The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Emily

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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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!

-Amanda 

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

College

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.


Post Grad

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!

Organizing

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?

Read

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!

Good pens

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

University president

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

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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!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Lyndsey

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Happy Monday friends! My next guest is a great example of how this series continues to inspire me and allows me to get to know people in my network a bit better. I vaguely knew who Lyndsey was through ag communications stuff in college, and then I actually met her when I moved to the Washington D.C. area. She was so kind to me as a new kid in the city and I wish I had gotten to know her better before she moved away.

But Lyndsey’s story is such a great example of someone having an idea of how to build a career and life around a passion… and then actually making it happen! Lyndsey is hard working, ambitious and after starting her own business just over a year ago, she has a lot to share about taking risks and growing through experiences. Personally, I think her business is a wonderful idea and something we could use a bit more of. But I’ll let her share all about it 🙂

-Amanda 

Name: Lyndsey Murphy
Age: 28
Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): Bachelor’s: Agricultural Communications //Masters: Agricultural Communication
Current Location: Mechanicsburg, Ohio
Current Job: Owner and operator of The Market at the Hive

Background Story: I was raised as the fifth generation on our family corn, soybean and beef farm in a small town in western Ohio. I was fortunate to find my home early on in FFA and participated heavily there throughout high school, culminating with a year as a state FFA Officer. I then traveled onto The Ohio State University where I discovered my love for communications and traveling. I graduated with my bachelors in 2011 and started my masters degree later that fall at Ohio State. My first big girl job was as Communications Director for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, where I spent two and half years managing every bit of communications for the organization and cutting my teeth in the industry. I then moved to Washington D.C. to accept the position of Social Media Director at American Farm Bureau, an opportunity that not only grew me professionally but also greatly expanded me personally. Then, just over a year ago I returned home to Mechanicsburg to help my family run the farm and start my own business. I also taught junior high agriculture for a year in 2016-2017. Phew, I appreciate teachers so much more now! 

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Growing up just 45 miles from campus and being the daughter of an OSU grad, it’s hard to say that it wasn’t in my blood from the start. I really made the decision though after going on a catering job with my mother to the animal hospital as a sophomore in high school, I loved every bit about the campus, the people and all the opportunities. I just knew it was the right place for me.

Like many Ohio State agriculture students, I chose Animal Science originally to be my major. After my first chemistry class, I knew it was not going to be the major for me. Luckily enough, I stumbled across a Communications 101 class and fell in love with it immediately.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I’ve always loved being part of a bigger group trying to accomplish something and I think student organizations are one of the absolute best ways for you to get the most out of a college experience. I was in our Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow club, Saddle and Sirloin, Collegiate 4H and president of the College of Food Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences Student Council.

Being slightly new to the communications field I also wanted to do as many internships as I could, (plus I was very poor). In college I had internships with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, ABN Radio, Local Matters, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Ohio State BioProducts Center.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I would have to say my biggest challenge was trying to enjoy the moment, often I was too worried about getting the next job, having the best resume, etc, instead of truly enjoying the moment. If I could change anything I would give myself the wisdom that whatever I was doing that day was enough.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Solidify your relationships with your classmates, you never know where you’ll see them down the road and many of them might be in the same industry or area as you. Those will be invaluable in the years to come.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
As mentioned above:

My first big girl job was as Communications Director for the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, where I spent two and half years managing every bit of communications for the organization and cutting my teeth in the industry. I then moved to Washington DC to accept the position of Social Media Director at American Farm Bureau, an opportunity that not only grew me professionally but also greatly expanded me personally. Then, just over a year ago I returned home to Mechanicsburg to help my family run the farm and start my own business.

My business is creating and facilitating experiences (mainly cooking classes, farm to table dinners and the day to day business of the market featuring local foods and goods) that connect food and the people that grow/raise it with their customers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
There are so many points where I look back and I’m so glad that I made friends with a wide range of people with a wide range of views. These people have helped me shape a better business because I ask for their input. I also think the communications skills that I gained in college, like web and print design, are invaluable when trying to work on a shoestring budget.

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 thought that after all the busy-ness of clubs and classes, I would be able to relax a little when I entered the workforce, alas that was not true. I’ve learned it’s so important to carve out personal time, travel time, family time — because if you don’t make time for it, you’ll burn out in a hard way.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I’m a huge fan of the Google suite of products. I have a Google phone, regularly send and organize documents and pictures in my Drive, and use it to edit documents between multiple people. I’m also a big fan of Buffer as a social media scheduler, their free option is wonderful and their paid is cheap enough to work for any budget. It’s easy to use, well laid out and available for any device.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: I feel that my patience and perspective have grown, along with my ability to keep a cool head. I think I’ve also become much more fiscally responsible, and since buying a 117 year old building (that is often trying to fall down), I’ve become much handier and self reliant with tools. 🙂

