Posted by: joha5 | April 22, 2010

If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now.

As I so often do, I went to a networking function last night.  The absolute hardest part about networking is just building up enough momentum to go.  It is never that bad once I get there and I almost always have really great – or at least pleasant – discussions with all kinds of different people about all kinds of different things.  I can’t really articulate why I hate getting myself motivated to go.  It seems like such a superfluous process.  I always end up going and it always ends up never being as bad as I thought.  You would think that I would just learn this, accept it, and move on.  But I don’t. 

Last night’s event was held in some backroom of a hotel in Bethesda, Maryland.  The reason for the function was for newly admitted students and their parents to come and talk to Dickinson College alumni to either answer their pending questions on what to expect or to help these potential students make up their mind about where to go.  This time 10 years ago – almost to the day – I was in the throes of deciding where to go and what to do.  It was awful.  I think I applied to something like 10 schools and ended up be admitted to 3, wait listed at 2, and rejected from 5.  I ended up committing to go to Mary Washington and gave them $500 to hold my place and then another $500 to hold my place at Dickinson while I decided.  After many discussions, lists made of pros and cons, and seeking advice from current students and faculty at both schools, I decided waving goodbye to Mary Washington and my $500 and finally decided on Dickinson.  For me, this was the best decision but I only know this through hindsight.

If I was to go back and do the college search all over again knowing what I know now, I would never have asked some of the questions that I did.  I was reminded of this last night when I heard students talking about what the new science building was like, how often they went to the cafeteria, or how late the computer lab was open.  10 years ago, these things concerned me.  Of course they would.  I was making a huge decision and each detail seemed like it mattered.  Only it didn’t.  I am 6 years out of college and I could not answer any of those questions posed to me above.  None of those things mattered.  What mattered was that Dickinson allowed me to organically follow certain paths of interest academically and socially.  Why somebody who doesn’t even like science would be interested in what kind of amenities the new science building has is beyond me but I suppose it seems like a big deal at the time. 

Obviously, I have lived through the experience to tell the tale and these parents and students wanted to hear my experiences.  I understand that and I was happy to oblige.  It is just is ironic to me that they would want to hear about the opportunities that I seized upon personally when their child will most likely have an unbelievably divergent path from mine.  The only thing that seems to matter is that I have walked a path, not where it has gone.  I have a ton of friends who I graduated with who are in school, unemployed, starting their own business, living abroad, working a job they love, working a job they hate, or any one of a number of things.  Dickinson did certainly set me up for being a success in a number of ways but, in the end, a lot of it has been totally on me.  I was educated and readied at Dickinson but, for the most part, I have made my own way in the world.    This is why I have a hard time wondering what it is parents want out of me exactly when they hear my story.  As long as they know that I am not a drug addict and lived in the gutter then they are happy.  However, if I was a drug addict and living in a gutter somewhere then I most likely wouldn’t be showing up to these events anyway, right?

Even though the event last night was more about the new students, I didn’t actually care about that.  As far as I was concerned it was for me to go and talk with some great friends from my college days, network with people, and have a couple of glasses of wine and some food.  The first two I was totally successful at and it made my night.  The glass of wine and food, however, did not happen.  They served Fresca and fruit.  I suppose this was because Dickinson needed to impress the parents or because the perspective students were too young to drink.  Whatever the reason was, I was happy to pay the price of reassuring parents for some discussions with good college friends and for some networking for possible jobs.  Surely seeing a body of alumni all connected to each other should be enough to assure them on its own.  I’d like to believe that but really I just think they were more reassured by the words ‘doctor’, ‘lawyer’, and ‘masters degree’ than anything else.

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Responses

  1. Very insightful Jon. I totally agree with you. While most of us are biased towards our alma maters, it really doesn’t matter where you went when discussing how you got where you are now. I’m sure my education has a lot to do with my character, but the classes I took and the dorm that I lived in junior year leaves little import.

    Speaking of networking, I wish I could attend reunion for some of the reasons you mentioned, but I’m getting married the following weekend and have absolutely NO time. Can you believe it’s been a DECADE?! OMG! We’re old. Lol.

  2. Oh, this is Jendayi, by the way.

  3. I think this is a pretty insightful post.
    The person I am now was shaped not by my alma mater, but by the experiences I had apart from academics and the institution itself. Experiences which I am sure, could have been replicated elsewhere.

    You are correct that on any tour, discussion, or interview, people are more assured by the words doctor, lawyer, or master’s degree.

    • Hi Susan! I honestly could not agree with you more. I mean, I wouldn’t have the exact same people in my life that I do now but I most certainly could have had the same (or very similar) experiences anywhere else. It really is all about the journey for me and I am so glad that you agree. As for people being assured by titles and achievements, I just wish there was a better way to really quantify what an individual has accomplished rather than giving short and unhelpful blurbs that look good on paper or sound good in a discussion. Thanks so much for reading and posting your insight. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Please check back again soon and stay in touch!

      • I am an “attorney” so in theory I impress on paper. So do many of my colleagues who prey upon under-educated, impoverished people to extract money out of them (personal injury and bankruptcy). That should certainly be proof that a title can look good on paper, and fail in the greater scheme of life.

        When I was job seeking, I identified myself as an attorney with experience in communications, PR and some marketing to differentiate myself. To a point, I reinvented my “title.” This proved invaluable in my networking as I was no longer just “Susie, the attorney with employment law experience.”

        How have you incorporated your talents in to your “title”?

      • I have indeed! It just isn’t a fun time to be job hunting at the moment unfortunately so as much as I have tried ‘diversifying my portfolio’ and expanding on my experience, it just hasn’t seemed to help as much as I would have hoped. Never the less, something will come up sooner rather than later. I have a BA, two MA’s, and great work experience so I hope to get snapped up at some point soon…although I have been saying that for countless months now! Haha! We’ll see!!


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