Recently, I was invited by my alma mater’s placement office to attend an career connections fair. Being back on campus for the first time since graduation gave me a chance to reflect on just how far I’ve come in the last 12 months; what I had learned about myself and my industry.

The event provided students with an opportunity to talk to alumni about their careers and respective industry.  I enjoyed sharing my experiences with  students who were where I was just a year ago.

The most surprising thing about the experience was how easy it was for me to answer most of the questions the students had about the marketing industry. I told them when I graduated I was excited to jump into the field I had studied. I thought I knew what I was getting into and didn’t think I would learn as much as I did in just one year.

Here are just a few of the things I told them about my first year as a business professional:

1. Realize you know nothing-I started January 10th, 2010. In the11 months since then, I have realized all the theory in the world means nothing if you can’t follow through with execution. Web design, writing for search engine optimization, and crafting press releases are just a few of aspects of my job, I had studied in theory, but had no real experience with till I came to Roundpeg. My degree may have gotten me in the door, but my willingness to keep learning is the reason I’m still here.

2. Build a network-Getting out and meeting people isn’t just beneficial on a professional level, but also helps personal development. Creating connections leads to valuable relationships, and these relationships will benefit you for the rest of your career. Many new grads probably don’t realize, their first job, next may not come from filling out an application. It may come from an introduction and a handshake. ( This is also true after you land the job, as you look for your next sale, customer or project.)

3. Surround yourself with passionate people-Passion creates an energy which can’t be replicated. When I come to work every day, I feel that passion. It drives us to be better than we were yesterday. Start-Up Weekend was a great example of how groups of passionate people can turn the wheels of innovation.

4. Value culture-A company culture can make a job tedious or something so much fun you look forward to it on Sunday night. Adventures in Dining, Photo Shoots, RoundpegRadio, Beer-Thirty….over the last 12 months, the people in this office have created a company culture, influenced by our unique personalities.  And while I appreciate my time off, I really look forward to being at Roundpeg.

5. Speak Up-Don’t be afraid to give your opinion. The good bosses and coworkers will value it. Give it humbly, but don’t discount your own viewpoint. Speaking up and seeing your ideas integrated into a project, program or company policy or system,  invests you in the company, giving you a sense of ownership, which can be hugely motivating.

6. Play to your strengths-It would be easy to spend all my time focused on improving my weaknesses, but that’s not the best way for me to benefit the company. It’s good to work on weaknesses, but you should always focus on your strengths. Odds are if you’re great at something, you enjoy doing it. And, believe me, it makes you a much more valuable employee.