These last few weeks I’ve kept fairly quiet about some recent transitions. I’m heading back to school. Well, sort of. After spending a few years directly invested in social media strategy at a few agencies, I’m making a transition back into higher education. It’s a move that, in many ways, I never thought I would make but have recently come to realize has a few ounces of destiny involved.
Upon graduation, I wasn’t entirely sure what route I would take out of campus. My dream was to work in a professional sports setting, but opportunity felt hard to come by. I was fascinated by digital marketing and had a few internships connected to it, but was incredibly nervous about an unemployed lull between graduation and the start of loan payments. (Thanks private university tuition). Ironically, I ended up just a few buildings away from my college apartment, enthralled by the fast-pace and nimble approach of the Admissions and Recruitment team. A childhood mentor of sorts was running the office and I was fascinated by the way he had been recruiting top talent from within the university, igniting passions of student leaders and prominent personalities that would find storytelling natural and enjoyable. I remember my first campus visit as an Admissions Counselor like it was yesterday; a pair of brothers that were seemingly a great fit at the school. We connected over a meal at our local Mexican restaurant, where queso is a requirement and no article of clothing is left unstained by the aromas and odors of the kitchen. With a few years of student leadership under my belt, I found myself relying on personal stories of involvement, activity and development rather than developing a reusable sales pitch. And I fell in love with it! Unlike most, we relied on an authentic and individualized experience that was rooted in relationship rather than incentive. I fell in love with my target demographic, middle-aged mothers that knew how to handle my self-depreciating humor as a method of relating to the awkwardness of high school. These moms had a lot more insight into their son or daughter’s college choice than anyone gave them credit for.
But after a year of traveling the state and eating salads from every fast food chain imaginable, an opportunity to work in professional sports came. I drove my ’97 Oldsmobile down to Dallas in pursuit of my dreams. Just five weeks later I found myself reversing the route and heading back to my Columbus apartment in search of a job that didn’t include sales tactics and unrealistic expectations for young professionals, all in the name of “an esteemed sports team that every graduate would kill to work for”. (Sports professionals, don’t read this as a jab; I just wasn’t cut out for your line of work) A few humbling months working in coffee led me back to Admissions to complete the remainder of my two-year commitment. My next move took me on the road in a different capacity as I traveled to colleges and universities all around the country to produce and manage the world’s largest student film festival. I was visiting new campuses nearly every week and living out of suitcases in a lifestyle right out of a reality television show. I saw things that my private, liberal arts university never gave me access too, with an alarming start at UC Berkeley, where students proved their knowledge by hacking into our laptops to invert the color schemes and reformat keyboards. But the energy of college campuses is something you rarely find in a professional setting. Even better, I was working with talented production folks that taught me everything I could ever want to know about cinematography and the art of film. I loved college in all capacities and when I left that role I was weary that I would ever return to higher education.
But this past week I entered back into the higher education space from an agency perspective, taking on a strategy role at Ologie. With just a few days under my belt, I’ve already been inspired and intrigued by the knowledge and talent that congregates in the office every day. Designers, developers, writers and strategists that pave the way in innovation, many coming from highly-esteemed agencies and businesses around the country. My new co-workers are all storytellers by both nature and nurture, asking great questions and connecting dots that many struggle to see. We gather in aesthetically beautiful spaces and talk through wireframes and messaging concepts. Dogs roam freely and donuts are served on Friday. I’m not super meta, but there is literally an aura of creativity present in this space that I’ve tried to soak in every minute. Travel starts next week with a client kickoff in the Deep South and I’m excited to dive into discovery mode alongside my peers and team. I’ve got plenty left to learn, but have loved stepping into this environment and working directly with colleges and universities yet again.
In honor of my acceptance letter back into higher education, it’s only right to be reflecting on my own college experience. Because the reality is, there were many life lessons learned since graduation, and I would have loved to know these tidbits of insight a few years prior, given the chance.
10 insights I wish I could give to my college self:
- You are not defined by what you do or have done.
- College debt blows but your experience will be worth every penny.
- Enjoy the freedoms of an 18-hour class schedule before you dive into a career. You think you’re busy now? Just wait.
- Travel while you’re in school. Take on big adventures, even if they leave you with nothing to eat but ramen noodles.
- Surround yourself with creative people. You are a reflection of the people you place around you.
- Practice what you’re passionate about. Opportunity doesn’t always show up on your front door, but when it does you have to be ready to run with it.
- Your roommates are bad influences. Bad sleeping and eating habits will haunt you in your late 20’s.
- Ask more questions. You may think you know it all, but consider every space a classroom.
- Don’t fear failure. Instead, fear missing an opportunity to grow.
- Intramural championship t-shirts feel like a big deal now, but they’ll end up in a dusty box that sits in your garage.
– An evolving Ologist
*photo credit to www.ologie.com