This next guest has been on my wish list of people to feature for a while now, but I’ve been trying my best to feature people from a wide variety of colleges, jobs and areas of study, so when people like Jade fall into the two categories that I know the most people in — K-State grads and people who studied agriculture communications/journalism — I feel like I need to at least try to spread them out.
But those people also tend to be some of my most eager participants 🙂 so here we are. Jade’s story is such a fun one to feature. I met Jade while we were students at K-State, though I don’t know if I can quite pinpoint when I first met her. We both studied agriculture communications, lived at neighboring women’s scholarship houses, were both ambassadors for the College of Ag and we had quite a few mutual friends. Overall though, most of memories with her go back to when we were both taking “ag mag,” which is a production class for our college bi-annual magazine. I was the lead editorial designer and she was the lead photo editor so we spent a lot of hours in the lab together. Jade is a self-starter and betters herself by plunging right in and learning along the way. She is sincere, driven by her faith and so incredibly creative. Personally, I think Jade and I have similar personalities in a lot of ways, which might be she’s one of my favorite “creatives” to look to for inspiration.
I did a mini-portrait session with her for my college graduation, and I guarantee you that if I am back in that part of the country when I need professional photos done in the future, she will be my first choice! I hope you enjoy reading a bit of Jade’s story!
Name: Jade Comstock Age: 29 Hometown: Fall River, KS College: Kansas State University Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism Current Location: Salina, KS Current Job: Missionary for Christian Challenge Salina & Photographer/Owner of Jade Creates Background Story: I grew up in a family of five on a small horse farm in Southeast Kansas. I grew up loving being outside and loving agriculture.
How did you choose your college and your major? I was heavily involved in FFA in high school, so that meant we traveled to Manhattan a lot for events and I fell in love! I originally majored in Ag Education, but soon figured out it wasn’t for me. I loved to College of Agriculture and didn’t want to leave, so Ag Communications was an easy switch that ended up being perfect for me.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? My first few years I lived in the Alpha of Clovia Scholarship house. I also loved being a part of Ag Ambassadors. But the most impactful was being a part of Christian Challenge my senior year.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? I can look back and say I was way too focused on friendships and relationships and school was very secondary to that. It even led me to leave K-State for a while to get away. While I love the people I met and grew with, I do wish I would have focused a little more on classes!
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? Be open to anything! This is a scary time of life, but you never know where the next year will take you. Have fun with your friends and be open to new opportunities! Also… take a fun class. Wine tasting was one of my favorite classes and I actually learned things that I still use today!
Tell us about your career so far? It’s been a little crazy! I moved to Salina to do photography full time. After a year of doing that, I knew I needed to be doing more. I started a job with a non-profit here in town where I was able to mentor and work with eight high school girls. I loved it so much! Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to join Christian Challenge Staff in Salina. The organization made a big impact on me in college, and I really felt like this is where God was leading me, so I made the switch. While all of that was going on, I was continuing to build my photography business and have started to branch into baking for events!
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? Being an Ag Comm grad has helped me so much! I was able to get ahead with my photography by knowing how to market myself well and use social media to my advantage.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? The not so fun side of running a small business… taxes and such! I still feel a little clueless on this stuff, but am learning every year.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? A good old fashioned planner is my best friend! But outside of that, I love using social media to market myself and my business. (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) I use wordpress to run my blog. I have an awesome app called Pocketsuite that keeps all of my contacts, contracts, calendars, billing and more all together. And.. back on the not fun taxes and such..Quickbooks Self-Employed helps me keep my business and personal finances separate. I really could go on and on… I love apps and technology. There are so many that help me run my business!
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? As you can probably tell… I love doing lots and lots of things. This is a strength as I get to do lots of different things and really experience life. BUT sometimes I get my plate overloaded and I get stretched too thin and drive myself a little crazy.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? People! My jobs all revolve around people. Getting to make a difference in peoples lives helps me see that it’s worth doing and I can keep going. And, obviously, my faith. Above all trusting in God to lead me and give me peace and keep me going
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? Again, putting God first helps me stay focused. But outside of that, i am working on being healthier, so working out daily has really helped energize me. I love getting outside and traveling. Seeing new places is very exciting and pushes me to be more creative in my work.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? Probably having a business that hasn’t flopped!
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? I am currently single and living with my dogs. This past summer I got my first house, so I have spent a lot of time trying to channel my inner Joanna Gaines and make it look pretty. I also love love love baking. Getting to do that for my coworkers and students is so much fun.
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals? I have recently rebranded my business. I am looking to expand outside of photography. I want to offer baked goods and just more creative insights to people.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? Coffee and Jesus. Every morning. 🙂
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? I need music. It keeps me creative and focused!
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? Hmm… maybe a baker in a big city… or an adventure wedding photographer… or an interior designer. I could go on and on.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? The people. They are awesome. I miss them so much. Oh and of course Taco Lucha. Gimmie all them tacos.
Thanks for being my guest today Jade! I love to see how you are growing personally and professionally since college, and I am excited to follow along and see how you expand your brand! Good luck!
For quick reference, I listed all of the ways you can connect with Jade’s business online. I would definitely recommend checking out her Instagram, it’s so pretty!
Today’s guest is another friend from college. I met Tim while I was living at the Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership House for women and he was at Smith House for men. Early on he gave me a bit of hard time for being in agriculture communications, while he was instead in the journalism school, but I think we eventually got past that 🙂 I’ve always appreciated Tim’s work as a journalist. He is a great writer and professional, and I love that every time I open my K-Stater magazine, (which is always a great piece), that I know who put in all the hard work and talent to put it together. Plus, he’s a great guy and one of the biggest true K-State sports fans I know. I enjoyed getting caught up on his career and hearing about the lessons he has learned along the way so far. I hope you enjoy his story!
Name: Tim Schrag Age: 27 Hometown: Kingman, Kansas College: Kansas State University Degree(s): Bachelor of science in journalism and digital media, 2012 Current Location: Manhattan, Kansas Current Job: Editor of the K-Stater magazine for the K-State Alumni Association
How did you choose your college and your major? My dad went to Kansas State University and earned a degree in horticulture. He also played football and ran track for K-State in the 1980s. He really loved that place, so I really loved it too. Then, I had the opportunity to visit and I knew immediately it was where I needed to be.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? A bulk of my time outside of the classroom was spent working for the student-run newspaper the Kansas State Collegian. I quite literally lived in that campus newsroom. It’s where I cut my teeth in journalism and really got comfortable learning how to craft a news story. I worked as a reporter, desk editor, recruiter and served three times as editor-in-chief. Looking back, I know there were countless long nights, misspellings and hard lessons learned, but I barely remember those. What I do recall, are the great people I met through the paper, the late-night discussions, prank wars, inside jokes and the basics of how to work in news organization.
I also had the opportunity to intern for the Wichita Eagle and the Manhattan Mercury.
I also lived in a scholarship house on campus, helped recruit students to K-State at the Journalism Education Association’s national conventions and worked as a class leader for a freshman introduction to leadership concepts course for the Staley School of Leadership Studies.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? I probably stretched myself too thin at times. That was stressful, but then I learned that sometimes it’s necessary to say no on occasion. I wish I learned that lesson earlier.
