Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with members of the Ferris State University Journalism Professional and Technical Communications program planning to graduating this week.

As part of our lunchtime discussion, I was impressed by how excited and motivated they are to see what’s out there, what’s next. And while there are no cheat codes or shortcuts to getting where you want to be, there are some things we talked about that I think might help anyone in just about any stage of their career, regardless of of industry.

Be excellent at email.
It seems silly, but people who can reply quickly and effectively with e-mail, avoid writing more than five paragraphs when two will do, get to the point, and respond even if they don’t have an answer to let the sender know that they are looking into it and will reply — we love those people, don’t we?

If you have an email signature, you still should sign your name.

Make your subject lines specific. I want to have a pretty good idea what the subject matter is before I open it.

When emailing someone for the first time, please take a few minutes before you hit send and do some digging on them. Prime example: I’m a guy named Kelsey. Lots of folks would address me as Ms. Schnell in emails. I’ll forgive it on the first round, and I would edit my signature to say “Mr. Kelsey Schnell” to give a hint.

Bonus: Stop distributing your college email. My college email still works more than a decade later and I auto-forward anything relevant from it to my current email. Maybe it isn’t a deal breaker for every potential employer, but there’s no time like the present to set up the e-mail you’ll probably be using for the future and possibly the rest of your life, so don’t over complicate it.

Keep your network active.
Establish real connections and maintain them. Don’t be artificial just for the purpose of having an opportunity to ask someone for a favor down the road. Whether from peers, professional colleagues, folks you met once but got brave and connected with on LinkedIn — you never know from where your next great opportunity will come. But you have to be a good, contributing member of the network.

Save your work.
There are two levels to explore here.
Save the work you did in college, your papers or reports, portfolio pieces, and group projects. You might have passed the class but a few years from now when you’ve been on the job for awhile, you’ll look back and (hopefully) see how much you’ve improved, recall how that assignment was life or death back then and you survived, and remember that learning is a lifelong commitment.

Bonus: Your perspective when it comes time to hire, manage, or work with colleagues who haven’t had the benefit of your experience since graduation will be more realistic and more constructive than assuming everyone is on the same level as you.

If you ever used the “my computer crashed and I lost everything” excuse to get more time for a project, then you used your one opportunity and you will not get it back. Saving your work, attachments, and any file that you come into contact with and regularly backing it up on a separate system should go without saying from now on.

Continue embracing your hobbies.
“Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

One of those quips intended to be inspirational but really just unfair for people starting their careers. While I don’t think every day should be your worst day of work ever, I also think most people don’t stick around their first few jobs out of college because they love everything about them. There are unicorns out there but for the most part, you’re going to work at place, for people, or on things that won’t improve your happiness. Know that that is TOTALLY okay. It’s okay to take vacation days, too. Whatever you like doing for fun, keep doing it for fun. If you try to make that your career, you’re putting the fun part in jeopardy while you figure everything else out.

These were just some of the points that we discussed, and might not be for everyone. Any of us might have thought we had it all figured out when we collected our diploma. Some of us only pretended we had any idea what to do with our lives. Probably a good portion of us still are pretending.

And that should make anyone feel better about the unknown ahead of them. Just like the rest of us, you’ll figure it out as you go.

And always be careful of the “REPLY ALL” function.