Omg. We Graduated, Now What?

Congratulations! You’ve earned a square hat and robe. You struggled through statistics or pretty much every math class (but you passed). You stayed awake in that eight o’clock class you didn’t want to take. You checked all the boxes. You made it past Professor Fill-in-tha-Blank to finish your portfolio in time. All so that you could pursue your love of Advertising. Though the days of cramming for the test in those all-nighters are over, something still makes you uneasy about the future. You’ve had a ton of reoccurring questions, like:

“Can I compete?” 

“Will I even get a job?” 

“Is my work strong enough to land at a good agency?” 

“Who can I contact on the inside to get to the right people?”

Let’s just say it, you’re AFRAID. Why? There are too many reasons that cause for the FEAR to list, so I won’t. However, I’ll give one comment and one encouragement I read to each of my classes on the last day.

Here’s the comment: Commencement isn’t the end, its the beginning (hence the term). Therefore the first day of school begins, the day you graduate and now have to make the sacrifices I mentioned above earn your living. Specifically, you know its graduation day when you have to take the things in your head and make them pay for your food, rent, clothing, transportation (you get it). Sure, they gave you a piece of paper with your name on it, but that wasn’t enough to make the doubts go away. Yeah, you have another line item on your resume now that says you’re a graduate from your university. These were all necessary steps to getting started but, no one has ever asked me to see my master’s degrees. In a field where they’ll hire the dog if his portfolio is better than yours, they’re only interested in what you can do.

So take it from me, the only thing you can really use is what you have in your head. Begin by acknowledging that the FEAR is there, take a deep breath, and get off to school. Sure, that FEAR will go with you, but it can’t stop you from trying (unless you let it).

Now for the encouragement. Think of it as a note from your parents in your lunchbox.

Parting wisdom for students.

I’ve enjoyed seeing all of you accept the challenge to grow at your individual rates. I’m extremely proud of you all, but understand that the hardest work starts now.

Think about this: What will you do when you don’t have to do anything? What kind of work will you do when there is no one pushing you? Will you use the time to explore when there aren’t any deadlines, or when there isn’t anyone familiar with design challenging you? Will you really seek the ideas past your first few and then develop each idea as many times as it takes? What you do will determine how well you do this, and in that choice lies the difference between a job and a passion.

Will you go for the instant praise with mediocre work, or will you continue to go through the process for yourself? Will you continue to explore and reach to surpass your best effort every time? Will you continue to seek answers through research, thus choosing to grow instead of reinventing the wheel? Will you step up to the plate and compete to raise your own standard and level of work? Will you desire to keep yourself sober by raising your tolerance for direction and criticism. Will you really seek to separate yourself from the work and view critical thinking and verbal critique as something crucial to your survival in this profession. Will you commit yourself to expanding your knowledge of strategy and thus growing to meet the needs of your clients?

Understand that I taught you ‘my way’, but the creative process is ‘the way’. Designing to the problem leads to an outcome but the process of creating doesn’t end. I’ve enjoyed giving you all I have and I hope it’s benefited you. I’ve learned the most over time from my friends whether they were my professors, peers or colleagues; that’s why I try to reach you as friends. I want you to understand that because I learn and benefit from you as well.

Remember that your learning environments are the purest form of creativity, take advantage of them in whatever form, school, or job they come in. You aren’t here to do what is acceptable in the real world now, you’ll do enough of that when the time comes, you are here to explore and define what can be possible in the future.

Use what you have.