Alumni Council Spotlight: Simple Steps for Adulthood


Alumnus Steve Rock, member of the class of 1985, during his time at Colgate.

College is a bridge between the wonder years and adulthood, and time on any bridge can be awkward. When you look back, most of you would never choose to go back to high school.When you look forward into the adult world, it seems so unnatural. You freeze, and that is the wrong move. Some advice: get off the awkward bridge by embracing the far side. Start with some basics and move from there. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with many college students and can share a few easy ways to cross that bridge and be an adult without even trying too hard.

Be Old School — Have your voicemail box set up, and don’t let it sit there full. I guarantee the caller won’t be happy. To be really old school, be able to read cursive. I’m not asking you to learn a foreign language, but realize it is how dinosaurs communicate with each other.

Be New School  Click “accept” or “decline” on calendar invites and demonstrate that you are using a tool to manage your life. Don’t let an invite sit there and have somebody wonder if you are going to show up.

Be Responsive  Respond to emails and phone messages within the same day. The largest company in the U.S., Walmart, has something called the “sundown rule.” Every customer or vendor request is answered within the day, and they expect their vendors to follow the same rule. It is a twist on the adage “why put off to tomorrow what you can do today.” You have funny sleep habits in college — adults will likely accept “by the next sun-up.”

Be Respectful  My adult (and alum) daughter called me one day rather irritated. A Colgate senior had set up a networking appointment with her. My daughter left work early (where she just happened to sit next to the head of recruitment for the industry’s premier company) and was at the meeting place when she got a text, “my friends changed their plans, so I can’t meet with you.” Oops!

Be Early, Lucky or Both  A mentor (also an alum) of the same daughter called me one day. “I was so mad at myself. I had the wrong time in my head for a meeting with your daughter. I showed up an hour early, and when I walked in, there she was, preparing for our meeting. She is so awesome.” Turns out, it was the same day the senior cancelled the meeting. The point is, early is a winner, late is a loser. Guess which mentor got which daughter introduced to her new employer for a way better job!

Create and Nurture Your Network  Strangers rarely call with great news. On the other hand, the network you build and maintain will be filled with opportunities. One of the savviest people I have ever known called everybody she had ever worked with on their birthday. It was a great excuse to ask somebody how they were doing. Do not be the person who calls only when they need something.

Be Like Gary Ross  I’ve seen people in their early 20s send the following texts: “Sorry your husband died,” and “Happy birthday grandma, and BTW you are going to be a great-grandmother.” The dinosaurs on the far side of bridge were not happy. After any substantial networking conversation or interview you negatively differentiate yourself by not expressing thanks. A text message is just as bad. An email of thanks is acceptable. (My brother isn’t the only manager who refuses to hire anybody who doesn’t send a thank you note.) If you want to positively differentiate yourself, handwrite a thank you note. Employers will want those thoughtful people on their teams, interacting with their organizations’ clients and customers. Think about it for a second: you already hired an organization and that organization is Colgate University. Colgate differentiated itself with a handwritten note on your acceptance letter. It was memorable. It showed genuine interest in you. You saw Colgate differently than every other school. You responded. It worked for Dean Ross. Make it work for you.