Weaknesses: I’ve never had so many people to deal with at one time, so I sometimes have calls or emails fall through the cracks for a few days. I can also find myself getting so tied up with the day to day motions that I need a wakeup call to step back and see the bigger picture.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Well, I’m of the belief that there is no such thing as motivation — you just do it or you don’t. That being said, I often try to set my work space up so that I feel more creative, by organizing it, making lists, and setting it up with things that make me feel comfortable but not distracted. I also try to follow through on smaller tasks that with make jobs down the line easier.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
As a new entrepreneur that lives above her business it is definitely difficult to find a balance. I try very hard to set specific times that I work and don’t (try is the key word there), times that I will answer my phone and email and others that I won’t. I also try to stay in contact with friends, go visit them in their homes or business — it’s really an activity that gives me perspective and leaves me feeling fulfilled and refreshed. I can’t overstate the importance of physical activity either, shoveling out a pen or just being in the pasture with the cows gives me a sense of peace that is hard to find other places.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud that I’ve trusted enough in myself to listen to my gut and follow it towards my dreams.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
As of now, I’m a year into creating my own business and still learning everyday. It consumes much of my time and energy. Outside of the business, I am running for town council right now (I’ve got the politics bug), I spend a lot of time on the farm helping out and as much time as I can afford traveling. Truly, I’m most passionate about agriculture and involving every person in it, no matter their background, I’m lucky enough to have that as part of my job and life.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Next! The official ‘Market at The Hive’ opens in February, a market that will feature local meat, produce, coffee, beer/wine and ready to eat meals. Our town has been without a grocery store for nearly ten years and I’m hoping to fill some of that void. Long term, I hope to expand to a larger on-farm operation, giving people the opportunity to see with their own eyes where their food is grown and get information about larger or different operations.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee, NPR and some sort of physical activity (yoga, a walk, etc).

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Absolutely. I’m a BIG coffee drinker. 🙂 I also love to have music playing all the time.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
All limitations aside- I’d love to be a photographer for National Geographic. Travel the world, see beautiful places and people, just looking for the next best photo.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss all the people! Having so many incredible people who love agriculture, yet come from so many different backgrounds around me all the time was something I truly cherished. I miss that being the most important part of my life, instead of trying to make money haha.

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Interested in checking out Lyndsey’s business? Find The Hive at:

Website
Facebook
Instagram

Lyndsey, thank you so much for participating as a guest on this series, especially with such a busy schedule. I hope I can visit The Hive in person someday!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Zech

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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My sister and I really aren’t that far apart in age (3.5 years), but for whatever reason I had a bit of a moment when I was making my list of the next couple of people I wanted to ask to be a guest on this series and TWO of them were technically her friends first. I know it’s so cliche but time goes by SO FAST.

Anyway… as always I am excited to share the next guest with you! Zech grew up in Eastern Oregon in a little town near my hometown and became good friends with my sister through FFA. He has great work ethic, is very passionate about food and agriculture, has a curious mind and all around is truly one of the nicest guys I know. Zech is very aware of his surroundings and himself, which is a quality I think we don’t put as much value in as we should. If you know him personally, you may or may not be surprised to hear him get real about struggling with self-confidence — something I think more people, including myself, can relate to than we’d expect. I appreciated how insightful he was about sharing his story and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

-Amanda 

Name: Zech Hintz
Age: 24
Hometown: Heppner, Oregon
College: Cornell University
Degree(s): Applied Economics & Management, Marketing Concentration
Current Location: Kansas City, MO
Current Job: Management Trainee, Smithfield Foods

Background Story

Heppner, a small town in Eastern Oregon consisting of just over a thousand people, was where my family lived during my childhood. This tiny corner of the world gave myself, and my classmates, copious amounts of opportunity throughout our k-12 years. Most of us played a sport every season because we needed enough people to make up a team and our graduating classes consisted of 28 people; I never lasted long because I am terrible at anything requiring coordination and athletic ability. We served on the councils of multiple clubs and organizations in school and volunteered at every community event. Most of us tried not to do anything “bad” as small town people know everything about everyone, and the parentals always found out. It was a rural community where gossip was entertainment, but the support and care for others was everything. My life began in Heppner, and that small town is a reason for who I am and what I have accomplished.

My path in life changed forever, and for the better, during the summer between junior high and high school. A lady came up to me at the county fair, after a disappointing performance showing my 4-H hog, and told me that she was signing me up for something called FFA. This person, who would soon become my mentor and role-model, was our high school’s FFA advisor. She gave us FFA members countless opportunities including adventures across the U.S.; pushing us to participate in career development activities, such as public speaking and sales pitch competitions; and teaching us the fundamentals of the agricultural industry. It was in the middle of her class when I found out I was accepted into Cornell University to study agriculture, to which she immediately called the principal who embarrassed me by announcing the news over the loud speaker. She was the person who pushed me to better myself and run for state FFA office, and who celebrated with my family and I every time I made it further in the process, all the way up until the morning I was elected. Our FFA advisor was the person who opened every door possible, and then pushed us through it. Mrs. Dickenson was a pivotal person in my life growing up in that small town, and is the reason I have a burning passion for the agricultural industry.

The credit for my accomplishments goes to a few special individuals. My mother, who gave birth to me, raised me and taught me how to be a caring and positive citizen in society. My father, who always questioning my ideas, solutions and goals which helped sharpen my thought processes. My grandmother, who taught me how to work hard and use common sense to get thing accomplished. My FFA advisor, who showed me how big the world was and how much I could do if I put my mind to it and took the leap. Without these people, I truly believe I would still be in, or near, that small town in Eastern Oregon. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a life for yourself in that great community, however they all knew I wanted something else and pushed me to go out into the world and find it.

Today, I am a proud Oregonian who had an incredible opportunity to attend a world-class university, and who now looks to make a positive impact in both the agricultural industry and our society. My life motto is that the only way to represent farmers and productive agriculturalists is to work just as hard as they do. I am happiest when with a friend, drink in hand, talking about the biggest opportunities and challenges our society faces. (Is it just me, or did this just take a turn towards a Tinder profile that is a bit too much?)

