Imagine you’re an entrepreneur with the goal of making and selling tons of paper.
Luckily, you own a tree farm with hundreds of acres of trees — just the right kind for grinding down into pulp and converting into paper.
Now imagine that instead of grinding the trees into pulp and making paper, you cut them down into lumber and make furniture instead. Despite having all the right tools to make paper, you end up choosing to convert your trees into something completely different.
Trees aren’t paper, and time isn’t money.
Each is an essential ingredient that can be converted into the desired end product. However, time can easily be converted into watching Netflix, for example, instead of into money.
I share this analogy because I see life as a college student through a similar lens. Rather than acres of trees, college students have four (or five) years of time. This time can lead to value, if spent wisely.
An easy way to convert time into value is to get a job, of course. But, as we all know, some jobs give much more value than others. Years of working retail returns thousands of dollars. Years of working on launching a new social network may make you the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Note that you could spend the same energy and time on a retail job that Zuckerberg spent on Facebook, but only one of you is worth billions of dollars. As the saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.”
For a college student, working smarter means taking full advantage of your one competitive advantage — the freedom to invest your time wisely.
There are very, very few things a college student must do other than school.
You may be busy, but you aren’t busy like a recently married 27-year-old with a kid and promotion on the line. You may be poor, but you don’t need money the same way a 40-year-old with a mortgage and a family needs money.
It’s not that you have any more than 24 hours; it’s that you have more free hours. This allows you to invest in what really matters to you.
There are always exceptions, but many college students spend their hours investing in jobs they don’t need, re-watching “Parks and Recreation” or going out drinking with friends. None of those are even bad things, but will they really matter to you in the long run the same way four years of internships and side projects will?
Remember, you will be competing with thousands of other graduates with the same degree but from another school. Not to mention, you’ll also be competing with 35-year-olds who have a decade’s worth of experiences on top of their degrees. What will set you apart?
Spend your time well. That’s the secret. It’s not enough to have lots of time; you have to convert it to value.