When I was 17 and starting college at a small community college, if anyone was to ask me what my plan was, it was almost guaranteed that they would get a bogus answer without me even realizing it. I was starting college with no true direction and didn’t have my eyes on the big picture. I was living in the “now” and just taking every aspect of life on a day-by-day basis. Fast forward about five years and here I am now, looking back on those days as I tell myself, “Wow. I’m glad I woke up.”
I’ve made a lot of forward-progress during these recent crucial years of my life and I’m sharing a little of my story, not to brag, but in hopes that you can take some good from it as 2017 takes off. As you read about my journey, think about how you can integrate similar (or even better!) experiences and mindsets into yours.
If someone were to ask what my goal after college was during my first few years of school, my answer would have been simply to just make it. At the time, I was complacent with being an “average joe.” Go to class, do homework/get good grades, go to work, sleep, repeat. I figured that if I got my bachelor’s degree, I’d have no trouble finding a job and being an average member of society.
A few years went by and I finished my general education courses, got my associate’s degree from Jefferson Community and Technical College, and then transferred to the University of Louisville to pursue my bachelor’s degree. During this time, I woke up and realized that it was beyond necessary to capitalize on the important keys to success that I had surrounded myself with. I was maintaining a high GPA, had good relationships with some great professors, and was working. I saw so many students creating successful paths for themselves and was ready to do to the same beyond what I was already doing. I’m not sure exactly how I realized this. Maybe it was the atmosphere, influence of my classmates, or the constant advice that professors would flood into our minds. I can’t pinpoint it, but I can definitely say I had a spark where I craved success beyond the norm and I certainly don’t ever plan on changing that.
From that moment on, regardless of where I stood in any aspect, I told myself that I was behind. Never mind the high GPA, good relationships, and work experience. In order to not be complacent with being average, I had to be “behind” and stand out. Even if someone was to tell me that I was way ahead for my age, in my mind, I was behind. This mindset made me constantly hungry for more and to go after it full-speed. My goal of being average was gone, and I was ready to consistently push myself beyond the limit.
That was my motivator. Not only did I use that in school, but also outside with my job. I make sure to share knowledge, learn from everyone, and provide value in every position I hold. I was fortunate enough to get my first full-time job in 2015 with a great company that I’ve been with since I graduated high school. To have a good full-time job before even finishing school was like a dream come true, and I felt on top of the world. However, I did not (and never will) let complacency take over again.
Things really started to click in the 2015–2016 school year. If I had a dollar for every time that someone said internships are crucial to your development, I would probably have been able to take a lavish vacation. Internship opportunities were all over the place thanks to the university and some excellent professors. We all know how beneficial they are, too. My dilemma was that I was working full-time and worried I wouldn’t be able to land one of the many internships because a 40-hour work week and school was already giving me a full plate.
Well, you don’t know till you try, right? Standing down would be letting complacency take over. It’s easy to run away from something that seems difficult, but those who want to stand out don’t do that. With that being said, one day on campus I decided to make a visit to Dr. Karen Freberg, the best professor I have ever had, and start exploring these opportunities. The goal was to find out how I can integrate more experience on top of the responsibilities I already had.
The assistance that Dr. Freberg offered led me to working with a team of six to build a social media campaign for the Louisville Bats, which we were able to assist with implementing at the beginning of their 2016 season. After that, she got me connected with the folks here at Front Office Sports, who were happy to bring me on board and have been a stellar group to work with since then. She also gave me the opportunity to experience ESPN College Gameday behind the scenes as a VIP with her (which I was also able to cover on Snapchat for FOS!) and assisted me in landing an internship with University of Louisville Athletics as a video and broadcast intern. Amidst all of this, she also helped me build a mindset to teach myself how all of my experiences can be integrated into skills that I can bring into any workplace.
Every single one of these commitments was manageable with my schoolwork and full-time job. Sure, I didn’t sleep much and wasn’t able to have a social life every weekend, but those are minor sacrifices for a major payoff. I’ve built a lot of meaningful connections who have shared expertise and taken chances on me, talked with some of the biggest influencers in my field of study, made some amazing memories, and ultimately built skill sets that I can take with me everywhere I go. You’d be surprised how applicable anything can be with your field of study, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
I recently graduated with my B.A. in Communication with a 3.9 GPA, was recognized as the University’s Outstanding Senior in Communication, and have a full-time job with a development path. I finished college with confidence, connections, experience, and drive. None of this would have been possible had I let myself stay in the mindset of being complacent.
Again, by no means am I here to brag. I’m here to offer all of you some motivation and share what I’ve learned in hopes of it being helpful to your journey. As you all head into the new year, I highly recommend pushing yourself further than you think is even possible, because it is. No matter what your circumstance is, there ARE opportunities out there that you can manage within your realm of responsibility. You may have to sit out on nights out with friends, hold off on taking vacations, etc., but tell yourself you’re using your personal time to build your brand in a crucial time of your development. Set goals, exceed them, and then make more. Within that, build your skill set and create mutually benefitting relationships.
Here are a few quotes that helped me.
- “How you handle things determines your consequence.”
- “Limit is another word for complacency.”
- “Anybody can have a vision, but a stand out uses willpower and hard work to turn that vision into a reality.”
I wish everyone the best of luck. If any of you would like to connect, I’d welcome the opportunity to hear about your story and learn from each other. You can reach me via Twitter (@Kostellic), LinkedIn, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).