Tell us about your career so far? I started a job as a copy editor for the Hutchinson News, right out of college. It was a great learning experience and I wasn’t ready for it.
I knew basic design for broadsheet newspapers and Associated Press style, but I copy editing just didn’t come natural to me. Thankfully, the News’ copydesk had some really talented staff who were willing to teach me. It made me a stronger writer. They taught me to look for holes in every story, how to write a good headline and so many other undefinable aspects of working in a news organization.
I spent about three years with The News. Half of that was on the copydesk. The other half was as a late breaking news reporter. I covered just about everything from congressional town hall meetings, city government, fires (so many fires, too many fires), elections and just about everything in between.
Most of my time at The News was spent working during nights and weekends. I enjoyed the work but really hated the hours. They don’t prepare you in J-School for how much that part sucks. They tell you, but you don’t really know until you live it.
Then in 2015, my college mentor told me about a job opening at the K-State Alumni Association. They have a quarterly magazine which goes out to members. He had been it’s longtime editor before retiring in 2012. He told me to apply for the job. They hired me and now I’m telling my alma mater’s story while also learning the ins and outs of alumni relations.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? Being the editor of my college’s newspaper seemed to directly relate to my current position as the university’s alumni magazine editor. That’s fairly obvious.
However, I believe the professors, faculty members, staff and other students all taught me life lessons that have shaped me in some way.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? People talk about “adulting” and how terrible it is. In college, professors, parents and recent grads all warn us about the real world. It hit me harder than I thought it would. I wish I would have heeded the warnings a little closer.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? Google Docs keeps me organized. I use Apple Voice Memos to record interviews. Adobe products help our team put together our publications.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? This always feels like a trick question. I tend to avoid it. That might be because I tend to be very direct. That’s neither a strength, nor a weakness in my book. Do your best, be honest… especially when you mess up, and don’t be afraid to ask questions — even if they seem obvious. That’s how I try to work.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? Caffeine and junk food seem to always help me power through.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? I don’t answer work emails after 5 p.m. or on the weekends unless it’s an emergency.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? My goal is to make a product that people want to read. Anytime a reader tells me something that can help me produce a better publication, I feel great.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? I probably watch too much TV and movies. Who doesn’t these days? I also follow K-State sports (I have season football tickets), go hiking and hunting.
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals? When I figure that out, I’ll get back to you.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? Make your bed as soon as you get up. It sounds dumb, but it starts your day off with an accomplishment.
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? Caffeine, specifically soda, usually Pepsi.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? I guess being a student. Having so many opportunities, being able to meet people so easily. It was just a great life.
This series has allowed me to share a variety of different people, but my favorite is when I get to share the stories of my closest friends, and today is one of those days. This is Brandi, one of my very best friends. We met early on in college, but I don’t think we became good friends until sometime during her sophomore year and my junior year. We were in the agriculture communications department and ambassadors for the College of Agriculture, but truthfully, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our whole friendship was originally built on sarcasm, watching The Bachelor and Sonic happy hour.
Brandi’s story is a great example of being open to opportunities that come our way and placing value in being a lifelong learner. Brandi is hard working, creative and has a knack for detail. She’s fiercely loyal, whether its her people or something that is really important to her. What I probably appreciate most about Brandi, both as a friend and a fellow professional, is that she understands the give and take of relationships. I know that I can rely on her listen and then trust that she is going to know what I need to hear in that moment. I hope you enjoy reading her story.
Name: Brandi Herman Age: 25 Hometown: Hill City, Kansas College: Kansas State University Degree(s): BS in Agricultural Communications and Journalism Current Location: Manhattan, Kansas Current Job: Global Product Communicator for Caterpillar
Background Story: I grew up on a farm south of Hill City, Kansas. We currently have around 125 cow-calf pairs that we run. My Dad also plants wheat, milo, and alfalfa. I think that living in a small town with 1,500 people helped prepare me for interacting with people later on in life. I was a waitress while in high school and quite frankly, just enjoyed talking and relating to people. Also, I believe being the oldest of 4 kids and being very Type A explains the type of strengths that have helped me get where I am today.
How did you choose your college and your major? I had an incredible ag teacher in high school who, without a doubt, helped guide me to where I am today. Toward the end of my junior year of high school, he encouraged me to start looking at colleges and different programs I might like. At State FFA Convention, I read a brochure for the Ag Communications program at K-State. I remember thinking, “this is exactly what I want to do”, and that was that. If you told my 12-year-old Jayhawk self that I would only apply to one college and it would be K-State, I would have never believed you. Honestly, I didn’t even go on a campus visit until after I had been accepted and had already put a deposit down on my dorm room. I was also a statistical anomaly that never changed my major while I was in college.
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? I never wanted to be overextended in college as I had been in high school. As a freshman, I took a break from being involved and just got used to being in college. Once I was a sophomore, I took the necessary steps to becoming an Ag Ambassador. At that point, I knew K-State was my home and I loved having the chance to talk to students and parents about all the different options and opportunities the College of Ag has to offer. Not to mention all the cool cats (no pun intended) I met in Ag Ambassadors. Some of my very best friends I made in college came from being in Ag Ambassadors.
I took an internship with Cargill between my junior and senior year. Internships are a good opportunity to explore something you might be interested in, but aren’t sure it’s the career path you want to take. That’s how my internship story went. It wasn’t a bad experience, but during that summer I found out that I didn’t like being so far away from home. This really helped me focus my job search and definitely helped me avoid a situation later on where I wouldn’t have been happy being so far away from family.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? High school was relatively easy for me. I never really had to sit down and study before a big test, which was the biggest change I experienced when I went to college. It definitely took a while before I felt like I knew what the most effective ways for me to review and absorb material were. If I could change one thing, it would be to apply myself more in that area and to get better grades.
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? If you interview for a job and your gut is telling you it isn’t right for you, follow your instinct.
I was offered two jobs before graduation and I ended up turning both of them down. One was in Kansas City and would’ve been exactly what my degree prepared me to do, but when I interviewed and met some potential co-workers it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. The other job was more of a sales position and would’ve been further away from home than I wanted to be. So when graduation rolled around and everyone asked where I was headed, I got embarrassed when I had to answer, “back to Mom and Dad’s for a while until I figure things out”. Less than a month after graduation I had already accepted my current job. They didn’t need me to start until September, so I got to spend 3 months on the farm helping my dad and hanging out with my family. The time on the farm was priceless and to be honest, I probably won’t have that kind of an extended vacation from work until retirement.
