Tag Archives: advice for recent grads

Run Your Own Race.

Kelly Fogarty

“At 25, if I was sitting at this desk speaking with you, as pompous as the things I have to say are now, they would be millions of times more pompous and inappropriate.” — Scott Avett

 
I’m 25, and it feels weird to say that. I haven’t been quite sure what 25 means — it doesn’t have the significance that turning 13, or 18, or 21 had for me — but it definitely means something.

And then I read something that really captured the experience of 25 for me:

“At 25, you will feel drastically more mature than some people you know, embarrassingly less put-together than others, and acutely aware of these imbalances in lifestyle, career, and consciousness between you and the friends you used to feel absolutely in sync with … Your 20s is supposed to be a time of rapid growth and development in every area of your everything, but we don’t always — in fact, rarely ever — evolve along the same timeline. And so we lose pace with each other.”

And that’s it! I have friends who are 25 and who own their own home and are married. I have friends who are 25 and who have kids. I have friends who are 25 and have graduated from law school, and I have friends who are 25 and taking the LSATs. I have friends who are 25 and who have started their own companies. I have friends who are 25 and who are permanently unemployed and live with their parents.

It’s weird to think about that, too. Some of these friends I’ve known since I preschool. We grew up together. We went through all the same life stages together. When one of us took the SATs, we all took the SATs. When one of us was getting internships or summer jobs, we all were going through it.

Then we graduated, and we all went different directions.

When I think about my friends at 25, I think about a 400-meter race. When you watch that race, each of the runners starts at a different point on the track. At first, it’s tough to tell who’s going really fast and really slow. The curve screws up your perspective.

It’s not until the straightaway that everything comes into focus.

I get jealous, sometimes, when I see 25 year olds who are way ahead of where I am. I get competitive. How’d that person pull off a book deal at 25? How’d they get a movie done? How’d they make their first million already?

But then I remember that this isn’t a 400-meter race. We’re not all shooting for the same end goal.

We’re all on different paths. We’re all running our own races at our own speeds.

It’s tough to tell where each of us is going now. It’s only with time — a decade, maybe more — that we’ll start to understand where we’ve been going.

In the meantime, what really matters is that we keep going. We keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It’s not easy being 25. But the road ahead doesn’t get easier. Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and focus on what you’re doing.

I’m 25, and I’m pledging today to run my own race.

That photo of runners via.

Go Chasing Waterfalls.

Waterfall near Ballachulish

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls / Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to / I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing it all / But I think you’re moving too fast.” — TLC

 
With all due respect to the wise women of TLC:

Screw that.

This is the time to go chasing those big dreams in your life — those waterfalls way off in the distance. I don’t care if you’re 21 or 31 or 81. This is the time you have right now. This is all the time you know you have.

This is when things get done.

I remember when I started Stry.us. I told myself: I’m 23. I’m young, I’m without debt, and I don’t have a family. If there’s a time to try something crazy, it’s now.

The idea for Stry.us lingered. I thought about it all the time. It didn’t let go.

I knew I had to face up to it.

I tell other young people the same thing: Right now, while you’re free of responsibility, this is the time to do something big. If it scares you, that’s a good thing. Fear’s often the way you know something is worth doing.

But I’m also starting to see people of all ages — and with all types of real responsibility — making big leaps. I see them chasing opportunity when it presents itself. I seem them refusing to idle.

Great things come with great ambition — and great hustle, and great tribes, and great skills, and great luck, and great passion.

This is me giving you permission to go screw things up. To try crazy things. Yeah, things will get weird along the way. It happens to all of us.

Keep going. Dream big.

Chase your waterfalls.

That shot of waterfalls come via Peter Hunter.

What Would You Say You Do Here?

“Life. It’s the stories you tell.” — Eric Garland

 
There’s a thing that any entrepreneur needs to learn how to do in his/her career — if he/she wants to be a successful entrepreneur, that is.

Make the pitch.

You’re at a conference. You’re at an event. You find yourself seated next to Bill Gates on an airplane.

You’ve been working on something. Maybe it’s a business. Maybe it’s your career.

You have a really short window of time to make an impression, because here comes a big question:

“What would you say you do here?”

