The Calm-Your-Nerves List: 5 Things for Soon-to-be Grownups/Graduates

Dear Gators and other students and young people who may read this but may or may not be as great,

It’s 2016 and you have another year or two of school and have about 5,983 questions on what to do between now and then. And worse yet, what to do after that.

After meeting and talking with many young Gators last week, I have a few things I want to share with you.

1.     It’s Ok If You Don’t Know What You Want To Do.
You can be a strategist. Or a media planner. Or a copywriter. Or a lawyer. Or a street artist. Or you can move to Costa Rica and teach English? (I legit was planning this after portfolio school.)

It’s okay if you’re not sure what your exact career path is. You don’t have to decide what you want to spend the next 10, 20, 30+ years doing right now. You don’t have to have all the answers.

Part of life, part of growing up, is the journey of figuring this all out.

What you want to do will change. What you value, where you want to live, who you are – it will all change.  And when it changes you can adjust.

So take a deep breath.
Breath in. Breath out.

You’ll be fine.

2.     Pick Something And Pursue It.
Ok, so while you don’t have to pick a career and tattoo it on your forearm right now, you do have to make a few choices.

For one, because you need to give your parents some answer when they ask you what you’re going to do after you graduate.
Secondly, because you need some sort of direction when you are looking for jobs. You can’t go sit in an interview and say you want to do a little bit or this or that or whatever. They’ll look at you sideways.

So pick something and run with it. Look in to internships, portfolio school (if applicable), jobs, etc. Start researching, networking and Googling – whatever it takes for you to understand what it takes to get into that job. And as long as it doesn’t make you want to vom, then keep pursuing it. Tailor your resume to the job descriptions. Network with folks that hold the positions. Try it on and if it fits, go for it.

You won’t know if it’s right until you jump in there and check it out. After your internship or first few years on the job, you’ll be able to see if it’s really right for you and if it’s not, you can adjust. 

(It took an internship in account management my junior year for me to realize that I am not built for that shit. My internship in the creative department the following year cemented the fact that I love copywriting and needed to go to portfolio school.)

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3.     Find Your Superpower.
Take some time and do some free writing to answer the following questions. Like serious time, go to a quiet place and turn off your phone and give yourself 30-60 minutes to think about this.

What are you good at? What do you love doing? What are you passionate about? What do you value?
Then put it away and look again in a day or two. What stands out? What are the things that overlap?
How can you craft that into your story?

When I did this exercise I realized two big trends, I am a problem solver and a relationship builder. This comes to life in so many different ways every day, from writing the perfect headline (solving a verbal problem) to client presentations (building relationships).

Take some time and think about how you can articulate your answer and show that it’s something special you can offer that no one else but you can.

4.     There Are Opportunities Everywhere.

Literally. You can work in an agency. Or at a tech company. Or at a start up. Or at a brand. Or at a news outlet. There are a million positions you haven’t even heard of at companies you haven’t even thought of.

I have friends working everywhere from ESPN to Droga5 to Apple to Edelman to Macy’s. There is a need for smart, creative people in almost every company out there.

Find the companies you want to work at and stalk them. Stalk their competitors. Follow them on Linkedin, in the news, on, on their careers pages, on Twitter, wherever. Dig deeper than just job titles. Look at the job descriptions. Look for the things that align with the lists you made in #3. Then pick that thing, and pursue the eff out of it.

new girl, new girl gif

Later on your can maneuver and Tetris yourself in to different roles and be a hybrid of something. But first you have to pick a side and get your foot in the door.

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5.     Think About People First.
Sounds easy enough but somehow, somewhere along the way we forget who we’re talking to in our ads, or in our interviews or in our meetings.

In your creative work, make sure you’re thinking about the real people you’re reaching with your work. Does your idea make sense to them? Does it connect them with your brand? Does it feel real and authentic? David Ogilvy said “The consumer isn't a moron. She is your wife.” The consumer is your dad, your brother, your grandmother, your friend. Sometimes it's you. How would you talk to you?

In your job hunt, make sure you connect with people on a human level. Don’t just think of networking for what you can get out of the person, but really try to build a relationship. When it comes to your classmates, the folks you intern with, even the people you encounter at thefront desk when you go in for an interview – remember that everybody is a reference and a possible referral. Foster those relationships very carefully. In this industry, you're Kevin Bacon and every degree matters.

And above all else, don’t be an asshole.

6. [Bonus] Go Gators.
Seriously. It's great to be a Florida Gator.

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