Five months ago, you could have told me I’d be standing where I am now and I wouldn’t have believed you. Living in Washington, D.C.? Working for a sports and entertainment company? Neither sounded appealing to me at the time because I had my mind set on one post-grad plan and one post-grad plan only: to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in film and television production. When the job offer to work at the Washington based sports company fell into my lap a few months after an introduction at the SMAD Day career fair, everything I thought about my near future was put into question.
They say when one door closes, another one opens. But what if more than one door is open? And if a door opens, does that always mean you should walk through it? These are the questions I struggled with my first few months after walking across the stage. I didn’t know the answer, but I did come to this conclusion: Some doors have time stamps. LA would always be there, but this opportunity in D.C. would not. I’m a long time fan of taking chances, so I decided to take the leap and walk through the door that led to the Capitol—or in my case, the Verizon Center—even if I didn’t know exactly where it would lead me.
In my first few months here, I have already learned so much more than ever thought I would. About myself, my craft, professionalism—and most importantly—life. Whether you are fresh out of JMU, transitioning into a new job, or eager to adapt a new mindset wherever you’re at in life now, take a peek at the five things I’ve learned in my first few months as a post-grad professional, human being, and life-liver. (Hey—that’s you!)
I think sometimes we forget that we’re only human. In a world that’s alarmingly fast paced and a job market that’s more competitive than ever, we do two things. A) Expect a lot of ourselves, and B) Expect a lot of ourselves quickly. In this process, we become frustrated, stressed out, and even burned out. In my first month on the job, I was constantly upset with myself because I wanted to be really good right away, and I was terrified of being bad all at the same time. I doubted if I was good enough (ever heard of impostor syndrome?) to be doing what I was doing; I questioned if I deserved to be there. But I found out that I wasn’t alone. 70% of millennials experience imposter syndrome, and something like 70% of the population will experience it at least once in their lifetime. Of course you’re going to have to adjust, adapt, and become versed in the programs, softwares, rules, and other things that are new to you on the job—it’s expected. Know that no one is perfect, including yourself, and that you will soon get into the swing of things in both your personal and professional life. Give yourself time to learn. Be patient with yourself. Be kind with yourself. Believe in yourself. And when it gets hard—remember—moment to moment, day to day.
Take on the intern mentality.
In your first job, or any job for that matter, you are surrounded by people who are exponentially good at what they do. Quite honestly, this scared me at first. But I came to the conclusion that you can either let this intimidate you, or you can let it inspire you. No matter what position you hold, take on what I call the “intern mentality.” In her book Yes Please, Amy Poehler said “I started improvising with people better than me and I got better myself.” Surround yourself with people who are good at what they do and love what they do. Always always always ask questions, and always observe. Prove yourself time and time again, tackle every task with enthusiasm, and always show your willingness to learn. You become better for it.
Think of these years as an investment.
In my podcast, The Last Lap, Professor Jenny Davis (JMU) mentioned something I’ll never forget. She said she’s found the best way to be an effective and functioning adult is to recognize that most of the time, you have to do things you don’t want to do. Once you get in there and get it done, you get to do the fun and rewarding stuff with no worries. When I first got to D.C., I was completely overwhelmed with budgeting and apartment hunting and starting to pay bills and student loans. My mom told me, “You have to change your perspective. Think of these years as an investment.” Both of these things are true. What you do in these next five or ten years—both career wise and in your personal life—is setting the foundation for your future in the best way possible. It will be stressful at times, but it will totally pay off later.
Connect… with everyone.
I like to call networking “connecting,” because truly, you are genuinely connecting with another human being. Don’t limit yourself to people in meetings, or at your company, or at happy hour networking events. Connect with anyone and everyone. Exciting and interesting people exist everywhere. Reach out on LinkedIn, say hello in line for your afternoon coffee —heck—spark a conversation on your metro ride home. Don’t just chat about the weather; ask them what they’re reading or what podcasts they’re listening to; talk about what you’re watching on netflix or what made them choose this city. Sell your abilities and your interests, but also be an active listener. Really get to know them; don’t just ask what, ask WHY. I promise, it’s not as weird as you think or feel. Humans just want to hear stories, share stories, and connect. I mentioned in a conversation over lunch that I like making YouTube videos, and two months later—because of that person—I was on a television pilot for our company’s network. You never know who you are (or could be) talking to; they could open your very next door.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I would have never imagined I’d be doing what I’m doing now and enjoying it. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to make detours on the way to your dream location or destination or job. Just like any trip or expedition, those detours are where you may grow and learn and experience the most unexpected beauty. As long as your dream is still alive and you are actively working towards it, you will get there. Whatever you do—just make sure what you choose isn’t out of fear. The fear of doing something is different from doing something that scares you. Listen to your gut and follow your heart. Never negotiate your dream, but be open and flexible about how you will get there.
The first few months out in a world that’s so different from what you’ve known the past four (or three, or five, or six—go you) years is overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, transitionary periods aren’t the easiest. But once I took the time to reflect and pinpoint what it was that made me feel so unlike myself, I felt so much better. Being out of my comfort zone in a way I never have been before was and still is scary at times. But I’ve learned that you can’t sit in the discomfort—you have to move with it and thrive from it.
There are many paths to success, but each path looks different to and for every individual, and so does each person’s definition of success. You’ll find that your road may look unlike everyone else’s, but that’s because it’s paved just for you. Embrace that. Trust the path, trust the process, and you’ll end up right where you’re supposed to be. Just remember to have fun, grow from every moment, and stay true to you along the way.
Once a Duke, always a Duke. Happy Homecoming!
Mia Brabham (’16) recently graduated from James Madison University in May with a degree in Media Arts & Design, a concentration in Digital Video & Cinema, and a minor in Creative Writing.
Mia has been creating a variety of YouTube videos on her channel Mia B. since 2007, gaining over 18,000 followers and 2 million video views. Last year she created and completed a 365 day blog titled A Year of Lessons, and this year, Mia produced and edited her first ever podcast The Last Lap where she interviewed 10 of her most influential JMU professors in her last 10 days of undergrad. Her original creative non-fiction essay, “Papercuts,” was published in the Fall 2015 edition of Gardy Loo, the JMU literary and arts magazine.
Her favorite JMU memories include being selected as the JMU commencement speaker, and being involved with SGA, UPB, NSCS and the Class of 2016 Ring Committee.
Mia is currently living and working in Washington D.C. as an assistant editor at Monumental Sports and Entertainment in the Verizon Center. She plans to one day live in Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry. She also hopes to one day publish her own book, direct, write, act, produce, and host her own talk show. Ultimately, Mia wants to inspire, change lives, and change the world. You can find her on Twitter @yourstrulymia_.
Enjoyed this article?
Check out her Alumni Webinar:
A Year of Lessons
Presented By: Mia Brabham (’16)
Previously recorded on Friday, May 18, 2017. 12-1pm EST
The first few months out in a world that’s so different from what you’ve known the past four (or three, or five, or six—go you) years is overwhelming. And sometimes transition periods aren’t the easiest. In this webinar, Mia Brabham will share some of the personal and professional lessons she’s learned in her first year following JMU.
Click here to access webinar recording. You will be asked to fill out a short form first, then the recording will be emailed in your confirmation.