This is where you need to avoid your instincts. This isn’t the time to dish out a job title. You’re not talking to HR. You’ve got Bill Gates next to you!

You’ve been given a tiny window to wow him with your story.

But this situation isn’t just limited to people pitching a company or a product. Every single person needs to figure out their story — and how to pitch it.

So what’s your story? It’s a combination of your work and your passion. We need a little taste of what it is you make/build/do and a lot of why you do it. Your story is the thing that tells us why you’re great, and why we need to pay attention.

Take Sam Jones of Formation Media. Here’s his story:

I’ve met Sam several times and each time I’ve been at an event with him I’ve heard his opening line, “My name is Sam Jones. I buy dead magazines.” He gets a stare every time. You can’t help but lean forward and want to hear what the next line is. He’s a master. He waits for a brief moment and lets the suspense build. He knows your next line in advance, “Excuse me? You do what?”

And once he’s hooked you, he gets into the story, explaining how he does what he does and who he works with.

When I work with young reporters, I ask them how they’re pitching themselves for jobs. There are thousands of young reporters out there applying to the same small pool of jobs. To get one, you’ve got to stand out.

I encourage reporters to pitch themselves differently. Let everyone else send the standard cover letter. Instead, tell me: What do you do?

I build great communities around stories.

I use data to tell great stories.

I listen, I learn — and then I share with my readers.

Something like that can stand out. And when you brand it across your platforms — on your blog, your Twitter bio, your resume — it really drives the point home.

What you’ll learn is that it’s surprisingly easy to stand out. The masses are all doing the same thing. Even taking a few steps out of the mainstream will get you noticed.

Then it’s just a matter of doing the work to establish yourself as someone truly different.

If you get on that plane with Bill Gates, here’s all I ask: Don’t tell him your job title. Tell him what you’re working on. Tell him why you’re passionate about it.

Tell him a great story.

It won’t be hard to do. After all, it’s your story.

11 Things Every College Graduate Should Know To Exist In The Real World.

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” ― Conan O’Brien

 
I came home last night and found one of my roommates making pasta. This roommate had filled up a pot of water. The stove was on low heat. There was already pasta in the pot.

I wasn’t sure if I should groan or laugh.

But I know this is a problem. I’ve seen it with my roommates, all of them young, recent or semi-recent college grads. I’ve seen it with my friends.

You don’t always want to admit it, but it’s true: You have major blind spots when you graduate college. You discover that you have no idea how to hang a framed portrait, or how to change the broken front bulb on your car or — and I still find this amazing, but it really did happen — how to boil water correctly.

There are infinite things you really need to learn now that you’re an adult human. These are the eleven big ones I could think of:

1. Know How To Make Food.

Alright, pasta in eight steps:

1. Fill pot with water. If it’s a medium size pot, fill half or two-thirds of the pot with water.
2. Turn burner to “high.” Keep on high until the water begins to boil.
3. Add pasta to water.
4. Read box. Figure out how long the pasta needs to boil.
5. When it’s done, pour pasta through strainer. Leave a little bit of pasta water left in the pot.
6. Add sauce to that little bit of pasta water.
7. Add pasta to the sauce/water mix. Stir.
8. Remove from pot. Eat.

Cooking is easy. It’s also fun. Buy non-frozen ingredients. Use the stove and the oven. You’ll actually learn something, and your dates won’t mind it either.

2. Own Small Amounts of Things.

The Minimalists have this right. You want to own some stuff, but not too much.

In the 3.5 years since I’ve graduated, I’ve moved six times. That number seems higher than most people I know, but not by much. Owning lots of stuff makes it hard to move. So own less.

You only need to own a few things: Some plates, bowls, utensils and cups. Cookware is nice to have. Sheets and pillows. Some basic technology stuff.

But you really do need to have all that. I have one friend who, until three months ago, owned exactly one plate. Another owned only a fork and spoon. Do not be that person. Own the minimal amount of stuff that you need to exist as a functional member of our society.

What don’t you need? Anything that requires a U-Haul to move: Mattresses, desks, giant framed things. When you move to a new city, you’ll just end up leaving them behind.

