Although it might not look like it, what I was doing exactly a year ago isn’t entirely different from I’m doing right now. I was sitting at a desk, staring at a screen, trying to get a broad sense of what to expect for the New Year.
While the desk has evolved from a window seat in the Ernie Pyle Library at Indiana University to my very own office, and my intensely-stickered Mac Book has been replaced with a dual screen desktop, the biggest difference between now and a year ago is the content on my screen.
Before, it was the syllabi for my final semester of college, which outlined exams, projects and a last-ditch effort to prepare me for life outside of IU’s Sample Gates. Today, the windows on my screen contain editorial calendars, media relations plans and yearly projections for upcoming client projects.
Even though the content seems different, for the most part, the thinking behind it has stayed the same.
A year ago, I wasn’t just plotting out the dates for a semester’s worth of assignments. I was biting the end of my number two pencil – metaphorically of course, because what college kid still uses number two pencils – worrying about how all of these assignments, these pieces in the puzzle, would come together and turn into to a “real job.”
Today, I’m doing the same thing. I’m trying to see the entire puzzle and not just the individual pieces.
And trust me – putting together the puzzle can be scary. There are times when the pieces just don’t fit where you want them to and others where you’re convinced they were never in the box to begin with. But then there are the times when you actually start getting a glimpse of what you’re putting together, and an image starts becoming clearer.
With six months in the so-called “real world” behind me, I still don’t have much of an idea of how the pieces fit, but I’m enjoying at least beginning to organize them into somewhat neat, similarly-colored piles. For me, these piles constitute the many different projects, accounts and teams on which I’ve worked so far. That’s quite possibly been my favorite part about starting my career at an agency – I’ve been given a chance to try everything.
While I initially thought this process of taking on different types of projects and learning from a diverse group of much more seasoned professionals was all for my benefit (a very millennial-minded comment, I know), I’m slowly starting to realize it’s part of something much bigger.
With a few months under my belt, I’ve noticed that teams have strategically been created with this combination of fresh eyes and long-term experience, which allows projects to develop with a healthy mix of innovation and hard-earned pragmatism.
I think that’s something all 23-year-olds slowly start to realize. Suddenly life isn’t about doing well on a test or getting past a first-round interview. Once you start your career, doing well suddenly becomes more about doing well by others and contributing to something greater than yourself.
So if I could go back and tell my stickered-laptop self one thing, it would be to keep sorting through the pieces and to trust that those pretty little piles will start coming together to build something great. And whenever in doubt, you’re still in college—order the late night pizza.