5 Things I’ve Learned from DECA Students

This year will mark my second year as a high school DECA State judge and my fourth year volunteering my time to local DECA Chapters. DECA, if you aren’t familiar, is an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the world.

I  became involved with DECA at Brighton High School and I frequently disclose to people that it is a major reason that I pursued a career in Marketing and Public Relations. Along with going to the national competition two years in a row, I also received the Lyle Wood Memorial Scholarship from my DECA Chapter which helped pay for my tuition at CSU.

2013 was the first year I had actually traveled up to Colorado Springs to judge the state competition and to say that I was blown away by the projects that were presented to me is a major understatement. Before me stood students dressed to the nines, lugging around more than just posters. I saw mock-up tablets with customized applications detailed to the letter, printed out professional portfolios, thought-out out-of-the-box grassroots marketing campaigns, and more.

Following my experience at state DECA, I had a local high school student reach out to me requesting a job shadow. Being that I had never been shadowed before, I hesitantly agreed. Not only was this student incredibly bright, but she was very creative. She had this really strong hunger to learn, she wanted me to share with her everything that I knew. She was fifteen and had already built and managed a website, ran Facebook marketing campaigns, and knew the nuts and bolts of SEO.

These experiences have led me to make it a goal of mine to always say “yes” to putting myself into a position where I am working with students because I feel that each time I am, I learn more than I teach.

Here are 5 things that I’ve learned from my experiences working with students that I feel are noteworthy:

  • It’s important to stay eager. It’s normal for the shininess of a new job to wear off over time, but it’s important to remember the way you felt when you began. Whether it was trying to land that first internship, the excitement of getting an A in your favorite class or the energetic feeling you got when you were called in for your first “career” interview – don’t lose that eagerness. It’s a major driving force for productivity and creativity and sometimes you just have to remind yourself.
  • Do it because you enjoy it. They call it “declaring” your major because you get to choose and proclaim what it is that you want to do for the rest of your life – no one is telling you that you have to get a degree in marketing, you are declaring that you want to. They call it “taking” a job because you get to decide if it’s right for you. That’s the beauty of America, we get to choose what it is that we do everyday, what our livelihood is. Take advantage of that!
  • Ask questions. Whether you’re at a new job or an old job, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Once we realize that we won’t ever know everything, we can continue to learn from one another. The same goes for asking for help.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw crazy ideas out there. The crazy ideas are the ones that usually change the entire marketplace! I’m sure that everyone thought it would be crazy to have drones delivering items to your doorstep that you ordered off the internet – but alas, Amazon is turning that crazy idea into a reality.
  • Don’t get discouraged. There are going to be a lot of things that get in the way of what we want throughout our lives, but getting discouraged won’t do anything to help navigate the obstacles. Whether you’re applying for jobs and not getting any call backs, you’re pitching an idea to a client that hates it or you’ve dropped the ball on something important – it’s imperative to stay encouraged and keep moving forward with confidence.

I’m excited that DECA has invited me back this year to help determine what students go to nationals to represent Colorado. If you want to see what it feels like to be a DECA judge, you can register to judge the DECA state competition in Colorado Springs this February by clicking here.