THE BLOG
05/16/2012 06:28 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

Welcome to the University of Life

It's the time of the year when commencement is upon many who will be graduating from renowned institutions all around the world. The degree scroll is a symbol of hope for young, fresh graduates who are ready to make their mark on the world and use their experiences in college to advance in the workplace and start their ascent on the corporate ladder.

I will be among this batch of young graduates -- but I have a different story to share.

In 2010, I started working full-time barely a year after I started my full-time degree at the National University of Singapore. I relished a challenge and wanted to experience life outside college, and start re-paying my student loans. What started out as freelance jobs materialised into a corporate job at a media agency, where I worked as a social media consultant for various brands in the region. During this time, I had to balance the demands of corporate life, work at building up my personal brand and catch up with school work.

It's been nearly two years -- and I hardly recognise the girl that I was before the corporate world whipped me into shape.

Here is what I have learnt:

It's important to know that it's not all pancakes and maple syrup.

Your job will not be easy, because life will never be easy. I made mistakes, learnt from them, and realised that a college education does not guarantee one to graduate from the university of life.

Welcome to your first job, because that's where life starts all over again. It's like going back to school, except that you can't blame your school teacher this time for not providing you with enough learning materials for the examinations you will have ahead of you. These "examinations" in the workplace will test your mettle. They will test your character. But often, and almost always, you will emerge stronger from your battles.

It's important to have a good mentor.

It's crucial to have a good mentor. Someone who shakes you up, gives you appropriate guidance from their years of wisdom, and who is willing to let you learn from their mistakes. I was fortunate enough to have great mentors who kindly took me under their wings.

Remember to find a mentor. More importantly, find a good mentor whom you can trust. Sometimes, you don't have to look very far -- so do not be surprised that this mentor could be your boss at work.

It's important to build your personal brand.

If you want your resume to get noticed, you have to build your personal brand. It's a simple equation -- there are tons of freshly minted graduates. Beyond the Ivy League scrolls and your degree of honors, it's important to let your personality shine. Personal branding is important in the age of Google and social media -- especially when employers are now increasingly checking you out online before you're interviewed.

Remember, your bosses are human too. They want to relate to other humans and not robots with a degree scroll.

It's important to build relationships.

We are not a mere world of equations, rules, and paperwork. We are a society of emotions and relationships too. Build great relationships with your co-workers, your network and others who might assist you in your career progression. Never underestimate the power of the human connection. I've assisted in new business development by focusing on not just building more relationships, but strengthening the quality of these relationships. Trust is important, so learn to cultivate it.

However, don't forget your family and the ones you hold close to your heart. It's easy to get caught up with the malaise of business in corporate life -- and it might be too late once you realise that you could have taken the cornerstone of your life for granted.

Spend time with your parents, and engage them with what you do. It may not mean like much to you, but it will mean the world to them.

Finally, it's important to have fun!

It's important to love your job, or you won't stick with it. Passion really will drive you to do beyond your job scope when you love what you do.

Remember to have fun with what you do, and find purpose in what you do. It will then be easy to have fun at work.

The Gen Y of our time will have a long way to go. Welcome to corporate life.

It's time to start your course in the University of Life.

Christel Quek is a Social Media Consultant in Asia, and a gadget loving geekette who has worked on social media campaigns for brands including KLM Airlines, Intel, and Toshiba Digital. She has been previously profiled on The Huffington Post's #TwitterPowerhouses Series in October 2011. She was born and raised in Singapore, and particularly enjoys photography, painting, travel, and having a good latte macchiato. She can be frequently found on both Twitter and Facebook.