I hope you enjoy my small perspective of the world, and learn something from my mistakes and experiences. My personal goal is to make myself a little better at what I do, one day at a time, learning the best I can from each mistake I make on the road I’ve chosen.

Best,
Zech

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Like most Millennial seniors, I began my last year of high school wondering which college I should attend. And, like most Millennials, I decided to answer a question with a Google search. Having an instilled passion for agriculture from my FFA advisor, my fingers naturally punched best agriculture school in the US in the search bar. The first link in the list of results was some national ranking list, to this day I still do not remember which one, that declared Cornell University the best Ag school in the country. Before this search, I had never heard of Cornell, had zero life-long plans to attend, no dream boards to inspire me every day, nothing. Looking back, I am truly amazed at how life works itself out and how everything happens for a reason. I enjoyed my time at Cornell, and am grateful for the opportunity to attend.

My major was the result of my gap year between high school and college when I served as a state FFA officer in Oregon. I applied to Cornell before running for state office and I had been accepted into the agricultural science program, dreaming of owning a large nursery operation one day. I realized during my year of service, however, that I talk way too much to putz around a farm by myself all day long, and enjoy people so much that I decided to go into the consumer end of the agricultural industry. I transferred into the business school at Cornell, which is within in the Ag school, and earned a degree in applied economics and management with a concentration in marketing.

My best friend Mike and I on graduation day.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
In high school, there always existed a pressure, from parents, teachers, and community members, to be highly involved. Once I arrived at college, it was natural to jump into many organizations because I thought it was the thing to do. Looking back now, I wish I would have chosen to do less, made more time for myself to think about my future, and dove deeper into hobbies and organizations I cared the most about.

With that said, I was a brother of AGR (Zeta Chapter!) social fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu business fraternity, a Food Marketing Fellow, involved in Ezra’s Army (a Cornell sports fan club), a resident advisor, worked for the New York FFA Association, worked for the business school as a social media intern, sang the national anthem at basketball and volleyball games, and was a teaching assistant for 3 different classes. There are many who do, and have done, way more; I recommend doing less, better.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
The biggest hurdle for me was that I didn’t believe I was good/smart/talented (insert whatever word you feel unconfident about) enough, compared to my peers. I clearly remember sitting in my first day of freshman writing seminar. We were talking about some book, and I realized that I didn’t know a noticeable number of words my classmates were using, casually, to describe passages in the book. Genuinely, I had zero idea what some of these words meant and struggled to keep up with the conversation — talk about feeling like you don’t belong. Over the following weeks of my freshman fall semester, I would find other things to help build the case in my mind that I was not good enough, or as smart as, the people around me. For example, my friends and I were sitting at a table in the cafeteria when the topic of SAT scores came up (ugh, so Ivory Tower of us) and a girl at the table, who was an athlete, said, “The only reason I’m at this school is because I’m an athlete. My SAT score was terrible — like toward the bottom of the range that Cornell recently posted about our freshman class.” At first, I felt bad for her because she felt this way about herself. Then, I looked up the SAT score range myself and realized that my score was THE bottom of the range.

From that moment on, I constantly saw myself as the dumbest person in every room, the person who had to find a way to stand out besides grades. My perspective was that there was no way I was ever going to be smart enough to compete with my GPA when it came time to get a job. This is another reason I was involved in so many organizations – I felt like I had to prove to others that I did, in fact, belong.

If I could change one thing about my time at college, it would be my self-confidence. I continue to struggle with this today, never thinking I am good enough. The irony is that by being so critical of myself, I begin to talk about my accomplishments to make the unnecessary case to others that I am good enough to be where I am. This, sadly, comes across as arrogance and self-praise which is never a good thing. I have worked a lot on this, and wish I could go back to my freshman self and tell him that he is smart enough, talented enough, and capable enough, and to stop comparing his talents to those around him because there is a reason he is who he is.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Soak it in. I graduated a semester early because I wanted to save money, and because I had already taken a gap year and wanted to get into the workplace sooner so I could catch up to my original graduating class. I somewhat regret not taking it easier to enjoy the people around me and the limitless opportunities that college provides for you.

Want to learn how to start up a business? Take a class. Want to travel somewhere with a group for little to no cost? Apply for a spot. The opportunities to gain real world experience and travel were my favorite part of school, and I slightly regret not taking one more semester to see what else I could have learned, or opportunity I could have taken. Soak it in while you can, college seniors. The real world can be great, but undergrad is a once in a lifetime experience.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
As a management trainee at Smithfield Foods, you get to work in different geographical locations and have different job functions within the company to grasp the bigger picture. To date, I have completed a six-month rotation in Bentonville, Arkansas working on the sales account to Walmart and Sam’s Club, and am currently in a marketing rotation working on the Smithfield brand, which will end in January. I have found that a rotational program is incredibly valuable, and I highly recommend it if you have the chance. Whenever working on a project, or sitting in a meeting, I now think through problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives. This experience has, and will continue to, make my perspective and ideas more valuable and respected along my career path.

The best part about my career, thus far, is that I have developed confidence in my choice of industries. Working on projects that can help deliver value and meal-time-solutions to consumers, while being able to see your creations/solutions in stores is an exciting thing. Plus, when food has a cultural and emotional value to people across the world, it is easy to be inspired and enthusiastic about what you are working on.

POSSIBLE QUESTION: How did you manage the transition from College to working life?
Graduating in December of 2016, I only have a year’s worth experience thus far. However, I have learned a few key things during the transition from college to work-life: ask as many stupid questions as you want, just don’t ask them twice; raise your hand and ask to be involved when you find an area of work that you find interesting and are passionate about — this helped me get in touch with the right people who eventually created a new position for me; read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and learn to be financially literate, it costs $5 on Amazon; relax on the weekends and let yourself forget about work for 48 hours so you do not burn out.