Tell us about your career so far? I started working for Caterpillar in September of 2014. Most of my responsibilities at that point were for the layout and upload of customer and dealer-facing media for Work Tools (things that go on the front of an excavator or wheel loader; buckets, hammers, etc.). While I mostly did layout work, some of what we do is take the words from product engineers and expertise from field specialists and morph that into customer messaging. My first two years were spent mostly doing that type of work. Last year, I had the opportunity to work on a data project. At first I was skeptical about how much I could bring to the table for this particular project. I had convinced myself I was bad at numbers because I was never good at or liked math. The project I worked on exposed me to creating data sets and connecting them together using Access, which I have really enjoyed learning. Part of that joy comes from it being a new challenge, but the other part I believe comes from having a very linear thought process. This has helped me understand how the data should relate, connect, and flow easier than I would’ve ever imagined. My job role changed a little bit at the end of last year. I will become less of a content manager and more of a content creator that is closer to touch points with our customers, but am excited for what new challenges will come my way.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? As much as I despised group projects in college, they are the reality of my workplace. Some group projects were in classes specific to my major, which wasn’t bad because the people were all similar-minded. Other group settings were in electives where there was the token no-show person and someone who can’t stand if they aren’t in charge of everything. Unfortunately, the latter is a more likely setup for real life even if it is an extreme example. Working with people from different disciplines was better practice for the real world.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is learning the difference between doing something myself because it is easy versus taking the time to teach others and enable them to have the same capabilities. When I started working on the data-centric project, learning the basics of Access wasn’t hard for me. At that point, I would hear a problem and understand quickly how the data needed to be set up. What took me some time was having the patience to let others learn about it at their own pace so they could be comfortable using the data.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? When it comes to staying organized, I’m old school pen and paper. To do lists are my jam and I really like to see a whole month laid out in front of me. At work, I have a plain notebook I take notes in and write down other thoughts and questions. To me, there’s something satisfying and complete about being able to physically check something off your list.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? Since I started my job and had to figure out how to budget, plan, and organize a household on my own, those same attributes became stronger at work too. Patience has been a consistent weakness I’ve had to deal with.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? I’ve always said that I’d rather go to work and have a million tasks on my to do list than be bored. Part of how I stay motivated is to have the feeling that I’m earning my paycheck and not just going to work to collect it. When things get busy and start to feel out-of-hand, I never hesitate to ask for a priority. For the days that are difficult and stick with you because of a person or project you had to deal with that didn’t go your way, there is always wine and massages.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? The supervisors I’ve worked for so far have been strong advocates of work-life balance. I believe in going to work and doing the best job I can while I’m there and then going home to enjoy my time with my boy and the corgi. There’s a balance to staying late one day to finish a project up, but then recognizing a day you may need to leave early if you’re feeling tired or sick. We also have a flexible time policy at work too, so if you want to get all of your 40 hours in the first 3 days of the week you can. Sometimes I try to front load my week with extra hours so the last two days are shorter. This allows me to have time to run errands or just me time. Plus, I’m not one to pass up time to get some snuggles from my favorite little doggo.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? So from a hobbies perspective, I’m really trying to get back into reading. There’s a point in college where you are reading so much for school, the desire to read for leisure doesn’t sound leisurely anymore. I heard a great quote that has stuck with me. “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” My goal this year is one or two books a month, some for learning and some for fun. Right now I’m in the middle of the first Game of Thrones book.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? When I was growing up my Dad would make breakfast for me. To this day I still need something of substance to get me going in the morning. My go-to is a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on mini bagels or English muffins and a cup of coffee
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? Chapstick. Hand lotion. Purple Beats headphones. Podcasts.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? I fell in love with working in InDesign in college. I think I still would’ve chosen a career path where I was designing, but more creative and less technical than what I do now. Prior to this job, I never knew I liked working with data and numbers so nothing in that realm would’ve been on my radar before now. OR I would be an organizer working for The Home Edit #dreamjob
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? In college, I lived with some of my best friends I made in the College of Agriculture. Next door was a house full of my best friends from high school. Having all of my friends so close and being able to drop by between classes or everyone hanging out on Grey’s Anatomy night was the absolute best.
Thanks for being my guest today Brandi! I miss these days!
Hey friends! As always, I am excited to share my next guest with you and the first for the series in 2018. I met Elizabeth only a little over a year ago in a young adults small group we were both in, but she gained so much my respect in that short amount time. I was bummed that she moved at the end of last summer, but of course happy for her since it was a move that she had been patiently working toward. Plus, the move was to the Pacific Northwest, so can I really blame her?!
Anyway, Elizabeth has one of those personalities that make you feel at ease. She’s both quirky and an old soul, has such a big heart for others and is a great listener. Although we are really close in age, I often almost felt as if she took on the role of a big sister. Below she says, “I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be,” which is a sentiment that I really appreciate and can relate to. I thought her guest post was both comical and insightful, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Plus, if you are fan of The Bachelor franchise, you’ll be happy to know that you aren’t the only one who lists being a fan as one of your hobbies 🙂
Name: Elizabeth Grimes Age: 28 Hometown: Southern California College: Bachelors: University of California San Diego (UCSD) // Masters: California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) Degree(s): Bachelors: Political Science – International Relations // Masters: Public Administration – Information Assurance and Security Management Current Location: Seattle, WA Current Job: IT Specialist – Information Security
Background Story: Right away it is probably best to explain that as an adolescent I never really thought I would live this long, which means that all of my decisions have come out of a place of “Wait, I have to decide where to go to college? … Four years later, I am still here; now I have to do something when I graduate college? … All right well I have a master’s now, and I guess I am here for a while, so let’s adventure!!” And no, I am not terminally ill; I think I just watched Little Women too much growing up and it gave me this weird sense that I was going to have the same demise as the character Beth. Or maybe it just became such a good explanation for why I hated making decisions that I morphed it into an actual memory. We may never know. But here I still am! I do not believe everything happens for a reason (that is a deeper discussion for another time) but I do believe that life has a way of always getting you exactly where you need to be. And for me, right now, that is the greater Seattle area working for the Navy in Cybersecurity – a career I never knew existed until five years ago.
How did you choose your college and your major? In high school, I was more interested in history and yearbook than I was in science and math, so choosing to major in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations was pretty straightforward. I thought I may want to be a teacher, or after watching the movie The Interpreter, some sort of international diplomat. In the last couple years of high school, I was able to go to Morocco for a couple weeks with a team from my church to teach an English camp for kids, and spent two weeks in New York and DC with Lead America – a leadership forum with an emphasis in diplomacy. Along with being a Christian and having the ideals of impacting the world with love, these opportunities and an interest in service landed me at UCSD to major in Poli Sci IR. I could give the long explanation of all the schools I applied to and how it all whittled down, but ultimately I chose UCSD because it was affordable and lauded a good study abroad program — which I never took advantage of, but hey, it got me to go there. My one piece of advice to a student in their senior year of high school: Choosing a college because of affordability is the BEST reason to choose a college, and I think everyone should do it. I know that I speak from a place of privilege that UCSD was affordable for my family, but if community college or a trade school is someone’s best option, I would recommend doing that. College is 100% what you put into it.
