Hi loyal readers and new readers. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus for the past four months as I finished up my final semester of graduate school. Lots of sleepless nights slung over a keyboard, sipping coffee, while crying. The pain paid off and I finished my Action Report, graduating with my master’s in public administration two weeks ago. So for the last two weeks I’ve been recharging and trying to shift modes from academia to beginning my career journey in earnest.
Before I continue I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge fellow millennial blogger Erin for providing inspiration for this post with her article today over at Broke Millennial.
In truth, I really began my career journey nine months ago in December, 2012 when I made a few critical decisions.
Start creating content
Start applying heavily for jobs to get in the habit of career searching
Try to network as best I can, especially with people in New York
These were my preliminary goals, as I knew my journey as a student would be winding down. The way I created content was by starting this blog. It was a rough first few weeks (as you can tell with my first few posts), but over the next few months I think I grew into my voice as a blogger, something I had never even attempted before. As my writing grew stronger my desire to keep writing grew. I was writing roughly one to two 800+ word posts per week and loving it. But eventually that started to take a toll in terms of interfering with my academic work, which is why I basically took a leave of absence knowing that the small following this blog has garnered may be lost in the process. But creating something that I could call my own, and executing on a plan, was extremely satisfying. It also opened up access to a world of mini-bloggers that I didn’t even know existed previously. In fact, it was fellow blogger Rachel Gall that opened up her built-up network of young bloggers. When this happened I think I finally began to “get it.”
Granted, I started to understand this at a much much later date than most of my peers, but better late than never, as they say. This thing that I was beginning to understand is that consistently creating stuff, anything, is how to gain access to networks. Now, as I’ll discuss in an upcoming post, this is clearly not the only factor in networking, not at all, but it is important. Content grants access to networks and networks provide collaboration, and career, opportunities.
Seems pretty simple but this is not something that was ever described to me. Standard advice is just “to network;” well that doesn’t mean anything if it’s not placed in context. My conception of networking was as an event that took place in a tacky hotel conference room with thousands of complete strangers exchanging business cards. These formal networking events do take place, and I don’t want to knock people that attend these as I’m sure they work for them. But what I never understood was the informal networking process that goes on in everyday life, and this informal process is what mainly drives networking:
A co-worker introduces you to a family member in a specific industry. A college buddy’s girlfriend works for a company looking for someone with the skill-set you have, someone at your gym is the founder of a start-up, and the scenarios can continue. This is how most networking occurs and is probably the most successful type of networking. And this is something I’ve largely ignored up until now, but realize I need to change if I’m to begin my career.
Part of the problem is that I’ve always treated my personal life as personal, and academia and professional lives as something entirely different. So when I met someone new I instantly put them in a box of either potential friend, or potential colleague – I guess I never heeded the advice to not put people in boxes either. Well naturally doing this people-in-boxes thing hampered my ability to network because my colleagues were placed at arms lengths, while I never viewed my personal contacts as potential resources. There has always been something icky to me about thinking of personal friends as potential resources. What I realize now is that people in the white-collar world almost entirely network via personal connections and these “personal resources.” Again, I’ll get into the problematic nature of this in an upcoming post; but what makes this relevant in this post is that I’m learning how to approach the world as it is, not how it ought to be. And this gets into the issue of entitlement…
Those that are entitled don’t approach the world as it is, but how they think it ought to be, for them. Example of my own entitlement – and why I named this blog Entitled Millennial – is that I worked hard and completed graduate school, so I approached the world thinking that’s all I should have to do to land a decent job. Academically, I accomplished even more than what was expected of me so I internalized the idea that because of this I was entitled to a job in my profession. Check out my early posts and this is precisely what I discussed – feel free to cringe if you want.
Maybe, in an ideal world, that’s all it would take. But that’s not the world we live in, and coming to terms with that reality has been the hardest thing to figure out. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with this. That shiny new master’s degree I’m so proud of is really not all that valuable. And no one beyond me, and my immediate family, really cares about my academic achievements, employers certainly don’t. If I’m going to get to where I want to go I’m going to have to learn/utilize skills I’m not great at, networking being one of them.
Fortunately for me, by deciding to branch out and create content, as cliche as blogging has become, it’s given me a mini-portfolio. And more importantly, creating content has granted me access to a network of like-minded, twenty-something bloggers just trying to figure out how to get by. This mini-network may, or may not, lead to great opportunities, but the enjoyment I get from interacting with this group makes creating content worthwhile. And beyond that, I think interacting with this group is providing an effective antidote for my entitlement.
By the way, even if I do get over my entitlement issues, the name of this blog will never change. It’s too catchy, and click-bait worthy. And with that, I’d like to announce that Entitled Millennial is back in business, hiatus officially over. I’ve got some really interesting content lined up for all of you, and I hope you’ll stayed tuned and engage in the comment section.