I certainly do not have “adulting” figured out yet, however these couple of lessons have helped me a bunch and I hope they can help you, too.

My coworkers and I at the end of the 2017 American Royal World Series of Barbecue, the largest BBQ competition in America.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I strongly believe that college serves three fundamental purposes: an opportunity to understand who you are and what you believe, prove to others that you can commit and follow through by earning a degree, and give you the opportunity to realize that human beings, from all corners of the earth, grow up with different perspectives, challenges, opportunities, and definitions of success. The first two purposes are important, no doubt, however I value the third a bit more. Over the course of our careers, the number of people we will interact with, on many different levels, will probably get into the tens, and maybe even hundreds, of thousands. Each person we interact with comes from a different background, believing different ethics, morals, standards for success or failure, life priorities, ways to accomplish tasks, the list goes on and on. The more we can meet and interact with people who have foreign or opposite perspectives than us, and the more we listen to their ideas and keep ours to ourselves until asked, the better we are going to be at working with others and accomplishing things, big and small. College is a fantastic place to do start this.

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 found that real-world work lacks hard deadlines, and it can be difficult to understanding what level of excellence is needed with each task. I struggle with the level of excellence issue a lot because, in college, everything we did needed to be an “A” to be considered successful. My job demands a large volume of tasks to be completed, and there is simply not enough time to get an “A” on all of them.

Additionally, every day, people from every direction ask you to do something, and it is easy to always say yes because you are the lowest person on the totem pole. This can lead to getting so far over your head that you don’t know where to invest your time, making your job a lot less fun. Take ownership of your personal brand throughout your career and tell people when you have too much on your plate, and that they can ask someone else to complete the task at hand, or will need to postpone or remove something that is currently on your plate in order to do what they are asking. You do not want to end up being the person who says “yes” to everything, and fall short on important tasks, making those around you think that you are incapable of doing a good job.

When you decide to add a project or task to your plate, make sure to be transparent and gain clarification on the level of excellence needed (A,B, or C). Also, if a deadline is not mentioned, set one for both yourself and the person asking the task of you so that you can manage expectations and accomplish projects “on-time”.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I used to be 100% paper and pencil, however the world moves too fast for me to keep up, and I am realizing that it is easy to miss tasks or assignments when you must physically write them down. Today, I rely heavily on my Outlook calendar, and supplement it with some sort of list. The Outlook calendar is an easy way for me to see what meetings, events, or due dates I have coming up. A list helps me organize what tasks need to be accomplished to meet those deadlines. As of a couple weeks ago, I began using Asana (which is free!!!) to keep track of my lists online so that I don’t rely on my mediocre organization skills to try and remember to carry around a physical list.

Friends from college visit Kansas City.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Reading this question made my inner nerd super excited. I truly enjoy exploring who I am and how I operate, and equally how those around me work and operate — I just love trying to understand what makes people tick. I use Gallup Strengths Finder, however there is a system for everyone, to better understand myself and others. My top five strengths are Restorative, I like to fix underperforming/broken systems, products, etc.; Futuristic, every moment I spend thinking about the future is engulfed in what things could be like in 10-15 years, I struggle to think about 1-3 years down the road; Significance, I love to be recognized, and thus when working on a team I am always trying to find ways to praise and recognize others; Includer, my soul hurts when people are left out, especially when I accidentally forget to include someone; Competitive, I like winning, a lot.

The things I work to manage so they don’t get in my way are: Organization, thus the new organization tactic mentioned previously; Clear, Precise, and Effective Communication, my passion gets ahead of my thought process so I forget to help my audience understand enough of the situation to help with the task at hand; Fully Listening, it is easy for me to sink my thoughts into a detail or idea at the beginning of someone’s ask-of-me/speech/directions/feedback/etc. so that when they finish talking, I only capture 50-75% of their ideas/needs.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
My church group. I have rough days, like everyone else, and my small bible study group keeps me grounded. They help me focus on the things in life that are great, even in moments of stress or frustration. I appreciate this group more than I could ever describe for both their guidance and support. Find a support group/person in your life, family, close friends, a mentor, whomever you trust, that you can lean on when life gets tough, and that you can celebrate successes with.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I am far from perfect and am still learning how to do this. But for now, it consists of spending time with my nose in a book and adventuring with friends who come visit on weekends. A routine that fits my personality and lifestyle has also made a positive impact on my work-life balance.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Let’s be real for a second — college debt is terrifying. The number of people who live their entire lives in debt (car loans, college debt, mortgage, etc.) makes me want, so badly, to not be in debt. When I moved to Arkansas, I got a second job as a server at the Cracker Barrel down the street to make some spending cash on the side. Many people, including myself at times, thought I was crazy for getting that job. However, I enjoyed my time there because it allowed me to interact with a lot of new people from drastically different backgrounds, and it helped me pay down some serious debt. No one is too good to work anywhere, and I like to think it is that attitude that got me an employee of the month award from that Cracker Barrel a couple of months after starting. That same award is hanging in my cubical today, and is something I am proud of.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I would classify my life as being in a restoration period. Transitioning from home to college was difficult, but transitioning from college to the real world can be a bigger challenge than expected. You start paying bills, making big life decisions (like buying a car or house) and soon realize that “adulting” isn’t all you thought it would be as a teenage kid who just wanted more freedom.