Jumping ahead to what got me to CSUSB to study Cybersecurity for my master’s, well that’s where God really went to work. You couldn’t get me out of undergrad fast enough; I was so done always have an assignment due, a paper to write, or a test to take. I could write a book on how in the world I then ended up in graduate school, but the short run-on sentence version is: I got restless at my post-grad job as an administrative assistant and decided I wanted to work for the government, but that I didn’t know enough and should get my master’s in something, but that I didn’t want to pay for said master’s because I didn’t know exactly how to then get a job in the government. Notice a theme of making a decision on education out of affordability? It is the best. Through crazy kismet, God-driven, serendipitous, coincidental, life happenstance, I got into the Scholarship for Service (SFS) CyberCorps program at CSUSB having no technical background but a simple logic that: If the government needs people in cybersecurity, and I want to do something that the government needs, then I will do cybersecurity!
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? I will go with organizations for my undergrad and internships for my masters. I was on executive leadership in Sigma Kappa Sorority and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I cannot say enough good things about Greek life. It is the primary reason I stuck it out and finished college; It gave me social and leadership skills that you cannot get anywhere else (what other organization teaches you how to speed date with other women once a year for recruitment?); and I met the most incredible women that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Intervarsity kept me grounded in the faith I grew up in, while expanding my understanding of cultural diversity and making some of my best friends to this day. Together, they kept me incredibly busy and made college an experience instead of a degree. Over the summers, I worked at different non-profits from my hometown in telefundraising and food service, and the summer before my senior year, I served with Children of the Nations for 8 weeks in Uganda. THAT was my version of study abroad, and is also a story for another time (see my blog post titled He Stays the Same on elizgrimes.wordpress.com if you want to know more about it.)
Part of my scholarship program was to do a ten week internship with a government agency in Cybersecurity. I lived in DC for the summer and interned with the Department of Homeland Security in their Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Branch. Interning was the best way to learn what it is to be a public servant within the federal government. If I had known it at the time, I would have made more of an effort to intern during my undergrad, but like I said — life gets you exactly where you need to be.
Tell us about your career so far? Probably best to explain that my job according to the government for my internship and the last two years of my career is an Information Technology Specialist (IT Specialist) in Information Security (InfoSec). But that is just the formal title and what does that even mean? After grad school, I moved to DC and worked as an IT Security Auditor in the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Commerce. I was there for two years, thus completing my scholarship for service commitment to the government. I really enjoyed the work and people I worked with, but the east coast, metropolis, long distance relationship life just isn’t for me. Through the experience I gained in the OIG at Commerce and connections I had from my master’s program, I was able to get a job with the Navy in the Pacific Northwest. This was also a completely God-driven, fell in my lap, couldn’t be more perfect for me adventure. I have been in this job working as an information system security engineer on Naval submarine projects for three months now, and I have never been more challenged or more proud of myself in my worklife.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? Remember when I talked about how awesome Greek life is? Well interviewing for a job and working on a team are some of the things that being in Sigma Kappa set me up for success in my career. I loved my sisters, but were some of them as different from me as night and day, and were we all better humans because of it? Yes. And is that what you encounter in your career and post grad life? Yes. I also think that the nature of my scholarship program, in a field that I was completely new to, set me up for a fake it ‘til you make it, problem solving, and work hard attitude that has gained me a lot of respect in the workplace. It can be hard being the youngest one in a group, or in my case sometimes the only female, but coming from CSUSB’s cyber program’s atmosphere that encouraged and challenged me didn’t just set me up for success but truly catapulted me into it. Along with God and life getting me where I need to be, I am also a firm believer in sharing the credit for any of my success with the incredible humans who walked ahead of me, alongside me, and behind me in every element of my life. They are the ones who set me up for success, and I feel like I am just along for the ride!
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? I have already talked a bit to the challenge that comes from being in a field where I may be younger or a minority gender, but those were expected and I was sufficiently prepared for them. My first year out of college I remember not being prepared for the “this is it” aspect of life. Prior to graduating, my entire life had been a set of structure and milestones laid out before me: elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Society has fine-tuned this process for us, with pretty minor decision making necessary on our part. (Because like I said, college is what you make of it, not where you make it.) But after I graduated, there was this life in front of me that I had near absolute control of where its phases began and ended. It was daunting and a little depressing at first. We just do this until we die? For some, the natural inclination is that marriage is the next milestone or children or buying a house, but that was too ambiguous and at the time, unattainable for me. I still don’t even want kids and a house only seems cool now because it’s more economical. Additionally, even now that I have found who I want to partner in life with, getting married doesn’t feel like the next milestone I can structure my life by in the way graduating from college did, nor, I would argue, should it. While my scholarship program gave me a structure of two years for a degree and at least two years working for the government after, the year I had between my undergrad and grad school alerted me that “this is it” was coming again soon. It made such a difference to be prepared for it by the time I finished my masters, because then life was about living in the now and not the what’s next. Let me tell you there is nothing more freeing in life than living now; than recognizing that life got you here, so here must be where you are supposed to be, so why not stay awhile and enjoy it for what it is? (As I mentioned before that I must share credit where it is due, I should call attention to the fact that I cannot take full credit for coming to terms with this post-grad challenge. I am so lucky that an incredible man came into my life and continues to love me into this mindset of living in the present.)
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals? See previous question; I am just so happy to be here! Although, I do desperately want a dog, so maybe we’ll count that as the next path I am looking to take. And I guess maybe a house to give the dog the most freedom possible 🙂
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? Someone at my new job asked me what my hobbies were, and after stressfully scrambling in my brain for “what in the world am I doing with my life?!” I landed on: The Bachelor. Laugh all you want, because I am laughing too. Now what makes a television show a hobby? Well when you watch all the shows in the franchise: Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, (and let’s not forget Winter Games coming soon!), sometimes blog about it, keep up with all the most interesting contestants from the last few years on social media, have group texts and instagram DM chats about it, investigate all the scandals down to every correlating detail you’ve deduced from said social media you follow, THEN I think it becomes a hobby. I think it is one of the most fascinating social experiments ever, and I am so here for it.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? Breakfast. Breakfast is essential. I don’t mean a granola bar on the way out the door; granola bars are for mid-morning snack a few hours later. I mean sitting down at a table and eating a bowl of cereal or a couple eggs or a bowl of fruit and yogurt.
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? I wouldn’t call this a must-have, but I have photos of my loved ones on my desk and it gives me life. It is also a great conversation piece if you update them to keep them current.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? A flight attendant. That is actually what I decided I wanted to be as I was finishing college. You don’t even need a college degree for that, so you can imagine why those last few months of school were difficult. I love traveling, and I am pretty even tempered when people get ridiculous about a situation. But it just so happens that in yet another one of life’s ways of getting me where I need to be — my boyfriend is a pilot. So looks like I have the best of all worlds after all and can stick to my day job.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? My friends! In college your network all live in the same city and have relatively similar frivolous schedules and financial commitments. It is a plus to now have friends all over the world to visit, but man was it convenient when so many of them just lived with you.
Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking the time to be my guest and share your story. We miss you so much here in DC, but hopefully we can catch up when I am in Seattle this summer!
