I feel as though I was a mediocre high school and college student. I believe if I'd been better at focusing I could have gone to a highly competitive school. Now that I'm out of college how can I start to make up for that feeling of mediocrity?

I didn't make many influential connections or receive many job opportunities through college because of the reasons mentioned above.


Amanda Morris, College Professor, Writer, Advisor, Writing Coach

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What a terrible feeling. The fact that you are aware that you lacked focus during your education is the first step toward improving your knowledge and experience. Feeling mediocre may also just be your perception - we often judge ourselves much more harshly than others. My question to you would be why? Why do you feel as though your educational experience was mediocre - and a follow-up: what effect is your educational experience having now? For instance, if you lack knowledge in certain areas and have not been promoted as a result, you could resolve this problem by reading extensively to gain that knowledge. If your lack of public speaking experience means that your boss overlooks you for leadership roles, you could take the reins and seek out opportunities to take on more public speaking roles, perhaps within your organization or with a nonprofit as a volunteer. Education is a wonderfully fluid thing - and should continue well beyond your official time in school. Anything you want to know, expand upon, learn, or improve is at your fingertips on the internet, in books and magazines, in others' experiences when you ask them questions.

Please don't feel despair by what you perceive to be mediocrity. You probably have a solid foundation and the fact that you want to expand on that is terrific. And the best news is that the power to improve really is within your control! :)

Amy McElroy, SMU Law School graduate, Writer, Editor, and Parent of Two

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I think you need to take stock of what your goals are. Sometimes people don't fulfill their potential because they don't know what they are working toward. I can feel that you are reaching toward something, but I don't know what that is. I don't know if you do either. If you don't, use resources to figure it out: contact your college counseling office, even if you are no longer in the same geographical area. They should be able to help you via phone or online and provide resources to help you determine some direction in terms of goals. They may point you to alumnae in your area who can help, too. Go to the library or look online for more career counseling resources--there are plenty of free ones. You don't need to pay.

Once you get a sense of what you want, figure out whether that means another degree or beefing up your resume for a job hunt. Again, your college counseling office should be able to help you take steps in either direction.

In the latter case, though, here are a few specific ideas: join local community service groups that line up with your value system, like Rotary, AAUW, local leadership programs, Chamber of Commerce, environmental service organizations, or local political groups. Also consider volunteering for more direct service groups like shelters, soup kitchens, clean-up services, youth programs, etc. Something related to your area of career interest would be ideal, but is not necessary.

These commitments will serve two purposes. Giving back to the community where you live will reduce your personal feeling of mediocrity, and replace it with a sense of contributing something worthwhile.Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer. Second, it will create a network of contacts for you within the community as you begin your job search. Community service also boosts a resume, even if the person hiring you did not meet you through the service project.

University Tutor, World's largest global marketplace for independent tutors.

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In many instances, what matters most to employers is the diploma you earned in high school and college. That, however, may not assuage your worries, and whether you would like to return to academia for career or personal reasons, there are a number of options available to you. You can enroll in an online course like a MOOC (which is often free), or complete a stackable degree program. An alternate option to consider is working with individuals who you can teach. Perhaps you can serve as a mentor at work, or tutor children at a neighborhood elementary school? Helping others can make you feel much more confident in your own abilities - surprisingly so!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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You are not alone in feeling like you lacked focus in high school and undergrad. Have you considered returning to higher ed now that you have such a better understanding of yourself and the importance of focus? Perhaps there is a fresh start for you around the bend in a program that excites you.

If that is not a possibility, do some work to let your employers know you would like to take your job very seriously and, more importantly, to show yourself that you do matter. Could you organize a charity event/opportunity for your fellow employees? Adopt a highway? Adopt a family at the holidays? Though it seems like a small thing, making space for opportunities in which you can show yourself that you have it in you might give you the confidence to erase your sadness about the past. Which, is...the past.

You have a lot of life ahead of you and the chance to restart at any point. I wish you well!

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher, Author, and Artist

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One of the biggest things to remember is to never look back. Once you have gotten out of high school with a diploma, and college with a degree, it is all about what you do with it, not how you got it. Try to find the one thing that you are most passionate about. Always fill your life with the things that matter to you most because if you don't, it is extremely easy to fall into ruts.Nobody becomes an expert or great at things overnight. They do it because they have an unwavering and constant passion to learn more about what they are either studying, or in your case, more likely working at in your job. Develop a love for learning about things, even if it doesn't pay you a dime as well. You'd be surprised how knowledge that you have on a particular subject or particular skill can resurface when you least expect it (such as in a job interview or situation, etc.) and small things that you've learned along the way can separate you from a great many people. Mediocrity only happens when you are uninspired. The challenge is to always find things that will add and help build upon the things you know you want to spend your life doing. Then you'll find that it will actually be HARD to be mediocre. Your natural interest simply will not allow it. Good luck!

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