Welcome to the real
Task one: climb through a pile of construction remnants, squint hard and imagine, in place of the debris, the walls that will become my office.
Task two: wait in limbo, do busy work and anticipate the end of construction and the official start of my first real job.
Task three: wait one more week for construction to finish before digging into my new job.
Task four: wait one more week.
Task five: start my job amid a flurry of activity while the university president, governor, congressmen and other dignitaries visit for a dedication ceremony. You've got to be kidding me.
It's not what I imagined, this real world business. I'm not sure what I imagined. Perhaps something with a bit less ambiguity. Perhaps something with a bit more direction. Certainly not something that would be more educational in four months than my four years of college.
I always thought I would spend the first couple years of my career in a mundane entry-level position, proofreading for eight hours a day and getting all the tasks no one else wanted. Instead, I got a job as public relations coordinator in the most amazing environment imaginable: NDSU Downtown.
What a beautiful example of transition and growth. After spending nearly 100 years as a warehouse and sitting vacant for seven more, NDSU Downtown has sprung to life once again. Everywhere you look, old and new collide as students and faculty fill each room with energy and creativity. I find myself smack-dab in the middle of a state of the art facility, surrounded by students, art, design and incredible history. Could I ask for more? I have been fully submerged in transition and growth as I have left the life of a college student behind me. As NDSU Downtown has blossomed into a lively, vibrant creative learning center, I have watched and learned and grown with it.
Each day I see it in the lobby, welcoming visitors to NDSU Downtown: a battered, weathered brick wall partially covered with layer upon layer of old wallpaper. Jagged edges of sand-colored clay peek through from behind a frame of yellowed paisley, green floral prints and bright red-and-white plaid. How many years did it take to create this unique collage? It has a beauty only time can create.
In the same way, it takes time to find our niche and become the successful individuals we are meant to be. I think of the friend who graduated with big dreams of going to Washington, D.C., and making a name for himself. He spent a summer there as a political intern, rubbing shoulders with powerful lawmakers like Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell regularly. Months later when his internship was over, he found himself back in North Dakota doing paperwork for a lobbyist. This wasn't quite the success he had dreamed of. But after paying dues for a year, he is looking forward to starting a job with U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).
Another friend had a full-time job in management information systems waiting for her before she had even graduated. She spent four months building and updating databases and soon found it horribly monotonous and boring. She knew she couldn't spend the rest of her life in front of a computer. One year after graduating, she is back in school to become a nurse.
Like these friends, I find myself in that strange space between college life and professionalism, unsure where my career will take me. I am no longer tied to term papers and all-night cram sessions, but I lack the experience I need to feel like a true professional.
I still occasionally catch myself aching to skip class when my alarm clock ruthlessly wakes me for work. I haven't had the heart to delete from my computer that project I poured sweat, blood and tears into for an entire semester. I miss rolling out of bed and into my favorite jeans - the well-worn ones that have become permanently shaped to fit me perfectly. And yet it is extremely satisfying to fight the fatigue, put on grown-up clothes, step out the door and put the skills I've learned to work doing something I love. I feel myself moving forward, putting aside my college-student tendencies and working toward my career dreams.
In the course of working toward those dreams, I have gathered valuable skills that could never be taught in a classroom. We learned in class how to handle emergency situations, but those lessons weren't real until I had water dripping on my desk from a pipe three floors above me. I was taught to speak in front of groups, but until I gave a tour of NDSU Downtown to thirty-five junior high school students, I didn't quite have the confidence to do it. Freshman math was all about problem solving, but until a department chair offered the building to two different organizations for meetings that happened to be on the same weekend - and told me to "make it work," - I hadn't lived it.
I have a long way to go to reach my full potential. In the ways of the working world, I know so little. Every day, though, I learn more about what the real world is all about. I meet new people and make new connections. One step at a time, one day at a time I am shaping my future.
-- Becca Stich