Furthermore, moving from city to city for work makes it hard to make friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am a solid extrovert on the scale of relative sociability. However, when moving to a new place and knowing it may only be for six months, your motivation to branch out and make new friends is abnormally low. It takes three or four months to adjust to a new job and location, so the idea of building a social group is intimidating and seems like a poor investment of time. This loneliness, though, has allowed me to deeper explore who I am, who I want to become, and how I can grow in my personal life, outside of a professional career. This uncomfortable period has been a blessing in disguise, and I have begun doing more things I love. Recently, I picked my professional camera back up again, which has been great, running more, which I used to do a lot of, and have begun building my faith with God more and more each day.

A picture I took earlier this fall.

Remembering who I am and who I want to become has been refreshing, I highly recommend taking more time for yourself.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Being in a rotational program, my short-term goal is to find a full-time position within my company by the end of 2018. Long term, however, I want to revolutionize how fresh food is sold online. Imagine how many people in the world we can provide quality, affordable food to if we can understand how to get it to them on a personalized level at an effective cost.

As I type this goal, I immediately hear people/voices in the back of my mind saying, “Shipping is too expensive, and people like to pick out their own meat and produce… online grocery is going to take years before it is used by the masses, let alone solve issues such as food insecurity.” For me, these are the sentiments that lights a fire within my soul and make me want to prove them wrong. I once heard an entrepreneur on a podcast (The School of Greatness – seriously, look it up!) say something along the lines of, “If the world thinks you’re nuts, or that what you are trying to accomplish is too hard, then you have possibly found a great opportunity.” It may take us years to figure out how to crack the code on online fresh food, and it may seem impossible to many, but I truly believe that together, as an industry, we can make this happen.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
An early wake-up time. My brain runs at about 5% after the lunch hour 🙂 , so I enjoy getting to work around 6:00am to get projects accomplished that may be hard and require high brain power. This means that I am up at 4:15ish, ready to take on the world!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I purchased this awesome ergonomic mouse on Amazon Prime day this year, and seriously have a hard time getting work done on my computer without it. I know it seems silly, but a good mouse makes my working life so much better.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Singer. I would most definitely be a singer.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The people, hands down. Cheesy or not, the people make your college experience, and never again will there be a time in life where all those incredible, talented, brilliant people are in the same place again. College is where you make true, lifelong friends.

*****

Usually I wrap up these posts with a picture of me with the guest if I have one, but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share a fun throwback of my sister and Zech going to the prom together as juniors! What’s funny is to note that phone cameras have some a long way even since 2011… because this was the best picture of the bunch. The rest were blurry. And yes, I did get Zech’s permission to share, but no, Janci did not get that luxury 🙂

Thank you so much for being my guest Zech and sharing your story! Have a Boulevard for me!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Amanda

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Today’s guest gave me another chance to catch up on the life of someone from my hometown!  Amanda (hey name twin!) moved to our hometown in the 6th grade (or was it 7th?) and quickly became a part of my friend group through middle school and into high school. ( I swear we have pictures together somewhere but I couldn’t track any down for this post.) Because of social media, I’ve been able to catch up on Amanda’s life now and I am not the least bit surprised to see that she is still so passionate about her goals and keeping what is most important to her in the forefront. Reading Amanda’s guest blog was refreshing – she keeps it honest and shares a lot about persistence and the value of seeking out a wide variety of experiences. I think Amanda’s story will resonate with a lot of you. Enjoy!

-Amanda 

Name: Amanda Tuimalealiifano (Bevington)
Age: 26
Hometown: Hermiston, OR (born in Roseville, CA)
College: Whitworth University
Degree(s): BA in Marketing
Current Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Current Job: Marketing Manager with the Professional Bull Riders

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Funny story… being the stubborn and independent woman I was, I wanted to go to college far from home. As I started looking at colleges, my parents made me look at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. I told them I had never even heard of it and that I didn’t want to look at it. They stopped at the college during a road trip and even though I started the tour being grumpy, I instantly fell in love with it. I admired the campus, the culture, the incorporation of faith, and I had the opportunity to play softball. I ended up appreciating being just three hours from home. Attending a tiny, private, liberal arts Christian college was quite an interesting experience, but I met some of the best people in the world and loved the small class sizes and the ability to get to know my teachers well.

I went to college thinking I was going to major in Psychology since it was the most interesting class I took in high school. After two classes I decided it wasn’t for me. At a loss for what else I may be interested in, I decided that I should be an accountant because I was a stellar math student and my intro to accounting class in high school was a breeze. Once again, after the second accounting class, I decided it wasn’t for me. Since I was on the business tract, I had to take marketing as a prerequisite. I found the class to be so interesting: getting into the minds of consumers, why people act the way they do, buying patterns, physical factors in a store that either encourage or discourage consumers to purchase something. It was like psychology…for business! I decided to continue that path and ended up enjoying it, especially when I took a sports marketing class. I’ve always played a ton of sports, so I decided why not work in an environment that I loved. During my senior year I met with the managers of the local hockey team, job shadowed at the Spokane Arena, and had informative interviews with many sports marketing professionals in the field. I heard it was a competitive market and a tough profession with long hours, but I knew it would be something I truly enjoyed and had a passion for. Though I still had doubts if it was the right major for me a few years out of college, I am now confident that it set me up for the most success and joy in the long-run.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I played softball my first year of college, then became a Resident Assistant for two semesters, was a bible study leader, involved in recreational sports, as well as dance. I studied abroad one semester and spent about six months attending the business school at Maastrict University in The Netherlands. I interned at Saint George’s School (a private school) where I was a marketing and communications intern. My college also provided incredible opportunities to be hands-on with marketing projects. I was fortunate to go to schools that allowed students to work with multiple businesses in the community. I, personally, worked with Zoom Industries, ULTA and McClain’s Pizzeria in which we created real-life recommendations and marketing plans to improve their businesses.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
The transition from High School to college coursework hit me like a train my freshman year. High School was so easy for me and I found it difficult to understand how each professor in college had different expectations and different testing styles. I also had a difficult time adjusting to life after studying abroad. Those two things aside, I think the one thing I wish I could go back and change would to be more confident in who I was and what I wanted. There were a lot of varying pressures to be or act a certain way and there was a lot of judgement. I wish I would have deepened more friendships and spent less time worrying and stressing out.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Create meaningful relationships with your professors and make connections in the community. Go on informative interviews. I made great connections that would have led to amazing opportunities if I would have stayed in the area. Also, don’t stress about what will come. Everything will fall into place.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
After college I accepted a sports marketing internship with Youth Missions International. I spent the summer traveling around Northern California putting on sport camps for kids at churches. My internship ended up taking me to Colorado where I aided in the creation of a new division within the company called BASE Sports Ministry.