My next guest on the series is the very first person I met when I arrived in Manhattan to start my freshman year at K-State (well, other than my student visit as a high school senior.) I vividly remember walking in the front door at the Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House for Women with my Dad and being greeted by Emily’s friendly smile. I also remember after my Dad said hello, he added “what the hell is that sound out there?” …It was August in Kansas, so the cicadas were in full force, but we don’t have those in the Pacific Northwest and didn’t know what they were. I was completely embarrassed but Emily was pretty amused, so I guess I didn’t ruin her first impression of me 🙂
I share that partially because it helps to paint a picture of how warm, friendly and lighthearted Emily is. She really looked out for me especially during my first semester as I navigated being an out of state student, for which I will forever be so grateful for. Even though she ended up transferring schools after my freshman year (which was a really brave decision!), she certainly left an impression on me in many ways. Emily is compassionate, fun, creative and shares my love for a good story. She has a lot of lessons and experiences I think many can relate to and appreciate, so I hope you enjoy hearing her story!
Name: Emily Snell Age: 28 Hometown: Ellinwood, KS College: Lipscomb University and Kansas State University Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management Current Location: Nashville, TN Current Job: Team Assistant at The Upper Room
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? K-State: Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House – regular house activities plus serving as Outreach Recruitment Chair, copy editing and writing for The Collegian, campus ministry, volunteering in my church’s nursery Lipscomb: internship at United Methodist Communications, lots of part time jobs – student worker in the university business office, nanny, freelance writer for United Methodist Communications, managing editor & then editor-in-chief for the university’s student news website Lumination Network
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? After sophomore year, I decided to move to Nashville and transfer schools. I loved K-State, but I felt a calling from God to go to Nashville. So, despite the fact that it was very out of character for me, I went. Transferring to a new school and moving to a new city where I knew only one person was a big adjustment. I had to pay my own rent, so it was difficult at times to manage multiple part-time jobs while also going to class and doing homework. And living off campus and having so many responsibilities didn’t leave me with a lot of opportunities to meet other students or find new friends. I wasn’t involved on campus much except for my participation in journalism activities. I had great friends within the department, but otherwise, I felt a little disconnected from the rest of the student body. On a small campus, that feels strange. But I was grateful for my small circle of good friends, and I’m still connected with those people today.
Another challenge came at the very end of college. I loved my time at Lipscomb, and I’m so grateful for the way it has shaped my life. But I did have to grieve some when the reality hit me that I would never be a K-State alum. I grew up in a family that, as we like to say, “bleeds purple.” When I came back to Manhattan in May 2012 to watch some friends graduate, I felt genuine sorrow that I was not on the stage with them. As much as I loved Lipscomb, it didn’t quite feel right to know that K-State isn’t my alma mater. I’m proud of Lipscomb and the good work they do in the Nashville community, and I’m thankful for the people I met there who have helped shape me. My diploma may not come from the university I dreamed about, but it’s from a place that I love and appreciate. Sometimes the real picture of life doesn’t turn out the way we imagined, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful!
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? Be flexible with your future job expectations and be creative about finding ways to do what you love. Your “dream job” may not appear immediately, so identify what you’re passionate about and what brings you joy and then create a way to implement that in your life, even if it’s not an income-producing opportunity right away. And as you carve out a path for your career, try to be patient with the journey. In my experience, figuring out a meaningful work life can take time, and just like a real journey, the path may not be straight forward.
Tell us about your career so far? When I graduated, I didn’t have a job lined up, so I kept nannying and freelancing while I interviewed for positions at various companies. After a few months, Lipscomb’s Business Office (where I had worked as a student) contacted me about an opening. I thought it would be something to keep me afloat for a few months, but it turned into something I really enjoyed. I worked there as cashier for a year and then was promoted to Student Accounts Representative. I held that position for 3 years and really expanded my knowledge and skills. I grew in ways that I didn’t expect. Serving in that role pushed me to improve my math skills, my leadership abilities, and my capacity for dealing with conflict. Collecting money is not easy…
During my time at Lipscomb, I also worked as a freelance journalist. Freelancing gave me an opportunity to pursue my passions for writing and storytelling. I wrote regularly for Interpreter magazine, the publication for The United Methodist Church, and also wrote two cover stories for Sisterhood magazine. Working for Sisterhood gave me the chance to interview Mandisa and Kari Jobe, two Christian musicians that I love. It was really fun and a special privilege!
This fall I began a new job at The Upper Room. Though my time at Lipscomb was wonderful, I had begun to feel that I needed a transition if I was going to continue learning and growing. And I wanted to do what I really love and more fully embrace my gifts and my journalism/English degree. I now serve as Team Assistant for our Administration, Interpretation, and Development team. In this role, every day looks different – sometimes I’m processing invoices or coordinating logistics for meetings; other times I’m proofreading website content; other times I’m acting as a sounding board for our publisher’s latest ideas; other times I’m calling donors to thank them for supporting our work. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with our books & marketing team to select covers for new books we’re publishing, and I’ve worked with the editions team on selecting meditations for our daily devotional guide. Regardless of the specific tasks, each day I know that I’m a part of an organization that makes a difference in the spiritual lives of people around the world. That brings me a great sense of satisfaction.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? My internship, campus publication experience, and freelance opportunities in college really served me well with finding more freelance jobs after graduation. I think my ability to maintain multiple jobs while also being a full-time student during college prepared me for balancing a full-time job and part-time job as an adult.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? Insurance – Why is health insurance so complex and confusing?? I never feel very confident that I’ve made the right choice on the best health care plan! I need a health advisor, please.
Budgeting – I’m bad at this game. Life is just too fun and too full of opportunities, and my bank account is always resisting my urge to enjoy! 😉 Let’s hope that before I’m 30, I learn how to balance my finances more strategically.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? Anticipating needs and meeting them thoroughly/efficiently
Connecting with people and building relationships
Editing – If there’s a typo, I’ll find it. If you need something proofread, I’m your girl!
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? Make a thorough to-do list
Take a walk
Practice some deep breathing
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Journal – Pen to paper continues to be one of the best ways for me to know myself and feel grounded in life.
Walk – It’s amazing how a little time on a nature trail can restore me.
Spend time with friends
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? Conflict Management certificate – During my time in the Business Office, I realized that I needed to gain some knowledge and skills around addressing conflict. No one in my office seemed prepared or certain of how to handle the difficult conversations we had each day. So, I decided to take advantage of Lipscomb’s Institute for Conflict Management. I took 15 hours of graduate coursework, earned a certificate in conflict management, and then put those skills to work in my daily interactions with customers. I also did my best to share that knowledge with my team so that we could all do better and feel more confident.
Leadership in Business Office – Though I was one of the youngest employees in the office, I had more experience in the office than many of my coworkers. (The stress of the job leads to a lot of turnover, so several employees came in after I started.) These coworkers looked to me for leadership and support, and I did my best to, as one of my professors would say, “lead up and lead out” with those in my office.
Mentoring college women – I love college students, and I consider it an honor to be a mentor in the lives of several young women at Lipscomb. Being with them brings me joy and teaches me about the many opportunities we have to learn from one another.
Freelance work – especially my interviews with Mandisa and Kari Jobe
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? The Contributor – On Saturday mornings, I volunteer at a local organization that provides economic opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless people in the Nashville area. These men and women teach me so much about determination, resilience, and positivity.
