Recently, I was asked to write a short piece for a blog called “20 Somethings in 2013”
Here’s the link:
Here’s the piece:
Phrases are a gap in my knowledge.
But one has resonated since I graduated: “This is where the rubber meets the road,” said to me around the time of my entrance into the real world in August of last year. At that point, I didn’t know why the tires weren’t on the road in the first place, but now it has become clear.
Let’s be real. We aren’t real people until debates about tax reform suddenly seem relevant. One may know some of the basic principles of economics from a sophomore course in micro, but until you’ve lost $1,400 in purchasing power over the next fiscal year due to tax reform, you don’t really get it.
I studied International Affairs: an umbrella liberal arts degree that covers business, economics, politics, sociology and other worldly categories. The idealistic goal behind this freshman year decision was to become a global businessman or espionage spy for a corporation. A man in a $3,000 suit on Turkish Airlines always meets the woman who travels in a $7,000 dress, right?
This is not how it works.
After the reality check (I’ll forgo the details), I have come to realize a few things about how the world works (in any economy). First of all, it’s not only whom you know, but also who knows you.
Because of the connections I have tirelessly worked to make, I am currently on the brink of earning an opportunity that would launch my career like a 4th of July cannon. A handshake, a recommendation, and an interview, and suddenly I could be a manager at an international association in the next few months all because I drove eight hours both ways to meet someone face to face rather than by phone.
Next, your reputation in college will never amount to even a fraction of the value of your professional one. Lucky for me, I took a small time clerical job at a law firm for the entirety of my senior year. This eventually turned into a full-time salary position due to hard work (and some real world negotiations).
If it weren’t for the professional experience — having liability in my production, navigating office politics, finding a social role, dealing with hard consequences, etc. — I could be like many of my graduating class: without a professional letter of recommendation and living at home. Experience is everything.
Finally, the number one rule of the working world is that of the comedian’s: never be negative. Negative means serious, and no one likes a serious comedian. If you want to put an expiration date on your employment, then do the following: complain. The seriousness is supposed to manifest from your production. If you want people to take you seriously, then you have to show it through your actions, not your words.
Breaking the last rule put me at the bottom of the totem pole and eventually out the door at the law firm. I openly did not agree with new management who had joined the firm nearly a year after me. Eventually, we were forced to downsize, and I was the first to go (but like I said, I still got the letter of recommendation). Thus, I was recently unemployed for eight weeks.
Now, due to diligent networking, beefing up my résumé, and writing cover letters with optimistic tones, I am employed with a salary yet again, and with potential for an even higher level job.
Ultimately, I want to be someone who makes big decisions. I see the big picture more than I do the pieces that put it together, and I therefore see myself in a think-tank like role that influences national policy or big business. Who knows, maybe I’ll be a politician. Either way, I know that if I follow these three rules consistently, it will be a fulfilling drive down the long highway to the job of my dreams.