Graduation and Tension
by Alex Shippee in Labels: , ,

I don’t know how it works at other schools, but Marist College has a week between the end of finals and graduation called ‘Senior Week.’ I woke up that first Saturday – my last final behind me by only 17 hours – and felt an uplifting sense of freedom. I went for a run across the Mid-Hudson Bridge; I traveled near Vassar to eat dumplings and drink bubble tea at an Asian/Argentinean restaurant; I cracked open a book I didn’t have time to read before; and I spent time with my friends playing kickball. It was fantastic.

Graduation has come and gone and, with it, so has that uplifting feeling of Senior Week. Now, I feel a sort of stress and tension. I’m in a state of transition for the first time where I don’t know the outcome. I might fail, I might succeed, or I might stagnate. But I don’t think it’s something I need to be truly afraid of. Robert Greene says, “You have nothing to fear from moments of transition. You welcome, even create them. Whenever you feel rooted and established in place, that is when you should be truly afraid.”

So I think this tension is a good thing. It will help push me in the right direction and keep me focused. In the end, I’ll only be in someplace new, not in some place worse.

One Day
by Alex Shippee in Labels: , ,

This past week, I went on my first interview that wasn't at either a restaurant or a farm. And it was stressful. I brought several copies of my resume and a portfolio of my recent work and hoped for the best. I was expecting to be dragged through a fire.

The man who interviewed me, though, was extremely friendly. This put me at ease and my nerves started to settle. I listened comfortably as he talked and I began to wonder when I'd be asked one of those stock interview questions everybody dreads: "What would you say is your biggest weakness?", "Where do you see yourself in five years?", or, my favorite, "Tell me a little bit about yourself." They're questions that seem honest enough, but are asking you how good you are at selling yourself.

As I reflect a little more on my first interview, I think it might be silly to resent or dread these questions. Preparation is a very important part of job interviews, but it starts sooner than we usually think. If you're applying to the right company, agency, firm, etc. than you've found, hopefully, some place you really want to work at. When they ask you "What is your biggest weakness?" you know they're really asking "How could your deficiencies keep you from succeeding if you get this job?" And you should know that.

I want to work in Public Relations because I love stories. I love to read them, I love to write them, but more than anything, I love to be a part of them. I live for that moment when I can accomplish something extraordinary enough to be worth talking about. I can be impatient though. I want to do something and hear that applause as soon as possible. That reliance on instant gratification is extremely limiting because all the greatest things take time.

That saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day,"is unavoidable. And everything, from building an Empire to finding the right job, takes a corresponding amount of work according to its value. It's hard to remember that when you're struggling through the trenches but, one day, it'll all be worth it.

Compliments vs. Encouragement
by Alex Shippee in Labels: ,

When I usually go to my professors’ office hours, it’s to talk about an assignment or at least with a solid question in mind about some piece of literature. We’d go back and forth for a while until one of us would have to go to class, to either attend or teach. It was an invigorating experience to have a fast-paced dialogue with somebody who knew so much more than me and I’d spend the rest of those days exuberant with the afterglow. This semester, though, it has been different because I’m finishing my undergrad degree and leaving those professors behind.

Today, I had to meet with my philosophy professor about an assignment, but he was with somebody. I decided to visit with one of my favorite English professors and to ask her a question about my favorite book, Dante’s “Inferno.” We discussed it for a while, like usual, but we quickly switched to my plans for after college. I mentioned that, a couple years down the line, I might like to go to graduate school.

Every so often, for a reason that usually perplexes me, somebody will pay me a compliment. That’s what happened to me today. My professor told me she had confidence in my abilities and that she could write a great letter of recommendation for me if I would ever want it. My philosopher professor, whom I’ve known personally for the last two years, said much the same thing: he would love to write a letter of recommendation for me and thinks I’ll do great after college. I didn’t know what to say.

Compliments feel great. We guard ourselves against flatterers so much that we become wary of any praise or positive feedback. Occasionally, though, somebody in a position of authority will bestow you with a legitimate vote of confidence and it can be overwhelming. If it’s unsolicited, it feels even better. But compliments exert a sort of negative momentum that can be dangerous and keep you from moving forward. It’s important to not see them as compliments, but as encouragement that you’re on the right track and that you need to keep going.

If something derails you from continuing your effort to contribute to the world, even if it’s meant as a good thing, then it’s only doing you harm. Marcus Aurelius has a great line about how, “The object of praise remains what it was – no better and no worse.” More than that, genuine compliments or praise should inspire you to become worthy of that high estimation. I’ve been the worst of offender of savoring the sensation of praise, but as I’m about to leave college, my comfort zone, I have the encouragement of my professors to remind me that I’ll be alright, as long as I continue trying.

Easy Come, Easy Go
by Alex Shippee in Labels: , , ,

There aren’t many easy prospects for an English major leaving undergrad to face a difficult job market. Accounting majors become professional accountants. Journalism majors become professional journalists. Engineering majors become professional engineers. So what do English majors become?

Anything. My background didn’t prepare me a single field to put all my hopes in, but showed me that enthusiasm and dedication can yield positive results. I love the authors I’ve read over the past four years and I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. I’ve learned valuable things from some of the greatest thinkers from throughout the span of human existence.

One of my favorites has been Niccolo Machiavelli. In “The Prince” he said: “Consequently, those opportunities favored these men, and with their skill they seized the opportunity…Those who becomes princes through such skill acquire their principality with difficulty, but retain it with ease.”

Right now, I’m trying to find work in Public Relations and I couldn’t be more excited. Or hopeful.

A background an English in a difficult job market is a good thing. If it’s going to be more difficult for me to find a job, then I’ll work harder to find one I like, and make sure it’s something I really want to do. I’ll “retain it with ease” because it wasn’t an easy fit, but rather a hard won opportunity.