The first time I laid eyes upon what would be my college campus was Labor Day 2005. I was on a tour to see which colleges I liked so I could start applying. Before the tour, my dad, brother and I wandered around State Street and eventually ended up on Langdon Street (Langdon is “Frat Row”). You could just feel the hangovers of the people celebrating the end of summer and the start of a new year.
Empty beer cans were all over, furniture was out on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up; the area looked a little decrepit.
And I smiled.
Right there and then, I fell in love with the Babylon of the Midwest: Madison, Wisconsin.
It’s been five years since my first introduction to the city. I graduated and it’s time to move on, and that means leaving my home of four years behind. It’s time to pour a 40 of Keystone Light (naturally) on the curb for my brief but memorable stint as a Badger.
“Where you come from is gone, where you’re going to was never there, and where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it”
As I sit here on Graduation-Eve Eve, desperately trying to study but ultimately failing (I’m listening to music and my test is about music, so….win?), I find myself thinking about the future. Monday, May 16th is LITERALLY the first day of the rest of my life. Everything’s changing. The only world I know is going to be gone (though I’ve still got plenty of debt to remind myself of college). It’s a little terrifying, but it’s also new, which is incredibly exciting. So, instead of mourning four years of my life that will rank as the most enjoyable, wild, and exciting ever, I might as well see the positive sides of graduating.
Congrats, class of 2010! We each get a graduation present: the opportunity for reinvention. The best brands, products, and services adapt based on changes in culture, trends, and technology. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, you don’t stay relevant for so long by being the same. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to rebrand ourselves.
Rebranding. Don Draper did it (yes, he’s a TV character. I watch TV. Get over it). Dick Whitman didn’t like who he was and where he was from, so he changed into Don Draper. He took the hidden parts of his personality and projected them. Robert Zimmerman did it, too. Here’s a kid from northern Minnesota who decided there was something better out there, picked up his guitar and moved to New York to become Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is the best example of personal rebranding I can think of. Musically, he went from folk and blues to protest music to surrealist electric rock to country. And that’s only the first decade of his career.Hell, if the Rolling Stones can make a disco album, you can change too. Become someone new. Reinvent. The world is dynamic. Not even your personality should stand still.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t whitewashing the past. It’s not even really about looking more appealing to recruiters and higher-ups at your job. It’s about the opportunity to let others see you in a different way. We’re in for a lifetime of first impressions, but in these next few months and years we’re going to be experiencing a TON of them. Make them count. Play around with different sides of your personality, see which one fits. Nobody said you had to figure out who you were yet, so use that to your advantage.
I’m not talking about some extreme, Britney-Spears-shaving-her-head change. This isn’t Urkel making a machine that turns him into a suave, debonair Stephan Urquell (not all the TV I watch is high quality). This is about is taking existing parts of your personality and messing around with the percentages a little bit to let other aspects of your personality shine. Become more outgoing by forcing yourself to speak up at group events, even if it’s a little stressful. Tell more jokes. Argue with people. You’re no longer bounded by everyone already knowing who you are, so there are very few preconceptions about you. Use that. It’s a wonderful gift.
In less than 45 days, I will no longer be a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I will have graduated from the School of Business with a double major in Marketing and MHR-Management. At this point, I’ll have graduated without finding a permanent “real-person” job. Let’s just all let life sink in for a second.
People keep asking me if I’m ready to graduate, if I’m excited for whatever comes next, etc etc. I never have any idea how to answer them because there are so many emotions associated with it: fear, anticipation, exhiliration, fun, sadness…pretty much all of the above. Most of all, an overwhelming sense of confusion is the way I guess I could describe it, because after graduation life is just one big uncertainty at this point.
I’ve had my fair share of fun (and your share, too) in the last four years and I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things in class. But, more than academics, I think the learning has been going on outside of the classroom. Things you learn when you aren’t attempting to learn seem more relevant to me: time management, budgeting, social skills, stress management. These aren’t usually things I would associate with school, though most of them are applicable to the classroom as well.
The point is, while I’m not discounting what I’ve learned from school, I’ve learned a whole lot more about myself and my abilties on my down-time.
What’s Next. I have no idea, and most of the people I’ve talked to have no idea either. I would venture to say 75% of the people I know who are looking for post-grad “real-person” work are stilll searching, still applying, still interviewing. With less than 45 days left, we’re scrambling. We’re scared, confused, and uncertain. Still, we’ve survived 4 years at UW and lived to tell about it, so we shouldn’t be. We’re intelligent, we’re talented, and we’re adaptable. That should be about enough for anyone to want us.
This all being said, here are a few things I’ve learned.
- Interviewing is like bad speed-dating. You go in, talk to a person you’ve never met about yourself for a half-hour, and then hope they ask you for a second date. There’s a fair share of awkward pauses, forced laughter, and plenty of fake smiles. All of this is done hoping you’ll somehow make a connection and will begin a long-term relationship.
- Applying for jobs is a crapshoot. Half of the jobs you want, you’ll never hear from. There are scam jobs out there, preying on people like us. It’s a minefield, people, and we’re all on our own.
- There’s got to be a better way to get a job. Interviews and resumes just encourage us to lie, embellish, and generally act fake. This is all fine and well for speed-dating, but just will lead to disappointment when they learn you aren’t who you say you are. With all of the blogs, social media sites, etc available we should be able to be ourselves. People could learn more about me from my facebook, twitter, and writing than through “tell me about a time when…” questions.
I think I like the idea of writing again, so maybe next entry will be something about our generation, the so-called “millenials.” There’s a lot to be said.