Just after graduating from Michigan State in 2011, Megan Gebhart was looking at a summer filled with the questions and anxieties of anyone beginning a new life. Her answer was to get coffee — 52 cups worth, to be exact. Gebhart started a blog called 52 Cups that forced her to get out and meet new people — one each week. The advice and knowledge she gained from the coffee dates inspired her to flout her job search and travel. The advice and experience she gained landed her a job, as well as a contribution to the upcoming book “U Chic’s Diploma Diaries.” Here are her tips for recent grads:
Get coffee with somebody
It’s not about the coffee, it’s about making new connections. To a lot of people it can be terrifying to reach out to somebody. The trick is, you get insight from someone more experienced than you. Meeting new people can definitely open new doors. What I found is that people love helping students and recent graduates. Chances are, if you ask to meet, they’ll say yes. If they say no, you move on with your life — it’s not the end of the world, it’s just coffee.
Start a side project
Whatever the idea or interest you have that’s always in the back of your mind, create a project that integrates that idea into your life — even if it might not be related to your degree or career field. This is a point in your life where you have flexibility and free time, so it’s the best time to jump into that thing you love. When you do that, it helps you find a path to a longer-term plan. Start doing what you love now, because that will lead you to a place where you can possibly make a career around it.
Realize that side projects can lead to opportunities
We create reasons for why we can’t do what we love, but when we do side projects it’s great because you can go into an interview and demonstrate that you have initiative. You are passionate and diligent about achieving a goal. Even though your passion might not relate to the job you’re applying for, it’s a really great way to show your skills — it’s also a great way to get some skills.
The thing that I always said about 52 cups is that it was an experiment, because I knew if I met some people my life would inevitably change in some way. I knew it would change, but I had to go out and do it, because if I sat around and waited for something to happen, nothing ever would have happened. It’s not about undertaking some massive thing, it’s that every week you’re doing something to push yourself out there.