Once the internship ended I landed a job at the world headquarters of LearningRx as a Social Media and Marketing Coordinator. I spent over three years there, where my experience expanded to include public relations, basic HTML coding, running webinars, learning more about Google Analytics, managing email campaigns, and much more.

Next, I accepted a job with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) as a Social Media and PR Manager. I had applied as a Marketing Manager countless times over a year, but it never seemed to work out. After a few months I received the opportunity to move over as a Marketing Manager, and the move couldn’t have been any more perfect. I now manage some of the events around the country start to finish. From putting the event on-sale, deciding price levels in the arena, placing media buys, and managing public relations for the event, to being there on-site to ensure things run smoothly, there has been a huge learning curve. It has been a whirlwind and crash course, but I am SO thankful for this opportunity. It’s an opportunity that I believe I will look back on as the huge stepping stone in my career. When told to sink or swim, you only have one option: to rise to the occasion and show them what you’re made of.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
As I mentioned before, I am extremely thankful that my college provided opportunities to gain real-world experience with local organizations. I am also thankful that I put myself out there and was able to gain leadership qualities and take advantage to learn from others who are successful and wise in their field. I believe that everyone should have a mentor and someone they strive to be like in their career.

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, honestly, struggled with real-life problems and situations. At my school, I felt that we were a bit sheltered. Everyone was a Christian and most had the same core beliefs as you. It’s absolutely not like that in the real world. There is more conflict, suffering, personality clashes, and bigger things at stake if you mess up. I didn’t always believe in my ability because I felt so young compared to everyone else in the company. It took my supervisors telling me that I was capable and smart and had the freedom to make decisions on my own for me to believe in my own ability. I had to learn to stand up for myself and what I believed in and couldn’t let others walk all over me, just because I was younger.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Honestly, I’m kind of old-school when it comes to staying organized. My tactic is writing lists, lists, and more lists. I have a master list, a daily list, and a list for each event. For some reason, I just can’t do online organizers…there’s just something SO satisfying as crossing something off of a list with a pen and paper.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Some of my strengths are multi-tasking, my ability to learn quickly, and needing to understand the process. I pick things up quite quickly and I question the way things are being done if I don’t think it is the most effective or the most efficient. I also think one of my greatest strengths is my outgoing and positive personality. I enjoy creating relationships and a fun work environment.

Some of my weaknesses that I continue to work on is my confidence in my ability and my ability to work on one thing for a long period of time. It’s difficult for me to stay focused on one thing… I love having multiple things to do. Also, I am not really a reader and I think that is REALLY important in order to continue learning and growing. Because of this, I have started listening to podcasts and join webinars often.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I make lists, take a breath, and focus on one thing at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed. Sometimes I’ll schedule my day in 30 minute to one-hour increments to keep the productivity up throughout the day.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
This has been a new learning experience since I now travel for work. The first few months of training, when I was traveling a ton, I would mostly just plan nights at home with my husband so we could have quality time together. Now, we make sure to schedule date nights out, weekend trips whenever possible, etc. I found that I also needed to schedule more time with my friends: Schedule Skype dates with my friends who live out of town and plan ‘Bachelor’ (and wine) nights, etc. I’ve become much more introverted than I used to be and a lot of the time I just want to cuddle with my Morkie, Smore’s, have a beer or glass of wine and binge watch Netflix. Balancing healthy habits like working out, praying, and getting enough sleep also keep me refreshed and energized.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Working for the PBR is definitely something I am extremely proud of. The growth and strides this company has made in the past few years (including being nominated as Sports League of the Year with the MLB, NBA, NHL, and US Olympic Committee) is tremendous and I am so excited to see what is to come and how I am able to grow as a marketing professional.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Oh man… one word: busy. Typically, I travel once every three weeks for four days at a time to an event, which has been a blast! I play recreational volleyball once per week, am starting competitive softball again, try and get to the gym a few days per week, and hangout with friends. My husband has a huge family and we have created a great network of friends through softball. At least once per month there is a big gathering or celebration, which is always a ton of fun. I squeeze in grocery shopping on the weekends, down time, playing with my pup, dates with my husband, cooking, and attempt to keep our house clean. But, if I’m honest, that’s our biggest weakness. I’d rather spend my time making memories and go exploring than spending the day cleaning the house. Everyone has something, right? Just being honest… I can’t do it all, I’m not Wonder Woman. My husband and I are both passionate about traveling, so we try and take weekend trips as much as possible, as well.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
I can see myself staying in the sports industry for a long while, I am truly enjoying it and I am continuing to be challenged. There is a lot of opportunity to grow and take on more responsibility. Sometimes I think it would be really cool to work for national sports team.

