When Michael Vaudreuil's once-booming plastering business went under in 2008, during the economic recession, he took the only job he could find — working full-time as a night custodian at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), a college near his home in Massachusetts.
The job paid 50% less than what he had been making, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, but it came with some perks, including free undergraduate classes. So the father of three went back to school.
"The thought process was: This is it for me," Vaudreuil told the Boston Globe. "This is the last train out of the station. Your back's against the cliff. You either jump off, or you fight for your life."
For the next few years, Vaudreuil took classes during the day and then spent his night shift, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., cleaning bathrooms and washing floors, the Post reported. And he even took on extra work — when he realized that he needed help brushing up on algebra so he could get through his calculus class, he "self-taught himself through YouTube videos."
On May 14, in front of his wife, Joyce, and his three children, Vaudreuil walked across the stage wearing his cap and gown, and accepted his diploma. He was 54.
"Mike could have stopped at any time. But he did not give up," WPI President Laurie A. Leshin said during her address to last week's graduates, the Post reported. "And today, at the age of 54, Mike will receive his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. That's perseverance ... We are so proud of you, Mike!"
RELATED: 5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation
5 tips to help you land your first job after graduation
54-year-old custodian just graduated from the college he spent years cleaning
Take advantage of your college career center
Most universities offer career coaching from trained professionals who specialize in development and advancement. Whether or not you have an idea of your career plans post-college, it can be beneficial to take a few hours out of your day and set up an appointment with one of the counselors. Many times, these professionals can review and help you tailor your resumé and cover letter. To top it off, because of their experience and networks in various industries, counselors have the potential to connect you with hiring managers.
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Begin creating and using your network
One of the most important aspects to finding a job is taking advantage of your professional and personal network. Your connections can vary from your family members and friends to your professors and alumni. If you feel as if you're lacking a valuable network, however, business association events and gatherings are the best way to gain important contacts.
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Participate in recruiting and career fairs
This piece of advice may be the most obvious, but many students fail to take advantage of it. Careers fairs orchestrated by your specific college are invaluable. They allow you to not only learn about opportunities in your respective career, but it also allows you the opportunity to network with hiring managers and employers of the companies present.
Use your social media wisely
It goes without saying that we live in a social media world. Everything you do online can be tracked, so it's important to make sure you are representing your personality and style accurately, and in the best possible light -- you never know who may be looking at your page.
Always follow up
With the advancement of modern technology, most job applications are done online. Because of this new process, it oftentimes makes it harder to find the person of contact to follow up with. However, you shouldn't let that initial obstacle prevent you from following up. If you can't find the name of the hiring manager directly reviewing your application, use LinkedIn to do a search of the next best person to reach out to. Many potential employees miss out on interviews by not being proactive and sending follow up emails.