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6 Key Insights to Guide Graduates through Life after UT

6 Key Insights to Guide Graduates through Life after UT

This is the time of year when we in the College of Natural Sciences congratulate and recognize our new graduates. Making it to this point is not an easy feat. As alumni will tell you, it requires years of hard work, meeting aggressive deadlines and learning to thrive in an environment where many different things are coming your way.

This weekend, two successful alumni of Natural Sciences will address our Class of 2018 commencement ceremonies and provide insights into how to reap the benefits of the seeds sown while learning at UT. We sought out a few lessons these esteemed speakers have learned along the way. ​

1. Dedicate yourself to fulfilling your purpose, something only you can define.

"Never be motivated by fear," says Dr. Nick Conley, the speaker at the 8 a.m. and noon ceremonies. As CEO & co-founder of EpiBiome, Conley channeled his own passion and education into developing the venture-backed startup with a mission of curbing the growing threat of multi-drug resistant "superbugs" by eliminating the use of shared-class antibiotics in agriculture. After receiving his B.S. in chemistry from The University of Texas at Austin and his Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University, Conley went on to work on next-generation hard disk drive (HDD) technologies, to file several patents and to found several companies, including EpiBiome.

Above all, he looks forward to reinforcing for graduates that we each have just one life—and it's incumbent on each individual to figure out what to do with it.

2. Stay open to possibilities, and be resilient.

Whatever direction one chooses, it's important to move through life with openness and perseverance, Conley says.

"There is no roadmap, and no amount of planning, that will guarantee success," he says. "Opportunity comes in the most unexpected places and times, but you can 'create' it by putting yourself out there, working hard and, most importantly, persevering. The only time your vision dies is when you stop working on it, and most people quit fairly easily."

3. Take well-measured risks.

Lana Cain Krauter, CEO for Charming Charlie and the speaker at the 3:30 ceremony for the College's School of Human Ecology, has the bold assurance of someone with decades of experience in retail leadership—she has served as president and chief merchandising officer at Sears, Bealls Florida and Goody's as well as executive vice president at J.C. Penney—and who has successfully led turnarounds and business transformations. It probably helps, too, that she's a native Texan and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, where she studied interior design.

"Be prepared to fail but continue to push the envelope," Krauter says.

4. Learn to promote yourself, ideally with data.

If your grade-point average left something to be desired, Conley encourages you to think about the long game.

"With the possible exception of your first post-college job, no hiring manager will care about your GPA," he explains. "All they will care about is what you accomplished in your previous job and that you are a good personality fit for the position. Keep your resume succinct and to the point with a focus on the metrics of what you accomplished."

Krauter, too, says it's good to keep track of your accomplishments. "Progress is measured by benchmarking and goal-setting," she observes. Watching how you're progressing in a new job and measuring it also can provide helpful signposts on the road to your next job, including when a new approach may be warranted. As Krauter puts it: "Be prepared for stop signs, slow-downs, U-turns and speed-traps."

5. Recognize the role of other people in your success.

Krauter indicates that one thing she learned at UT that had surprisingly useful implications was the value of mentoring and teaching. It's important both to acknowledge how mentors and teachers influence one's own journey and to be on the lookout for opportunities to serve in that same capacity for people following you in line.

"A very important aspect of management is building a strong bench," Krauter says.

Conley notes that mentors matter in part because experience is the best guide for success. "The biggest problems you are likely to face in the workforce are not the technical ones," he observes. "They are the interpersonal ones for which you've probably had little or no training. Don't wait to remedy this deficit. Get an experienced mentor whom you respect, and learn these skills before you need them!"

He adds that success is often determined by how effective a person is in influencing others with ideas. "If you can work on only one skill, it should be persuasive public speaking," Conley, a 2016 TEDMed speaker, says.

6. Stay connected with your alma mater after graduation.

Both alumni recommend this strategy for networking purposes, as well as promotional ones.

"Seldom are interests more aligned," according to Conley. "Your alma mater wants to promote your successes, and you want to promote your alma mater. Don't overlook the opportunities to become a volunteer, a donor or an evangelist. It is a tremendous win-win for both you and your school."

Krauter agrees. "Support of your alma mater contributes to your long-term success by networking and drawing on new talent to enhance your organization."

Editor's Note: If you're in the Class of 2018 or otherwise have graduated from Natural Sciences, upon leaving the Forty Acres, we hope you stay connected to the college, get involved and let us know about your accomplishments

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Sunday, 14 August 2022

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