Ethos Church – I’m really involved in my church, serving on the set up team, participating in a house church (small group), and offering leadership & insight & support wherever I can.
Being an aunt – I have 3-year-old nephew Walter and an almost-1-year-old niece Elanor. They are precious, and being their aunt is so fun!
Compassion International – I sponsor 3 children with Compassion International. Being connected with these kids and their families reminds me of the similarities among people all over the world. Their letters make me smile. Sponsoring them helps me know that I’m doing something meaningful with my life. I’m participating in something bigger than myself and spending my money in a way that makes a lifetime impact on these kids and their families. In 2014, I was able to travel to Burkina Faso and meet Veronique, my sweet little girl there. It was an amazing experience that continues to shape me!
What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals? Becoming an editor in the publishing world or working in communications/marketing/development for a non-profit… I’m 28 and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life!
Even though I’m type A and a chronic overachiever, I’m actually not much of a goal-setter. I prefer to pay attention to what’s happening in the here and now and be open to opportunities as they come my way. I trust that as I say yes to what seems right in the current season, it will lead me toward a good path for the future. Maybe that’s foolish. But I think, for me, it’s a healthy balance of being proactive while maintaining open hands and an open heart.
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee + a little time to sit quietly in my recliner reading and enjoying said coffee 🙂
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? Spotify – must have music!
Post it notes
What does it say about me if my vices are post-it notes and good pens? I’m a nerd, but I’ve learned to embrace it!
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? Professor
CEO of a startup
COO at a tech company
Boss lady at a New York fashion mag
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? I miss the freedom of pre-adulthood… plenty of independence but few real responsibilities like paying bills or choosing health insurance
Living with my best friends and always having someone to hang out with
Emily took me to my very first K-State football game during my freshman year in 2009. Look how little we look!
Emily, thank you so much for participating as a guest on my series. Hoping my plan for a trip to Nashville next year works out!
Almost two years ago now, when I was on one of my blogging highs (aka super motivated to blog a lot), I started a series called “The Road I Traveled.” I was about six months into a new job and moving halfway across the country (again) and I felt that I needed a bit more motivation as a young professional. I kept thinking, surely other people are experiencing these ups and downs of being a post grad! Surely others feel the back and forth tug between having no idea how to navigate being adult to feeling good about not having to call your mom for the third time that week.
What I found the most encouraging was when I would be chatting with friends who exclaimed “me too!”Not that I felt good that others were struggling too, but it was helpful to know that a lot of those ups and downs were completely normal.
The more I chatted with others about this topic, the more I also heard about the struggle of not having other young professionals/20-somethings to relate to. There are so many different paths to set out on after high school whether its college, trade school or straight into the work force. Then the path splits again into more school, starting families, making big moves and starting careers (or realizing that you want something totally different than what you studied for.) We are always questioning what the right decision is, and unfortunately that often leads us to comparing ourselves to others who are often on a totally different path
So I started “The Road I Traveled” series with the hope of offering a bit more real-life, relatable motivation. In each post I highlighted different young professionals, and let them share how they got to where they are, their ups and downs, and how they are striving to make it through this phase of life.
I received way more positive feedback that I could have ever anticipated, and when I had to slow down my blogging schedule a few months later, I was disappointed that I let this series slip.
Well, its coming back.
Because after two years, sure I’ve figured some things out. But for everything I’ve learned and accomplished, I have 5 more questions and hills to climb.
So I hope that this series once again serves its purpose and that each reader can find a little something in what they read that makes them exclaim, “me too!”
As always, I am going to try to plan ahead for future guests so that this series can be featured regularly, but with that said, if you are interested in being featured and I haven’t asked yet, don’t be shy, Let me know!
********** This week I would like to introduce you to Kylie, one of my new friends here in D.C. I’m laughing as I write this because just this past weekend at a holiday party one of her friends asked me, “how did you meet Kylie?” My response? “Online.” I never would have thought that the writing I do to scrapbook my life over here in my little corner of the internet would ever lead me to making a friend in real life. But early this past summer we both linked our blogs to a bigger blogger that we both follow, which led her to find mine and leave a comment. We started reading each others posts and soon learned that she had recently moved to an apartment just about a mile away from mine. The first time we hung out we kept joking that it was equivalent to the awkwardness of a blind first date. As you will read below, life here in the DC area is typically pretty busy, so we are still “becoming friends,” but I am already so thankful to have met Kylie. She is passionate about her job as a rookie 2nd grade teacher, and is humble and honest about the ups and downs of balancing it all. She has a great sense of humor and adventure, and is so easy to relate to (except for her obsession with candy corn…)
Basics Name: Kylie McGraw Age: 24 Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA College: Duquesne University & University of Maryland, College Park Degree(s): B.S. Early Level Education (Duquesne), Master’s of Education in Reading (UMD) Current Location: Arlington, VA Current Job: 2nd Grade Teacher
Background Story: I’m the oldest of three and I love my brothers to pieces. My mom’s family all lives really close together, so I grew up knowing the family is really important. I went to school where my mom was a teacher, so I spent a lot of time in her classroom. I don’t remember deciding that I was going to be a teacher, but I told everyone who asked that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. Hailing from The Steel City, I do in fact bleed black and gold. I like french fries on my salads, ketchup with most everything I eat, and a cookie table at every major event I attend. Pittsburgh has really grown and changed since it gained its name as The Steel City, and I really got to know it better when I went to college! I’m a self-proclaimed candy corn addict and crazy dog lady…even though Colby and Amigo live with my family in Pittsburgh. I love coffee, the dessert menu, running long distances, and laying on the beach.
How did you choose your college and your major? I never really chose my major. As I mentioned, I decided at a young age that I was going to be a teacher and that is the dream I chased for my whole life. My mom has been teaching kindergarten for 27 years so I had a great role model!
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? I had two jobs that I loved! I taught Spinning classes at the gym and worked as a tutor in The Writing Center. Last year when I was a full-time grad student, I continued both of those jobs at my new university, but I was also a research assistant. I like to keep busy!
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? Every so often, there would be some roommate drama. Living with good friends can be harder than you think! I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so instead of addressing issues that would come up, I would just ignore them. Senior year, I ended up not talking to one of my roommates (the one I actually shared a room with) for almost four months. We said “hello”, “how was your day”, and “bye”, but that was about it. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about hurting her feelings and just said, “Hey! How can we fix this?” Eventually I addressed all the problems that arose, but not without a long awkward period in between the incident and the talk.
I also struggled with my health and body image. College is the first time when you are really in control of what you eat and how much you work out, and I was a statistic. I went to college and gained weight. I only gained about 9 pounds, but I felt puffy and bloated and I wasn’t happy with how I looked at all. I started to change my eating and exercise habits healthfully, but then I got really extreme and struggled with a little bit of orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating foods that you consider healthy. I only ate certain foods, I counted every calorie that went inside my body, and I worked out more than once a day. Most people were telling me that I looked great, but it wasn’t until a few friends said something not so nice about me behind my back that I realized I was doing something wrong. I never sought professional help for these issues because since I recognized them in myself, I felt that I could fix them, with the support of my family and friends. My mom and my best friend at the time were my go-to people if I ever needed someone to remind me that I did NOT in fact need to work out again or I was actually “allowed” to eat the piece of bread on the table.