3. Show Up and Network.

If you move to a new city, don’t sweat it. You’ll make new friends. You’ll discover new things.

The key is to show up and network. It’ll help you professionally, and it’ll almost make the adjustment to a new city — or just adult life — much easier. Check Meetup.com for things happening that you’re interested in. Go to public events. Ask co-workers for advice.

Good things happen to those who show up. Meet people, exchange numbers — hell, be a little pushy and get yourself invited to things. Being active is a very good thing.

4. Contracts matter.

I have gotten screwed on contracts before. It’s happened with employment contracts and it’s happened with contracts for apartments.

Before you sign anything, read it through with your boss/landlord. If you have a friend or family member with a law background, ask them for advice.

Do not sign something until you know what it says. Ask lots of questions.

You do not want to be caught by surprise — and caught in the middle of a legal battle. It’s a pain to deal with upfront, but it’ll save you time, money and aggravation down the road.

5. Manage Your Money.

If you’ve just moved to a new city — especially, like I once did, from a little college town to a big city — prices are going to surprise you. Everything costs too much, and you’re in an entry level job that doesn’t pay jack.

Know where you stand financially. Use the free tools at your disposal. Save. Be frugal.

Seek help with your taxes. Yeah, mom and dad decided they’re not doing them for you anymore. Learn how they work. The IRS doesn’t care that this is your first Tax Day.

And get a credit card. Treat it like a debit card — only spend what you can pay off at the end of the month. Do that and you’ll stay out of credit trouble.

Plus, you’ll start to build credit for when you actually need it — like when you buy a home or a car.

6. You’re An Adult Now — Dress Like One.

Own a suit. Own nice shoes. Get real dress socks, and get a bag that you can actually bring to work. (I’m a fan of Timbuk2u’s bags. That LL Bean backpack you got in 7th grade can stay in your closet for now. Sorry.)

If you want to be treated seriously, the first step is dressing like you belong in the adult world. You don’t have to look like you stepped out of a Bloomingdale’s catalog. You do have to put away the hoodie. (Again: Sorry.)

7. A Good Roommate — Be One.

Be clean. Don’t be loud. Do some chores. Don’t eat the leftovers that your roommate brought home.

And if there’s a problem, deal with it head on — and respectfully. Conflicts don’t get solved via Post-Its left on the fridge.

8. Know Where and How To Get Things Fixed.

Find yourself a toolkit — hammer, screwdriver, wrench, scissors. You’ll need it.

And for big things — your car, your appliances, your electronics — know in advance where you can get them fixed. When your car breaks down, that’s a bad time to go shopping for a good mechanic. Do it as soon as you can.

9. Seek Advice — And Listen Well.

Find people at work — or in your city — who can mentor you. Ask tons of questions.

You’re young. You don’t have all — or most — of the answers. You’ll need help.

So ask. Like 98 percent of recent grads, you probably have only a vague idea of what you should do with your life. You don’t have to pretend to be someone who’s got it all figured out.

Ask questions, and find role models who can help shape you and your future. Be willing to learn, and you’ll find there’s lots you still need to know. College, sadly, has left a few things out.

10. Work Hard.

This is the corollary to no. 6. You need to dress the part, and then you need the work ethic to match. If you want more responsibility in this world, you can either:

A. Be born into it, or
B. You can earn it.

Show up on time. Meet deadlines. Be respectful of your bosses. Do work you can be proud of.

11. Make Time For The Things And People You Love

I’ve said this many times before. Look: Adult life is hard. If you don’t make time for those people and things, it’s going to suck.

Work is hard. Adult life is — at best — insanely confusing.

So find what you love, and make time for it. When everything else overwhelms you, you need those people and things to keep you grounded and happy.

>>What else am I missing from this list? Send me your suggestions on Twitter to @danoshinsky.

That lovely photo of pasta comes via @shoval_peretz_94. The piggy banks are from @antonio301. The toolbox is via @luckylittlegirl. Also: A shout-out to Jordan Hickey for helping talk through some of the ideas in this post.

Why ‘Just Be Yourself’ Is Lousy Advice When You’re Young.

