Young Professionals in an Old Professional’s World

Skylar Vukasin

In order to succeed in business you need to secure a well-paying job; in order to land a well-paying job you need experience; in order to gain experience, a company must take a chance and hire the young college graduate.  It’s an age-old dilemma, yet somehow college graduates still end up being turned down by employers because they want someone with experience. We’ve all heard or asked the question,  “how am I supposed to get experience if no one hires me?”  

We’ve all heard the success stories, the ones our professors tell us about where graduates with bachelor’s degrees land jobs with some of the top companies in the nation. We all have similar potential and the education to obtain these same internships that lead to those hired positions, but not all of us will because there are only a few positions offered and thousands of students applying for them.

So, what do the people who don’t get the Google, Nike, Deloitte or KPMG internships (the ones that lead to a future hire) do to be noticed, seen or to simply stand out? When GPA’s don’t seem to matter and you already have a LinkedIn bio to tell people why you’re a great hire, how can we be top-notch and different?

For those of us who didn’t get the foot-in-the-door job/internship, what can we do to stand out in a world where experience is still the primary driving factor behind a job offer? We still have to fight for our place in the conference room. We still have to prove to our superiors, colleagues and future employers that we’re not just another one of “those millennials”. You know the ones I’m talking about – the lazy, know-it-all, millennials that also have no work ethic. In order to avoid some of those stereotypes, here are some tips from my own experience, as well as some of my peers, on how to stand out.

  1. Dress for success. The ever-expanding tech and startup world may allow for a more relaxed and casual dress code, but many companies still want their employees to look and act professionally.  
  2. Be confident, but not a know-it-all. Just because you understand technology and the internet does not make you smarter or better than your colleagues.
  3. Don’t overstate your accomplishments. You know what you are and aren’t capable of. Don’t say you’re an experienced website designer just because you’ve logged into the backend of a website once or twice.
  4. Learn from your older colleagues – after all, it is experience we’re after and they have it.
  5. Teach your colleagues what you know about technology and new trends. The more they can know and learn from you, the more they’ll trust and respect you.
  6. Challenge yourself. There’s a lot you still don’t know – be open to learning it.
  7. Speak up, but don’t overstep. This is a tricky one. This is a “know when to speak” kind of word of advice. Offer your ideas, because as obvious as it may seem, not everyone thinks like you and it may not have been thought of before.
  8. Never think something isn’t your responsibility because it wasn’t in your “job description”. Go above and beyond. It’s usually noticed, and if it’s not, at least you know you’re doing your absolute best.
  9. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Paving your way often leads to doing things for others to either fill time gaps or prove your worth, while this is great, know when to say no – you’re not everyone’s assistant.
  10. Ask questions. No one grows by doing the same thing all day, every day. Keep learning from those around you as well as other resources.
  11. Read. You hear it from your professors and guest speakers all the time. “The most successful people read every day”. Not only is reading one of the best ways to learn, but it’s also a way to calm down, decompress and take your eyes off a screen for a while. Additionally, reading for fun or leisure is much more enjoyable when there’s no school deadline attached to it.
  12. Make time for fun. Don’t get so caught up in trying to prove yourself that you forget about taking care of yourself. Enjoy your time off and make time for it. Burnout is popular among ambitious young professionals – work for a living, don’t live for work.

Your first “real job” is terrifying, but also an exciting opportunity. Establish that you deserve to be there and you are ready to handle any task that is thrown your way. Once you get through the door and have the job, it’s not all downhill from there. Quite the opposite actually, now it’s time to work your ass off. Good luck!

Do what you love, and F***k anyone who tells you different

I sit here writing this after a long weekend of class, ironically listening to Paramore’s song “Pressure”, trying to wrap my brain around everything that has been going on in my life thus far.  I’m about to graduate in two months, and the question that not only gets asked everyday, but haunts my dreams, is what do I want to do when I graduate.

Let’s back track six years ago to my first day at the University of Montana.  I had declared a vocal performance major due to a scholarship I had received through the School of Music.  Not necessarily knowing if I wanted to go the performance route, I knew I had to pursue something in music.  About two years into the program I didn’t feel like performing opera was going to do it for me as a career.  Don’t get me wrong, singing in different languages at ungodly high notes was rad, but if I wasn’t going to perform or teach what was I going to do.

I had heard some students talk about the Entertainment Management program through the School of Business, so with curiosity I took the Entertainment Management 101 class.  Fast forward to today.  Two months to graduation.  And all because of that one class I will be graduating with a degree in Marketing, minor in Music, and certificate in Entertainment Management.  Through the University of Montana I have been able to do marketing for huge tours, run VIP events, and learn from industry professionals.  But I have also been to conferences, music festivals, and met people who have taught me more than I have learned just sitting in a classroom.

I have had numerous conversations with my peers, students of different majors, and people who have sat at my bar rail at Buffalo Wild Wings who have straight up laughed at the fact that I want to make music a career.  I have been asked how would you make a living doing that? How will you ever have a family with a schedule like that? Why aren’t you wanting a career in something a little more practical, that has some job security?

After trying to explain my reasoning a million times, the only answer I have left, is it’s my passion, it’s what drives me, it’s what makes me a better person, and to be honest at times it’s what has kept me alive.  

If you were to ask your favorite artist what made them want to be in music, someone promoting shows in your local area, someone who created a festival from the ground up, or a band who travels in a van touring around the country why they are pursing music, could probably give you a similar answer.

For some people they have found success in music not going to college, which is honestly so inspiring.  College isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, that degree I am about to receive in two months is something that millions of people all over the world may have.  It doesn’t make me better than anyone else, but it’s something I felt like I had to complete in order to start the next chapter in my life.  

One thing I do know is what my passion is, and that’s music.  Music has been what has brought me to school, and you bet your ass it’s what I will be doing the rest of my life.  It has to be.  Ever since I was little sitting in front of my parents stereo, doing some weird rendition of the chicken dance, music has been a part of me.  It’s what I turn on when I wake up, and what I’m listening to when I go to sleep.  For me a life or career without some facet of music isn’t a fulfilling life for me.

Below is one of my favorite lyrics that has always resonated with me, and is a constant reminder of why I do what I love, and fuck anyone who tells me different.

“Someday I hope to make it clear to you that success is not determined by leather bound books and ink on paper, but rather the passion that I have found out of heartbreak and anger. I know that happiness is stability, but stability is not a desk job. And I refuse to sacrifice my aspirations for an income and security.”

-“Nineteen” by Movements


Blog by: Chanelle Paakkonen

Photo by: Chanelle Paakkonen