I wouldn’t change either of these experiences because they made me more confident and healthy post grad.
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? I would tell a senior in college to take advantage of all the events that their campus has to offer. You and your friends DO need to go to a football game, eat the special Thanksgiving dinner in the dining hall, and go to the Christmas Ball. All of the things that you may have skipped in previous years — get your friends and go do them. On the other hand, it’s just as acceptable to stay in and watch movies because your stress levels will probably rise as you finish up your final classes and start thinking about the real world. Remember that there is a whole summer after graduation, so if you get your diploma and you still feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s okay. Make decisions about grad school or your first job, but take a breath. I realized that in the real world, no one really knows what they’re doing…but as long as you put your best foot forward, you’ll go places. 🙂
Tell us about your career so far?
My plan for grad school was to go to UMD for 2 years to get my Master’s in Reading and then move back home to Pittsburgh. Once I moved to this area, I loved it and couldn’t imagine leaving so soon. I was a person who said they would never do their first year of teaching while they were still in grad school because both are such huge time commitments and I wanted to make sure they were both getting my “all”. Since I took most of the classes for my Master’s last year, by the end of the spring semester, I felt like I would be able to manage my first year of teaching and taking one night class. I interviewed at a few different elementary schools in Virginia in June and finally found the right school for me. I was offered a second grade teaching position at the end of my interview! My coworkers are so supportive as I figure out what it means to finally be in charge of my own class. I expected some of the challenges I have faced so far, but sometimes I really have to go back and kind of reteach something, especially when it comes to classroom routines. This is not something that I anticipated and I feel really guilty when I have to make time to do something like that. But, my coworkers always remind me that it is vital and that they still have to do that sometimes too. My students are only 7 years old so behavior is a learning experience each and every day! I really do have a great class so I feel very lucky in my first year of teaching. 🙂
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? When I was choosing colleges, I didn’t look very far away from home. However, it was really important to me to go to a school that would let me be in elementary classrooms all throughout my program. Years ago, education students would take college classes for 3.5 years and then step into a classroom for the first time during student teaching. That was a shock for some who ended up realizing they weren’t where they wanted to be. At Duquesne, I was in a variety of different kinds of schools every semester of college leading up to student teaching. Some of my friends even switched majors (think elementary to middle school) after our first field experience! I think going to all of the different schools let me figure out what kind of school and what age I wanted to work with. Since my mom teaches kindergarten, I always thought I wanted to do that, but I had a lot of experience with second graders during undergrad and now that I am actually teaching second grade, I can’t imagine being in a younger grade (at least right now)! I was also involved in an several organizations in the School of Education that worked to support families in the community. Volunteering with families at places like the Ronald McDonald House opened my eyes to what a student’s life could be like outside of school.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? I didn’t expect to still feel so stressed about money. In college, you know your funds are going to be a little limited. Apparently, I had this great vision that once I finally had a “real job”, I would exhale and feel totally calm about money and buy whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. Ha! Not so. Currently, I am living within my means, but I always wonder if I can be saving more, donating more, and so on.
As far as my job goes, I didn’t expect to second guess myself so much. In each of my field experiences and in student teaching, I always felt confident in the choices I was making, but that’s probably because I had a lot of guidance. My coworkers and I plan as a team, but I still have a lot of my own choices to make in my classroom. It’s hard for me to understand that I can plan the world’s best lesson and it’s possible that it might not reach all of my students for one reason or another. I can ask thoughtful questions, assign engaging projects, and still reach the end of the lesson and see that some of my students don’t “get it”. Even though there are many reasons why a student might not get it (academic, social, emotional, etc.), I take it personally and wonder what I did wrong. I try to channel those negative thoughts into positive ones, as I am always asking myself what I can do better tomorrow, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow!
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? I don’t know that these resources will be of any interest to the regular person, but they make sense for teachers! My teammates and I use an online planbook to write and share resources for lesson plans. I like being able to have everything in one place because if I wrote my lesson plans with pen on paper, I would probably have half my resources printed out and another half in an electronic format on my laptop! With our online planbook, I can log right in, see what I have written for that day or week, and print everything I need from one place. We also use Microsoft OneNote to plan future units and share student data. My students use TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to listen and read stories electronically. They also use Dreambox to practice their math skills in an electronic format. Dreambox is awesome because it teaches them in a game-like format and they are taught based on their current level of learning. So, for example, if they advance to the next math concept and they get a certain number of questions or problems wrong, the game automatically bumps them back a lesson to reteach the concept they are struggling with.
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses? I am a team player but I also appreciate a little bit of independence. Being a teacher gives me a lot of independence in deciding how I want to teach a certain lesson, but I definitely don’t isolate myself from my coworkers. The other second grade teachers and the reading specialist have been such a huge support system for me as I get all of my ideas in order during this first year. Because of that, I try to share my ideas with them when I can! I want them to see me as a team player, too. On the other hand, I’m a worrier and I want to do everything right. I ask a lot of questions (which is a good thing), but sometimes my questions are more along the lines of, “Is it okay that I did/said ________?” I want to work on having more confidence in my decisions!
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? I try to have conversations with my students that aren’t about school. They bring so many random trinkets to school and they always have a story to tell, so if I make sure to find an extra few minutes for them to share something either with me or with the class so that we can all relax. And because I am still taking a night class this year, sometimes a motivating thought is, “Life won’t be like this forever.” Regardless of what your life is like, you don’t want to wish time away, but sometimes the thought that things WILL change is a positive one.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? I love to work out. I love to Spin, I love to attempt to lift weights in the fitness studio in my apartment, I love to try new classes at the gym, and I especially love to run. There are plenty of people that I know who ask me how I have time to work out while working full time, being in grad school, and trying to maintain a social life, but the saying is true: I don’t have time, I make time. I don’t get home from work and immediately feel like changing into my gym clothes, but I do. Deciding to do your workout is the hardest part. While you are running or biking or lifting, your mind is cleared of all the stress from the day. Then when you have completed the workout, you feel accomplished and oh so proud. It also helps that my principal supports a work-life balance. She encourages us to have other hobbies and interests outside of our classrooms, which is wonderful!
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? I’m most proud of the fact that I moved away from home and created a life for myself that I love. I never thought I would be a person who moved away from her family, for whatever amount of time it may be, but here I am. And no one tells you the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with moving away from everyone and everything you know. All you hear about is the excitement of that new place! At first, you won’t have friends. You will have to go places by yourself. You will feel like everyone at home is having so much fun and you’re “stuck” in this new place alone. And then pretty soon, you learn how to put yourself out there and make some friends and life starts to feel pretty great.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?. I am passionate about Jesus, my family, fitness, healthy eating, reading, and writing. Monday through Friday, I am very focused on my job and my workouts, but I try to work out with friends to make it even more fun. 🙂 Come the weekend, I am oh so tired, but I try to get out at least once a weekend to do something new and/or fun! I still consider myself new to the area and there is so much to see and do. I’ve made new friends at running groups that I attend and I’ve made new friends at church, so it’s important to me to make time to see those people!
