The Easy-Breezy Struggles of a Former 22-Year-Old
(Editor’s Note: Dan Roth of LinkedIn recently asked me to contribute to his #IfIWere22 series. Influencers share their own career journey with new college graduates. The following is my reflection of what I learned at 22).
I’m 51 years-old, and damn it if 22 doesn’t feel like yesterday.
And some days, 22 feels like a lifetime ago.
In 1985, I had just graduated from Quinnipiac College (now Quinnipiac University), in Hamden, CT. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication, I was hell-bent on launching my radio news career. I had great contacts and mentors, and a bit of professional on-air experience. The harsh reality was that broadcasting was an extremely difficult field to break into, and to keep a job.
Having lived away at school for four years, you can understand my reluctance to return to my parent’s house in Edison, New Jersey. But reality beckoned me back to my old bedroom, a rent-controlled unit (free) which included food, laundry facilities, and general run of the house. My responsibility was to make monthly payments on my 1981 Chevy Camaro and two student loans. One of the few rules was to come home at night.
Central New Jersey was a great place to grow up because it’s sandwiched between New York and Philadelphia. The challenge for an aspiring broadcaster is that it’s one of the most competitive media markets in the country.
At 22, I had landed part-time weekend gigs at two different radio stations. Out of a necessity for money and a job, I went to work at an international shipping company based at the World Trade Center in New York. To this day, I don’t remember applying for the job and I certainly had no interest in being there. In my spare time, I prayed for a full-time news position that paid poverty wages and required working nights and weekends.
When my friends were planning vacations to the Caribbean, I joked that I was going to the islands, too. Coney, Staten, and Long.
Every day for three months, I would put on my work clothes, drive to the train station in nearby Metuchen, and take a train and a subway into ‘the City.’ I wore my clunky Sony Walkman headphones; Scandal’s “The Warrior” was the big summer song.
I worked on the 11th floor of Tower 2. At lunchtime, I would venture outside and eat by the fountains, people-watching and enjoying the absolute beauty of the iconic buildings. I often wondered what I was doing there. It was so tempting to just take the escalator downstairs and ride the PATH train back to Jersey. Would anyone miss me?
On the weekends, I recorded my newscasts. I made cassette copies, which were needed to apply for on-air jobs. An air check often carried more clout than a résumé.
The odd thing about my schedule was that I didn’t realize I was working seven days a week.
One Friday, a co-worker in New York asked if I had plans for the weekend. She was dumbfounded when I told her I worked in radio, and she was even more shocked that I worked every day of the week.
It didn’t seem to faze me. It’s what I had to do to succeed in my field. And get out of my weekday job. It took exactly three months.
Life Goes On
After 10 years of working in radio news, I went on to serve as Deputy Director of NJ Governor Christie Whitman’s Office of Radio and Television, started a software marketing company with a former colleague, and worked as PR director for a statewide nonprofit. In 2000, I launched my PR, news and social media training company. In between, I got married, had two children and moved to San Antonio, TX.
#IfIWere22, I wish I had known:
- To take some business classes, even after graduation.
- There is a huge difference between surrendering and giving up.
- How to love myself unconditionally, just as G-d has created me. I am enough.
- To take pictures at the World Trade Center to remind me how stunning and glorious those Towers once were.
- The importance of a quiet mind and a peaceful soul.
- How to better manage my finances.
- To take my typing class seriously.
- There are no accidents or coincidences. The world is unfolding exactly the way it should be.
- Hobbies unrelated to work are essential.
- Everything I swore I would never do…I have done.
- There are no ordinary moments.
Looking back, I had that “entrepreneurial spirit” but I don’t recall ever thinking I would own a business. Until 14 years ago. And I never imagined I would be in sales and would travel around the country speaking and training. Please refer to No. 10 above.
My advice to 22-year-olds:
- There are no shortcuts; put your head down and work.
- Be persistent, patient, and resilient.
- Believe in yourself and honor your values. You are so much better than you think you are.
- Develop a positive mindset and be a lifelong learner. Professional and personal development are integral to success.
- Work on your communication skills, as the experiences you have in every job and relationship will depend on your verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Help people solve their problems and the universe will bring you abundances beyond your wildest imagination.
- Avoid being a crap magnet.
- Ask good questions. When you ask quality questions, you get quality information.
- Schedule time to think.
- Keep promises, especially the ones you make to yourself.
- Express gratitude every day.
I hope the 22 nuggets above will help you along your journey.