Here’s a piece of advice I don’t much care for, especially when it’s directed towards young people: Just be yourself.

You’re giving a talk? Just be yourself.
You’re writing a paper? Just be yourself.
You’re going on a date with Cindy Crawford? Just be yourself.

But the problem is, What if you’re not really sure who you are yet?

To the confused souls among us — and yeah, I’d put myself in that category some days — “Just be yourself” is lousy advice. Before you can be yourself, you have to find yourself.

That takes time. We find ourselves through trying new things, through experimenting, through stepping out beyond our boundaries and seeing what we like and what we don’t.

And we never really stop searching for who we are. There will come a time when you find a version of yourself that you really like. That’s fantastic.

But it’s only the 1.0 version. You cant stop there. You can’t stop growing. You can’t stop trying new things.

I’d like to do away with “just be yourself.” I’d rather tell someone, “Do something that scares you.” Action leads to discovery.

Don’t settle for being someone you’re not totally sure of. Do the work, and through that, you’ll find yourself.

Help! I’m Sending in an Application For a Job in Journalism!

The typewriter

I posted the job openings for Stry.us on JournalismJobs.com last week, and since then, the apps have been rolling into my inbox. Some are exceptionally good. A few have been exceptionally bad.

Many have left no impression on me whatsoever.

That shouldn’t happen. I’m seeing apps from talented people who just failed to catch my eye. Remember, Future Job Applicants of Tomorrow: The app is your opportunity to sell me on you and your skills. If it’s not eye catching, I’m not hiring.

Some of you guys really need help. So here’s some unsolicited advice for job seekers — specifically, college students and recent grads applying for a reporting job.

There are five questions I’m thinking about when I open your job application email. They are (in this very order):

1. What happens when I Google your name? You should know the answer to this already. I’m hoping to see a portfolio site, some work you’ve done for a news outlet, and maybe a social media profile or three. I will not look past the first page of Google results.

2. Do you have a website? If you’re selling yourself as a modern reporter, you must have an online portfolio. It does not have to be terribly fancy. It can be a blog on WordPress or Tumblr or — and I have seen more than one of these this week — Blogspot. It can be an about.me or a flavors.me page. It must have your contact information, a brief bio, and a list of links to your recent work. It must have been updated in the previous three months.

3. Do you have a LinkedIn page? I want to see where you’ve worked, and I want to see that you’ve actually connected with co-workers. I want to see that it’s been updated in the previous three months.

4. Can you prove any other forms of digital literacy? I want to see that you have an account on any of the following sites: Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Quora. Just having a single account on any of these sites proves that you actually use the Internet, which is good. (One job applicant this week offered to snail mail me a resume and clips. Another sent me a resume in a file format that I’d never seen before. These are equally bad things.) I want to see that you use the Internet.

5. How organized is your resume? Your email to me? This is important. I want to see that you know how to correctly format an email. When you send me a link, I want to know that you know how to use anchor text. I want to see that you can write succinctly, that you can spell my name correctly, and that you use paragraphs when writing. I need to see that you have an understanding of how words, pictures and links should be laid out visually.

If you can do those things — pass a basic Google test, maintain a website, keep a LinkedIn page, prove digital literacy, and keep your email/resume organized — then the chances of me following up for an interview are infinitely higher. I am likely to pass on you — even if you’re an award-winning reporter who does rocket science in your spare time — if you cannot answer these questions.

Because here is the simple truth: If you fail the five questions above, what you’re really telling me is that you don’t know how to do work on the Internet. And this job I’m hiring for — and pretty much any job in journalism today — is Internet-first.

Before you click “send” on that application to me, go through those five questions. If you can’t answer one, then you better get moving on the answer.

I’m going to close the application process for these Stry.us jobs in two weeks. Get going, guys. Wow me with your apps.

How To Make Friends In The Real World* After Graduation. (*You Know, The Real World? That Strange Place That Exists Outside of College?)

texas map

This post is really for anyone who’s about to graduate college and move to a new city. I don’t recommend graduation, but if you have to do it, and you’re moving to a new place, this post might help.

I graduated college on my 22nd birthday. I didn’t yet have a job. Three days later, I put all my stuff in my car and drove home.