Anyhow, right before I received the offer with the PBR I started my own wedding planning business. I was able to do one wedding, but unfortunately had to put that on pause. In the future our dream is to start a wedding venue. We want to invest in some land, build a barn, dressing rooms, etc. and provide a place where couples can have the best day of their lives. I’ve always been an event planner as well as a romantic, dream wedding type of girl, and I think this is something I would never get tired of.

Photographer.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Actually, thanks to Amanda Spoo, I now receive the daily Shine texts which are motivating and inspiring… as long as I don’t wake up too late to read them. I’ve also been trying to incorporate more spiritual habits right off the bat in the AM and listen to podcasts or audio books on the way to work. So far, I have enjoyed the ‘This Is Your Life’ podcast by Michael Hyatt and marriage books by Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke to help me continue to grow in my new role as a wife.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I do enjoy a post-lunch diet Dr. Pepper to keep me going after that lunch time lull hits, but it hasn’t become a daily habit.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Anything where I could travel the world. I love what I am doing at the moment, so if I could put on events around the world and had some time to explore, that would be incredible. I also have a passion for mission work. I would LOVE to live in a country for a few years and serve the community or help teach them about business to grow their economy and create jobs to help people earn money and thrive. I would also start non-profits to help provide kids the resources they need to attend school, to help the homeless, as well as an organization to fight against sex trafficking.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss not having to “adult.” I miss having the freedom to do what you want, when you want without a ton of responsibilities. But, most of all, I miss my friends. The memories I created and the relationships I built are irreplaceable. I don’t live near anyone I went to college with, which can be extremely hard and lonely sometimes. I’ve made some great friends here in Colorado now that I’ve been here a few years, but I wish I could just go to lunch or have a movie night with some of my close friends.

*****

Thank you for participating in this series Amanda! Now I’ll go back to vicariously living through your Snapchat at PBR events and clicking through your gorgeous wedding photos! Safe travels!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Brian

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I love that living in DC has brought such a wide variety of people into my life. One of those people is Brian, who I met through a young adult’s small group at church. As he elaborates below, Brian has a really unique sense of optimism and an attitude toward life that is really refreshing.  He is an avid traveler/adventurer, a genuinely fun person to be around and maybe its because he’s a fellow writer, but I’ve always noticed and appreciated how intentional he is in his conversations with others. With all that and what I knew of his journey post-college so far, I was really looking forward to reading Brian’s answers to my questions and now I am equally excited to share his story with you.  As his friend, I also really enjoy living vicariously through his Snapchat as he chases Congressmen around the Capitol on the daily.

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Brian Cheung
Age: 24
Hometown: Rockaway, NJ
College: Syracuse University
Degree(s): Broadcast & Digital Journalism, Finance
Current Location: Washington, DC area
Current Job: Financial Journalist

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
When I was a kid, I went to a birthday party at a venue called “Imagination Station.” It was basically a big play place where you could pretend to be in different jobs (farmer, firefighter, chef). One of those booths had a make shift broadcast news set, which I ended up loving. That’s how I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

Syracuse was one of my top schools because of its journalism program. I applied, got a scholarship, and headed up to the winter tundra for four years of journalism school, where I also picked up another degree in finance.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was in a fraternity, hosted some news programs on our on-campus news station, started a community service organization with some friends called Circle K (collegiate version of Kiwanis), was part of the Cru Christian fellowship, lead campus tours, and wrote for the college newspaper.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
As you can see from the answer above it was mostly time management. By senior year I was pretty spent.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Don’t feel bad to ease up on some of your extracurricular obligations if it means spending more time to develop relationships with your professors and your friends. Some of the best people I’ve ever met were people I crossed paths with during college. With the uncertainty of where people move post grad, it’s important to cherish the time you have on campus with those people.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
After I graduated, I moved to Arlington, Va. to start a job as an analyst at the Federal Reserve. One year in, I decided I wanted to go back into journalism and accepted an opportunity to become a reporter covering banking at S&P Global Market Intelligence, an industry news organization.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
The best lessons from college came outside of the lecture halls. Through class projects, campus activities, and other experiences on campus, I had to learn how to problem solve on the fly and work with people to put together an assignment, organize a fundraiser, or broadcast a news segment. Strong communication skills, critical thinking, and leadership qualities are all intangible things that can boost your professional stock in basically any career.

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 mundane but necessary functions of being an adult: feeding yourself, not forgetting to pay your bills and/or rent, and filing taxes.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I put a lot of things on the digital calendar (Outlook, iCal).

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is my unwavering optimism. It takes a lot to break me, and I’d like to think that I can overcome any challenge I face.

My weakness is probably taking on so many challenges that I end up breaking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I like to remind myself that not only is there a purpose for doing all of these things – there’s a reason for why I’m the one doing them.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I don’t think much about work-life so much as I think about the fitness of mind-body-soul. Work and school keep the mind sharp, exercise keeps the body fit and church keeps the soul filled.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud that I’ve managed to juggle full-time work and part-time school (pursuing an M.S. in Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University) without forgetting to feed myself.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
During the weekdays, life is basically the following: sleep, work, study, exercise. They don’t always need to follow that order but I try to touch all four of those activities in a given day.

