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WHAT I KNOW NOW—Ericha Richards, The Ellen DeGeneres Show

We here at CollegeFashionista are big proponents of takings risks when it comes to your careers and following your heart. Ericha Richards, a former American University Style Guru, is definitely a shining example of this.

After working in fashion in New York City, Ericha felt she was spending more time convincing herself that she was living the dream than actually living it. So she decide to take a chance, move to the opposite coast and switch career paths. The result? The incredible opportunity to work, learn and most certainly dance as the Social Media Producer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show!

We caught up with Ericha as she discusses the five things she has learned post-grad that have landed her the true dream job.

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1. Explore as many passions as you can. I think it goes without saying that most college students take their free time for granted. I was certainly among the guilty. Flash-forward three years; work is demanding, and personal time is at a premium. Free time to explore your inner passions is scarce. Whether it’s honing your photography skills, learning conversational Italian, or experimenting more in the kitchen, use college as the time to learn, in and out of the classroom.

2. Travel. Cliché but super important. Whether it’s going abroad for a semester or taking some time right after graduation, block off time to go somewhere outside your everyday life (bonus points if you have never been there before). The professional world is constantly looking for globalized, culturally intelligent candidates. Be one of those people.

3. Find a professional mentor who will take a personal investment in you. Work for the person who believes in you, even if it means venturing down a foreign path you never saw yourself taking. Growing and learning under someone who believes in your ability can be one of the most rewarding experiences.

4. Smile! Seriously! Even if your pet rock died, your coworker brought tuna for lunch, or you forgot to wake up in time to purchase that H&M x (Insert “it” designer here) jacket you’ve been waiting months for, SMILE! Not only will it subconsciously affect how you feel on the inside, it will also positively influence the way people perceive you.

5. Really Listen to Yourself.  I spent my first few years out of college chasing a career I knew wasn’t right, purely for it’s prestige. While I felt an initial sense of pride for landing the job in the first place, the energy I spent convincing myself I was happy left me completely drained. All of my relationships suffered, including the one with myself. One day I woke up and decided to live the life I wanted to live. Did that include leaving the plum job, packing up my apartment, saying bye to friends and snow and subway tickets? Yes! Do I regret it? No! It led me to where I was meant to be: in CALIFORNIA (where it’s sunny 95 percent of the time­); at an incredible job; living an adventurous, confident life.