Three weeks later, job in hand, I put all my stuff back in my car and moved to Texas.

I’d never been to Texas before, let alone San Antonio. I didn’t know anyone there, and I was very aware before moving was that making friends was going to be hard. Everyone kept telling me how hard it was going to be. It was always the fourth thing they brought up. Oh, San Antonio! It’s so nice there. Hot, but nice. Great Mexican food. And you’re going to have a tough time making friends.

I knew San Antonio wasn’t like DC. There isn’t much of a public transit system in San Antonio. The city is sprawling, and to get pretty much anywhere, you have to drive.

I figured — correctly, I should say — that picking the right place to live was going to impact the type of friends I’d make. So I decided to move into a loft near downtown, in the old Pearl Brewery. There was a 20-foot high beer can on top of my roof that lit up at night with the words, “Enjoy The Finer Life.” The Riverwalk was a block away from my apartment, and some of the city’s finest restaurants were steps away, and there was a yoga studio on the first floor, and nightly live music across the street, and a farmer’s market in my parking lot every Saturday.

It was a really great place to live. I miss that place.

The only thing was, I didn’t really have many friends.

Certainly not at first. Because as I started to meet people, I discovered two things:

1. Young professionals don’t live in San Antonio. They move to Austin, 45 minutes north.

2. If they do live in San Antonio, they live in the suburbs.

So I made friends in the suburbs. But that was strange. I couldn’t really drink with friends because I had to drive home. And forget about a cab. It would’ve cost $75 round trip just to get to a bar and back.

I like friends, but I wasn’t making nearly enough to be able to afford them, it turned out.

Anyway, where this is all going: I just finished reading a fantastic book by Rachel Bertsche. It’s called “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend.” It’s about a writer like me — she even nailed the Jewish-but-not-all-that-religious journalism grad part — who moves to a new city and tries to make new friends. So she goes on 52 friend-dates during the year. She’s not looking for a man — just a new BFF.

And like me, she discovers: This is way, way harder than you’d think.

I’ve moved three times since San Antonio — to Biloxi, Miss., and then back to D.C., and then out to Columbia, Mo. And in each city, I’ve gotten better at making friends. In Biloxi, that meant actually becoming part of the Jewish community. (I was the 10th person in the minion most Friday nights, so they loved me.) In D.C., that meant kickball leagues and yoga and lots of live music. In Columbia, it’s meant infinite after-work drinks and meetups and lots of socialization.

The lesson that Bersche takes away from her friend search — and I’m happy to confirm that she’s dead on with this — is that making new friends in a new city takes work. Sometimes, it feels like a second job.

So if you’re graduating this May and moving to a new city, I’ll offer you this: Don’t feel alone in your new home. Making new friends is hard, and it doesn’t come easily. But don’t be scared. Go out, be friendly, do things, and be active in the friend search.

This comes back to something I’ve said before: In this life, find things you love and people you love, and make time for both. When you’re out in a new city, searching for friends, start by making time for things you love.

You’ll find the people you love soon enough.

The Secret to Networking. (Hint: It’s not really so secret).

Phone Me

Up front, I should say: I am not a great networker. Not yet. This goes back a long way, but the short version is: Sometime around the 6th grade, I realized that I was terrifyingly shy. Calling a friend to ask, “Hey, you wanna play basketball up at school?” was a Herculean ordeal. I remember riding the bus to school and hoping that it’d be late. It wasn’t that I wanted to miss class; I was more afraid of standing around before school with my own friends and trying to contribute to the conversation.

I was really, really shy, and people who know me now find it tough to believe that Dan Oshinsky — the guy who won’t shut up, the guy who won’t use four words where forty will do — was once quiet.

I eventually grew out of my shyness. I learned how to talk to people on the phone. I learned how to shake somebody’s hand and look them in the eye. I learned how to hide my awkwardness in awkward situations.

And the networking skills are coming along. But I’m discovering here at Missouri that the young j-schoolers on campus aren’t master networkers yet. In fact, some of them are rather worried about their networking skills.

They’re convinced that networking is some special skill that some people have and some people don’t. And they’re worried that they don’t have it.