Just for Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? I intentionally set my alarm a bit early so I don’t have to pop out of bed when it rings in the morning. I like to lay around for a few minutes and read one of my devotionals. I have my Bible, Jesus Calling, my journal, and whichever faith-based book I am reading at the time on my nightstand, so I pick one of those and read for a few minutes before I get up. Right now, I am reading my pastor’s (Mark Batterson) new book called “If”. Once I am up and moving, I turn the TV on in the family room so I can listen to Good Morning America while I get ready! And typically, I am at work about an hour early. I eat breakfast at my desk and just get my mind right for the day (and usually get 107 things together before the students show up).
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? I just have to have some kind of beverage! I drink water on the way to work, I sip on my coffee all morning, and then I keep refilling my water bottle all day. Sometimes a little Peach Tea Crystal Light in my water or an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon happens, but I like to think I am pretty low-maintenance (and not caffeine dependent!) when it comes to beverages. 🙂
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? I would want to be a magazine or newspaper editor in New York City. In this life, I will write in some capacity for my career one day. I’m working on that now. 🙂 In college, I started writing my blog so that I could share my new adventures in running and healthy eating. The perfectionist in me wants to have a great post every day, so my blog has ebbed and flowed since it began in 2013. 2015 is actually the first year I have blogged consistently, and I am so happy to be writing more and connecting with the blogging community. You can find keep up with all of my adventures here HERE.
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? I am pretty introverted and I love hanging out by myself, but honestly how nice was it to have all of your friends either in your room or right next door?! There was always something to do!
Kylie, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and being so genuine. I am so glad that these little blogs of ours brought us together!
********** Everyone, meet Michael. Featuring someone in grad school has been on my list of priorities for this series from the beginning and Michael is a great example of someone who spent a little bit of time in the industry after his undergrad, before returning to academia for grad school. I also want to make sure that he gets a proper shout out… generally student schedules are a bit more hectic and all over place, especially near the end of a semester. Well this kid still went ahead and returned his questionnaire back to me well-before the deadline. That’s impressive! Anyway, Michael is one of my fellow AFA Student Advisory Team alums. A few years younger than me, I first remember meeting Michael in Track 2 at AFA Leaders Conference when I was on the team and leading that track. Since then, I’ve always been able to count on him for a witty tweet and a good laugh. I think Michael is a great (and somewhat rare) example of someone who pursued a degree in production agriculture, without really having a true background it. His passion and curiosity is genuine an contagious. Plus, he’s just an all-around fun, great guy to be around.
Basics Name: Michael Carlson
Hometown: Johnston, IA
College: South Dakota State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science in Agriculture: Agronomy
Current Location: Brookings, SD
Current Job: Graduate Research Assistant
How did you choose your college and your major?
Having grown up in Des Moines, I didn’t even know until my senior year of high school that SDSU existed. I grew up right next to Dupont Pioneer’s corporate headquarters, so I had quite a few neighbors and family friends involved in agronomy and plant sciences. I didn’t really know what all was involved, but thinking that it might be interesting I decided that I should major in agronomy and figure it out as I go! That narrowed down my choice of schools to primarily land grant institutions. I really enjoyed my visit to SDSU, but what sealed the deal was going to a program called “A Day in the Life,” which was put on by the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. This program allowed me to interact with professors, sit in on a class and network with agriculture students. After that visit I was counting down the days until I could head up north!
What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was heavily involved in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Ambassadors, where we went out to schools in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska to talk about why students should study agriculture and why they should consider attending SDSU for their post-secondary career. I was also involved with the Agronomy and Conservation Club, serving as the club president for a year. I was also able to serve as the Honors College Student Organization Secretary for a year, along with being a mentor as a Teaching Assistant for the Honors 100 class. The last organization that I was involved with was Agriculture Future of America where I served on the Student Advisory Team in 2013. I had an internship every summer between semesters. After my freshman year I worked as a crop scout in SE South Dakota. The following summer I worked as a field research intern for Dow AgroSciences in South Dakota, and during my last summer as a college student I was the seed treatment intern for Winfield, a Land O’Lakes company.
What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Time management was by far my biggest obstacle! Getting to know and understand how to manage time between classes, work, social life and different activities. Another obstacle I personally had was my very limited knowledge of production agriculture, but I soon found that all I had to do was ask and someone would willingly answer my questions! Personally I think the only thing that I would have changed were maybe to have taken another year of college to finish out some different minors or an undergraduate research project.
What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
As cliche as this sounds I would say to enjoy all of the experiences from your last year of college. And when looking for a career, don’t worry about if it doesn’t work out like you think it is supposed to, as life likes to take different twists and turns, most of which you never see coming.
Tell us about your career so far?
After I graduated from SDSU I started as a sales trainee for Dow AgroSciences in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I was able to learn about the sales process and to begin to call on customers for different reps while working on different projects. I then made the jump back to graduate school this past April to work on an organic weed control system.
How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Working in the corporate world has definitely given me another view which I think has helped me succeed now that I am back in graduate school. The idea of bringing added value to tasks performed isn’t emphasized as heavily in graduate school as it is in the world of sales but the idea of bringing more to the table than what is expected is still a big deal.
On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
The biggest challenges that I have would be getting used to different managers. I’ve found that it’s best to ask more questions than you think you should because it’s better to ask to much than come back at the end of the year and not have done enough.
What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I use my MacBook Pro every day, but the calendar is my biggest life saver! Putting down any appointments, classes or due dates definitely helps keep my cluttered brain back in order!
At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I would say my biggest strength would be drive and a strong sense of responsibility. I would say a weakness would be sometimes jumping the gun on things without asking all the questions I should.
How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I take a lot of breaks! I don’t worry about whether or not I will get the project done in a timely manner as I tend to not put tasks off to the last second. Sometimes this means I may work wild hours, especially with my field work I have to do the work when Mother Nature allows me to.
Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
In grad school it sometimes seems as if there is not much of a balance, but as I found from working in the “real” world it’s all up to yourself for creating that balance. I have a good group of friends here in town which helps me to detach from the constant questions I have about my project.
What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I am most proud about making the jump back to graduate school. It was a nerve wracking decision but I am glad that I chose to continue my education and contribute to new ideas and information.
What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.
Life looks hectic! Running my samples and finishing up my classes this semester are taking a lot of my time lately! But I make time to go out with friends and read a few books when I’m not reading some scholarly articles!
Just For Fun
What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee! And looking over a simple plan of what I have in store for the day! As this has been important when trying to get my field or lab work complete when everything is a rush!
Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Definitely caffeine — coffee makes my world go round. Also, my music. When doing doing lab work, field work or office work, it seems about impossible without excellent music to get me motivated.
If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I would be a ski bum! Just relaxing on the slopes living in the mountains sounds like the perfect life to me!
Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
As a graduate student, I miss not having to worry about my project and any lab work that is looming over my head at all times! Haha!
Michael, thank you so much for taking some time out your hectic schedule to participate and share a peek into life in grad school. Good luck on your research and projects!