On the weekends, I really enjoy being outside: basketball, running, hiking. As someone who gets cabin fever very easily, I love to get out of the apartment and explore new places, which is easy to do in the sprawling D.C. metro area. My favorite thing to do: pick a new neighborhood I haven’t been to, hide in a local coffee shop or restaurant and study.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Stay tuned!

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
A few days a week I’ll go to the gym or run before I head to work. For me that’s a great way to get your mind and body in full working mode by 9am.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I jokingly describe myself as a “social coffee drinker” because I never really drank coffee before I started working. But as a journalist I’m always meeting with people over coffee, so I’ve been drinking coffee a lot as of late (particularly the Dunkin Donuts coffee in the Longworth House Office Building).

…but normally I drink green tea. Another must-have vice: a snack for 10am (can rarely make it between breakfast and lunch without getting hungry).

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
No limitations aside, I would be a travel journalist with a television show. My favorite things are travel and food, so naturally I would want to do exactly what Anthony Bourdain does.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the Syracuse basketball games at the Carrier Dome where I often lost my voice. I miss the late night munchies along Marshall Street and I really miss singing along to Americana jams at the college bar, Chucks. But most of all, I miss the people I used to do all those things with.

*****

Brian, thank you for taking the time out of your busy career and student double life to be a guest on this series!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Wyatt

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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One of my favorite things about doing this series is that I get to know people better, but it also means I sometimes get to catch up with people I have been friends with for a long time. Today’s profile features Wyatt, who is one of my really good friends from my childhood in Oregon. We fell out of touch a bit through college, but since moving to Virginia we’ve been able to reconnect since he lives here too, down in Williamsburg. Growing up, I remember Wyatt always being a loyal friend, extremely dedicated to whatever he was involved in and had the kind of bright personality that showed he wanted to make sure others were having fun and felt welcome. I have a lot of great memories from that friend group and while I may not know Wyatt as well in his role as a young professional, I feel confident saying that I’m sure many others would echo my thoughts. 

He also has an incredible story about finding his biological family and even wrote a book about it! It was incredibly cool to see a friend’s name on a book cover like that and even more so that he felt led to share his story with others and use it to help others.

-Amanda

Basics

Name: Wyatt Harris
Age: 26
Hometown: Hermiston, Oregon
College: University of Oregon and Saint Leo University
Degree(s): BA Chinese, International Business and MBA
Current Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Current Job: Financial Adviser with Northwestern Mutual

Background Story
I grew up in Oregon and moved out to the east coast to be closer to my better half Christina. We were only planning on being here for a couple years and now its been 6 years. During my senior year in college I found my biological parents in China and turned my journey into a story. I was fortunate enough to have the book published in China, Taiwan and the United States. With donations, corporate partnerships and royalties, the Second Chance Foundation was started with the sole purpose of bringing orphans from Taiwan to study here in the United States.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I always knew I was going to get into business/finance. My grandparents were very big into real-estate and involved with all sorts of business transactions. I chose the University of Oregon to avoid letting my family down as most of us are UofO alumni. Being a Chinese kid in a primarily white society in Hermiston, I was not exposed to the Chinese culture/history. So, I decided that I wanted to learn more about my heritage.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I did an internship in Taiwan for Daikin, a Japanese air conditioning company. I was also very active in student life groups and organizations on campus.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
My biggest challenge in college would be the balancing of school work and social life. The one thing I regret to this day was not enjoying college enough. I was so focused on my classes and graduating early, I missed out on a lot of fun college life. I did however save my parents a year of tuition, but still wish I had another year under my belt experiencing Autzen stadium and the crowd cheering during our home games.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Meet with a financial adviser in your local area to discuss the value of building sound credit. Also to review what the most common benefits employers are offering so when you get that first job, you know what a 401(k) is and the difference between Roth and IRA.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I enjoy meeting new and current clients and discussing more about my clients personal, professional and financial goals. I work with my clients daily to plan for retirement by utilizing IRA’s, 401(k), 403(b) etc. One of biggest responsibility is to protect my client’s goals by using tools like Life Insurance, Disability or Long Term Care.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Networking and learning how to carry myself both personally and professionally to be approachable.

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 feel like I really understand exactly what career I wanted to be in.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Linked In, Good Mobile.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Strengths- Follow-up
  • Weakness- Time management

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I have a strong vision and purpose for why I come in early and stay late. The biggest thing I would suggest when stepping into a new scary position would be to avoid having a plan B. That moment in your career that you have a bad day/week, you will resort to plan B and potentially regret not sticking it out.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
My vision revolves around travel, Christina and our four-legged kid. We go to the beach during the summers and hiking during the cooler parts. It’s important to remember that we work hard to play hard. But, to always remember that your career won’t always be there, but your best friend will be.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Being able to buy a brand-new house by age 26.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I play soccer, visit breweries and really enjoy being in the outdoors.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Long term goals include being Managing Partner one day for the Virginia or Oregon offices.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Have enough of my favorite toothpaste.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Lotion, chap stick and my Easy Button.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Pilot. My heart and soul belongs in the air. I’m continuously watching Youtube videos of airplanes landing and taking off.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Artichoke dip at 1 a.m. with my friends.

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I was a little bummed this was the only photo I could find of Wyatt and I together in my files, because I am positive that there are more somewhere. But on the other hand, this does show quite a few of my favorite people from growing up 🙂

Wyatt, thank you so much for taking the time to share a bit of your story. Looking forward to the next time we can catch up when you are in Arlington!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

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?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

*****

Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!