Hot Tips for College Students and Recent Graduates

college students

Greystone College recently had the pleasure of welcoming speaker Thomas Stringham.  As the founder, president and creative director of Hot Tomali, an award winning advertising company, the co-founder of Cheddar Labs, an online community for retail sales associates as well as the co-founder and CEO of Clientis Technologies Inc., an international developer of web-based tools to assist clinicians and their medical practice teams in the selection, adoption, and use of Electronic Health Records systems and related healthcare technologies, Thomas has a wealth of experience. He was kind enough to share his expertise with us, offering useful advice to help students maximize their educational experience and to transition from student life to career success. Here are the tips he has for college students:

Do as Many Internships as You Can

Many recent graduates tend to overvalue themselves. They think their academic success is enough to impress. The reality is, most employers and clients are far more impressed with real-world experience than educational achievements. Unfortunately, many jobs require experience and students face the Catch 22 of not being able to gain experience without already having some on their resume. Thomas suggests overcoming this obstacle by saying yes to as many internships as possible during and after school. Internships help you gain valuable real-world experience, beef up your resume, make connections and network, and can even spark your interest in an area you had previously not considered or explored. Particularly in a field like advertising, internships also help you build a portfolio of work that you can show to future employers or clients.

Say Yes to Everything

When Thomas started, he said yes to almost every job. This helped him develop a diverse portfolio, stretch his creativity and expand his skill set. If you only say yes to projects and jobs you are already really comfortable doing, you’ll never get out of your comfort zone. Thomas recommends wearing multiple hats. Don’t pigeonhole yourself.  The more varied your skill set is and the larger your comfort zone, the more employable and appealing you are. Furthermore, the more skills you hone and the more areas you explore, the more likely you are to stay passionate about and engaged with your projects.


Thomas Stringham

‘The more varied your skill set is and the larger your comfort zone, the more employable and appealing you are. ‘

Keep Yourself Busy and Be Self-Directed

Newtons’ first law of motion states that “a body at rest will stay at rest”. Similarly, if you don’t force yourself to get moving, you will probably find it difficult to get started on anything. The more you take on, the easier it actually becomes as forward momentum picks up. Thomas recommends always being busy. Even when you are not working at an internship or for a client, be self-directed and keep yourself occupied with your own projects. This way, you will generate opportunities for yourself and you will keep your momentum. Whatever you are working on, view it as important and worthy. Devote your time and energy to it; don’t do it half-way.

No Idea Is a Bad Idea

Often, we think an idea won’t work because we haven’t seen it work before. However, this may simply be because we haven’t seen it before. The greatest visionaries succeed because they imagine what no one else has imagined before. Thomas cautions that, particularly in a creative field, it’s very important not to immediately discard an idea. Often, ideas that initially seem bad can turn into fantastic ones with a little finessing. An immediate no often comes more from a gut reaction to the new and unknown rather than as a well-thought-out response. You should at least toss around an idea before discarding it. Furthermore, in a creative environment, you really don’t want to get labelled as the negative person whose first instinct is always no. Approach ideas with an open-mind and a spirit of playfulness.

If You Want to Start Your Own Business, Make it Your Hobby

If you want to start your own business, you need to view it as a hobby. This means that you need to enjoy it and have fun with it but also that you can’t start out hoping to get rich from it. Starting a new business takes a lot of time and effort. You can’t expect to call it a day at five. You need to willing to think about it outside of regular business hours and you should be excited about doing so. Find ways to make it fun; remember why your passionate about it. Thomas said “business is my lifestyle and my hobby.” He advises that entrepreneurs need a similar mindset to be successful.


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