BY QUINN BORGSTROM
Senior Lizzy Shay is a third-generation Gopher and former Minnesota Student Association president. This past school year she was one of the few undergraduate students selected to participate on a team in the Carlson Consulting Enterprise—a program normally reserved for Carlson MBA students—where she worked for the Minnesota Trade Office in researching and providing recommendations on how the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program could drive employment in the state. During summer 2012, Shay was an intern at Lazard Middle Market in Minneapolis working in mergers and acquisitions. She will complete her BSB in finance in December 2012 and plans to walk in commencement in May 2013. We asked her to share with us five of the most important things she’s learned at this stage in her life.
1. Own your education.
Maybe you pay for it, maybe you don’t, but regardless of who foots the bill for your degree it’s incredibly important to own your education. There are guidebooks and workshops about how to get the most from college, and those are a good start, but at some point the choice is up to you. For me this was expressed by realizing I wanted a set of skills from school, and they aligned with the courses of a finance major, but I also made no apologies for enrolling in advertising courses, taking a film course at the Walker last fall, or looking forward to my alternative media class in the fall.
Never be afraid to be yourself. We’ve heard this adage time and time again, but I think it is usually phrased in the context of you’ll have more fun or you’ll be happier—I think the importance of being genuine is even more than that—you’ll be more successful. I’ve learned it’s perfectly OK to not like some things and to love other things, even if it’s uncommon as long as you do it with sincerity. People care more about knowing the genuine person you are than whether or not it’s the same things they like.
3. Say thank you.
This one can be tricky. If I’m having a great week, thank you notes will fire off for me within hours of a great meeting, experience, or lunch—but if I’m not, I’m afraid to admit they can take a long time. But even at that point. I have to say thank you, and I find it’s best to do it in writing. We get way too many emails, and even though it is the thought that counts, putting a thank you in writing I would say is responsible for every job I’ve gotten (maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I do think it helped). So—even if it’s months later, say thank you, because ultimately it’s nice for the other person to receive even if it’s embarrassing for you that it’s tardy.
4. Show up.
I make a point to show up when it’s my job, and to be conscious of how I show up. In the past year, this ranged from Regents meetings to football games, to the MSA forum and events all over campus. I know there is the Woody Allen quote that “80% of success is just showing up”—and in my experience it’s true. That’s a message students and alumni need to hear—from going to class, to attending alumni events or being a mentor. Maybe every class or meeting won’t be critical or incredible, but there’s also the off chance that it will.
5. Believe in what you do.
Even if you have to “fake it till you make it” you’ve got to believe in the things that you’re doing. This was a big one for me as MSA president, because the truth is, there are times when people want to say that student government is pointless, but as far as I am concerned, it’s critically important for the success of the student voice in university governance.