That’s just not true. Everyone can be a great networker. Here’s the problem: Nobody’s ever given these students permission to be great networkers. And they’ve been waiting for permission.

So here’s what I know, guys. It’s four simple steps. Here’s your permission:

1. Show up.

Yes, this is a ‘duh’ kind of thing to say. But here at Mizzou, there are infinite networking opportunities: Meetups, speeches, brown bag lunches, even office hours. The first step is showing up.

The dirty secret is, most students don’t take advantage of opportunities like these. And they’re missing out.

Showing up is half the battle, the idiom goes. It was also, as Aaron Sorkin once wrote, Napoleon’s battle plan:

Casey: Technically, I have a plan.
Dan: What’s the plan?
Casey: It’s Napoleon’s plan.
Dan: Who’s Napoleon?
Casey: A 19th century French emperor.
Dan: You’re cracking wise with me now?
Casey: Yes.
Dan: Thanks.
Casey: He had a two-part plan.
Dan: What was it?
Casey: First we show up, then we see what happens.
Dan: That was his plan?
Casey: Yeah.
Dan: Against the Russian army?
Casey: Yeah.
Dan: First we show up, then we see what happens.
Casey: Yeah.
Dan: Almost hard to believe he lost.

And yeah, it didn’t work for Napoleon. But he was trying to defeat the Russians.

You’re just trying to make some new contacts in the journalism world.

So show up.

2. Get business cards. Get numbers. Hustle.
If you’re at a busy event — say, a conference — you might get a lot of cards. So on the back of a card, write down something about the person. Something you want to remember about him/her, something you want to follow up on.

And if you’re not comfortable with business cards, use a cool mobile tool like Bump to exchange contact information.

3. Follow up. Buy them coffee. Lunch. No one turns down free food.
I’m not kidding. If a student emails me and asks if they can buy me coffee, I will say yes. If they offer to buy me lunch, I will say yes. I will cancel important meetings and say yes. I have a journalism degree, and people with journalism degrees will do almost anything for free food.

Want access to smart, powerful people? Ask to buy them coffee. Ask to buy them lunch.

They will say yes.

(And here’s a take from an experienced networker: If they’re really busy, offer to bring coffee to their office.)

4. Keep following up.
Send your contacts links. Friend them on Facebook and like their posts from time to time. Tweet at them every few weeks. It doesn’t have to be often. A little thing every so often is just enough to keep you top of mind.

Modern relationships are built one click at a time.

Start clicking.

A Brief Word of Advice For Those About to Start Their First Job.

I’ve been gainfully employed for nearly four months, and I’m finally starting to understand a few truths about life inside a conglomerate. When you’re the new guy at a big company, the flowchart of power feels a little like one of those multi-piece Russian matryoshka dolls: you’d like to think you’re important, but if you were to peel away the layers, you’d find that you’re actually one of the tiny dolls hidden deep inside.

In my time at the office, I’ve learned a few things about the corporate life that seem pretty universal. So here are three pieces of advice for anyone about to start their first job in a new town:

1. Ask for a comfortable chair: Sure, it seems like an odd thing to do. And yes, it’s also a line out of “Jerry Maguire.” But if you’re starting life as a cubicle jockey, chances are you’ll be sitting more than you ever have in your life. Your chair might be the most important piece of furniture in your life.

2. Find a good mechanic: At some point, your car is going to break down. For me, the headlights on my car just stopped working a few weeks ago. And you do not want to go to a dealer to get the problem fixed. So if you’re moving to a new town, take a few minutes and find someone who won’t rip you off when your car breaks down. I’d recommend using the ‘Mechanic Files’ over at NPR’s “Car Talk” page. As an added benefit, this might just keep you sane when things go completely wrong.

3. When in doubt, ask: I’d worked at big companies before, but I’d never actually had to navigate a massive corporate bureaucracy before this job. So I’m learning that such places aren’t very good at keeping track of personnel. There’s a sign above the copier at work that speaks to this. “You may be essential,” it reads, “but that doesn’t mean you’re important.” It’s up to you to ask and to make sure that you don’t get lost in the bureaucracy.