I’ve officially held my big boy corporate job for a few days now, which in the internet world means I’m totally an expert in being a professional human being. In reality, the 6 years I spent in college do make me somewhat of an expert on the things professors tell you and how the entire atmosphere paints a certain picture in your mind of what the real world is like.
One of my best characteristics that doesn’t make me cool at all is that I learn and adapt to my environment quickly. This lets me assimilate and blend into the culture even if I still don’t feel completely at home in it. So, based on 6 years of college and 5 days of working in a corporate environment, here is what I’ve noticed about the transition from college and the things you learn there and how it translates into the real world.
Going to college lets you push the reset button on your life and gives you the opportunity to be who you want to be. This is especially useful if you were the loser weirdo freak in high school that always got made fun of and didn’t have many friends.
On the other side of that, if you were the super popular star quarterback kind of person in high school, no one cares once you get to college. Sure the people in your Podunk hometown will still know your name and remember that one time you did something cool, but that’s it. In college, everything you did in high school is pointless.
But hey, you’re a cool guy, so you parlay that awesomeness into college. You join a frat/sorority. You play intramural sports. You join some clubs. Whatever tickles your pickle. The problem is that you aren’t the only one doing these things. You’re not the only smart person. You’re not the only one that enjoys helping homeless people. You’re not the only one that can shoot 3’s (there are other white guys that play basketball, too).
|This is your life now.|
The point is that college makes you realize that your parents telling you that you’re special is a lie. If anything, it means that other kind of special because you constantly run into people who are smarter, better looking, more athletic, more skilled, and all around way more awesome than you are. And that’s okay, because there’s a silver lining.
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey buddy, aren’t you about to contradict yourself?” Well first of all I’m not your buddy, pal. Second, I have a Master’s degree so I can do what I want. See, while you may not be that great of a person compared to all of your other fellow college students, there’s a niche out there somewhere that you belong in. You just have to find it.
|Believe it or not, there’s a place for him. I don’t know where it is, but there’s a place.|
While I pride myself on knowing a little something about almost anything, I absolutely don’t belong at NASA because I don’t have the skill set to be productive there. If I had majored in aerospace engineering or something like that, it would be a different story. NASA probably doesn’t think I’m that great, but the people I work for now sure do.
Granted it took me 5 months from the time I graduated college to find someone that thought I was awesome, but that’s just because I have an English degree and those aren’t exactly hot commodities these days. See, our society is set up to be easy, but because there are so many people that are too stupid and incapable of doing simple things, it becomes necessary for the capable people to spend anywhere from 20-100k in tuition to obtain a piece of paper that basically says “Hey, this guy can do this.” And for us it isn’t a problem. It’s a bit of an inconvenience and it takes a bit of time, but in a decade or so the loans are paid off (you hope) and you still have 2-4 solid decades of performance in you to be the kind of awesome you want to be.
Even for someone like me who never suffered alcohol poisoning or the effects of a mega-hangover or whatever happens to you when you do ecstasy, my college life was fraught with more health issues in 6 years than I had in my entire lifetime.
For starters, I learned that I’m a part of 5% of Americans that get kidney stones. If you’ve never had a kidney stone, just imagine someone repeatedly stabbing your lower back with a rusty, jagged railroad spike. But the fun doesn’t end there. See, when you get the stone from your kidney to your bladder, you start playing Russian Roulette with your bladder and wiener as to when that stone will come shooting out of you. And when it does, you know it. Just imagine taking that same rusty, jagged railroad spike and ramming it right up your pee hole.
On top of that, I started losing the hair on the top of my head and found it growing out of my nose, ears, and back (mmm, sexy). My body also decided to stop processing cholesterol and instead produce an unholy amount of stomach acid. It’s at this point that all of those Nexium and Prilosec commercials you see on TV becomes highly applicable to your life and you start paying attention.
|I have more in common with him than I’d like.|
It’s a little depressing, especially considering you assume you’re always going to feel the way you do on the inside for the rest of your life. You don’t think about developing problems as you get older. You assume what you’ve got going on now will always be going on. Nope. It isn’t a slow occurrence either. You just wake up one day and its part of your life now. And you continue to lose bodily abilities you took for granted and then you die.
Maturity is actually being able to do the sort of boring grown up things you used to hate doing without dreading them. When I moved to Mooresville, I had to change my address at the bank, switch my car insurance, change my info at the DMV, set up utilities, and deal with Time Warner Cable. Was it fun? No. Was it a little inconvenient? Yeah. But the weird part was that I didn’t mind it because I was setting my own happiness up. I knew I was going to have to fight with Time Warner Cable because they’re an awful company, but when the first bill came in and they had charged me over $100 more than what I signed up for, I was actually looking forward to ruining someone’s day other than mine.
I’ve also lost the ability to sleep in, but where the maturity comes into play is the fact that I actually don’t mind waking up early because I can go ahead and get stuff done and have the rest of the afternoon and evening to do whatever I want to do, which isn’t really much of anything.
Other ways people become more mature is by taking a genuine interest in politics and tracking their progress and how it ultimately affects their taxes and such. If I ever get that mature, I’ll be on other medication besides Prilosec and Lipitor because I’ll also become really, really boring. I hate politics mainly because I know that absolutely nothing I do will effect what happens. The closest American election in history was decided by 2 votes, and the guy that lost ended up winning anyway after a Senate mandated re-vote. So there.
My advantage as opposed to most other people is that I can take an L. If the majority of the people vote in a guy that I don’t care for, then fine. Whatever. That’s the guy in authority for a period of time and I can live with it. What I can’t stand are the people that, for example, want Obama to fail or were actually happy that guy threw the shoes at Bush. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the President or not. He’s your leader. You still respect him and be a good citizen.
Okay let’s get back on topic here. All through college, from the freshman English classes to the senior seminars that are hyper-focused on your major, professors tell you that nearly everything you do is a reenactment of the corporate world.
In reality, compared to the corporate world, there isn’t as much of a reward for being awesome in college. See, all high school is for is to get you into whatever college you want as long as you make good grades. Once you get to college, all it’s for is to equip you with the skills you need to succeed in whatever profession you want to join. If you do well in college, you don’t get rewarded unless you’re one of the brown-nosers who gets all the scholarships and awards. But let’s be honest, those people aren’t reading this.
|Yeah she’s going to be fine.|
The professional world rewards you for doing good work assuming you have a good supervisor. The reward is more visibility and higher pay. You pay the college no matter how good you do. In college, you have to push through a lot of work you absolutely hate doing to get to where you want to be. In the corporate world, assuming you get a job you like, you’re constantly doing things that you, at the very least, don’t mind doing.
My day-to-day task is writing marketing copy for the company’s website. Is it exciting? No, but it’s something I don’t come in each day dreading. You dread going to classes in college. You dread finals, even if you know the material. By the time you get a real job, all of that should go away.
“Ok you definitely can’t contradict yourself twice in the same article.” Remember, I have a Master’s degree in English, which means I have a mastery of the language, including syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Me-1, you-0. Remember that.
See, corporate jobs are a lot like college in the sense that you have assignments to complete and submit. You have meetings. You learn new skills (just because you graduated doesn’t mean you stop learning). In some cases you can join the company softball team. The bigger corporations, like the one I’m at, actually have dining halls you can go to. You have an ID badge that can be used to pay for food and such, too.
The problem is that you don’t really know what aspects to prepare for and which ones don’t really apply until you get the job you want and discover what the environment is all about. The key is to not worry about it. Control what you can control. Put yourself in the best position possible to stand out and be that awesome person that one other person on this planet thinks is awesome.