might encounter far more success in your career if you pepper it with a fair dose of self-education and self-betterment.

Additional editing by Dominique Reed

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