My Personal State of the Union

My fellow postcollegiates,

 

This has been a trying time for all of us.  Between rising unemployment and decreasing wages, we have faced challenges heretofore unknown to mankind (except, you know, for almost every other generation).   We have been forced back into our parent’s basements or, even worst, enrolled in the second or third round of graduate school, all in the name of pursuing the [21st Century] American Dream (our own reality show or prestigious blog, or God willing, both.)   Just when we thought things couldn’t get work, the Oscar Nominations were announced and we realized that even Hollywood just doesn’t get us any more, man (no Bridesmaids or Young Adult?  Come on!)

But it has not been all bad.  We have taken it to the tweets (see what I did there?  Take that, Obama speechwriters!), Occupying both minds and hearts and the occasional public space.  We have been celebrated in multiple 30 under 30 and 20 under 20 and Teenagers are the New Adults lists, proving that for some of us, the ages between 22-35 aren’t a horrible series of disappointments, disillusions, and depleted funds.

Friends and fellow (young-ish) Americans, it hasn’t been an easy road for us.  But I truly do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  For if I, she who has had more jobs than boyfriends in the last three years (and definitely not in the good way) and who may or may not have floated an actual paper check to pay for tampons once in the last 12 months, can enroll in her very first retirement program this week, then truly, anything is possibleYES WE CAN!

Thank you and God Bless America.

I promise a real post soon…it has been a bizarre couple weeks and I am still in new job adjustment mode, but I have plenty of thoughts to share soon. 

 

Profiles in Post-Collegiate Courage: Jamie Durham

Calling courageous post-collegiates! Our interview series has been so popular, it’s going to be a regular blog feature!  Want to nominate a courageous post-collegiate to be featured (including yourself)?  Email postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]

As I’ve continued to write for this blog and talk to people about where my concept of post-collegiate life comes from, I keep coming around to the people in my own life who have shaped me.  One such person is Miss Jamie Durham.  Jamie is the cool big sister I never had – whether it’s deciding the best way to enjoy the weekend or trying to figure out how to juggle multiple jobs, I often find myself thinking WWJD – What Would Jamie Do?  Being just slightly older than me has given me a great opportunity to see what life in your 20s can be life if you’re smart, fabulous, resourceful, and good-humored.  Jamie, being infinitely cool, agreed to share a little bit about getting through her 20s and her career in Texas politics.

 

Miss Jamie Durham, friend of the blog

Now that I’ve gone all fan girl about you, tell the readers a little about yourself.

I grew up in a small-ish town of Lufkin, Texas. I say -ish because I graduated in a class of over 500, but it’s the type of community where you feel like you know everyone. Ended up attending Stephen F. Austin State University for college (my parents used my brand new car to keep me close to home for the first year)… and LOVED it! I grew up active in the Children of the American Revolution, so history and politics is kind of ingrained in me. SFA has a very small political science department, most of my classes had a cap of 25 students, so I got to know all of my professors well. After deciding during my Constitutional Law class that there was no way I was going to law school (I loathe briefing court cases), and my mother (a retired teacher) had made it quite clear that I was NOT going to be a teacher, I decided politics was the way to go… though I had no idea how I’d actually get there. I’ve been in Austin for five years now and love it. I stay busy with work at the Capitol, part-time work at Bath and Body Works (I celebrate my 10 year anniversary next month), as well my involvement in organizations like Daughters of the American Revolution, Children of the American Revolution, Junior League of Austin, and Austin Chi Omega Alumni Chapter. Oh, and I go to a lot of weddings and events leading up to weddings (I’m averaging 13 a year).

What was your initial career plan after you graduated from SFA?

Actually, I was already in the working world pre-graduation. I fell into a temporary job (5 months) at the Texas Capitol for the 2005 Session (which I’ll elaborate on more later), and received internship credit while working. Session came to a close at the end of May and the office liked me so much that they offered me a permanent position.

In the last four years or so, what have you done that you didn’t expect or plan to do?

I spent 5 months (two different times) out of the last year unemployed. I left a position in a Legislative office in December and wasn’t sure where I wanted to work in the political arena. I interviewed with other Legislative offices plus a few Associations and companies for various positions in the lobby field as well as a job or two outside of politics.  None seemed to be the right fit. Legislative committee assignments came down at the end of February and I was offered a position working for a House Committee. I loved the job, and the people. However, it was just a Session-only position, so come July, I was unemployed again. Once Session wraps up, open positions are few and far between. I actually started the interview process with my current job working for another House Committee in late July, but didn’t start working for them until October 1st.

I don’t think anyone ever plans to be unemployed, especially for an extended amount of time, but I really think it was good for me. I had never really been through the job interview process. In all of my previous jobs (both post-graduate and pre-graduate), I had always been hired without much of an interview. For the first time I got to take a look around at what all is out there and try a little bit of everything to decide what was going to be the best fit for me, and I’ve been so much happier since doing so. It was nerve-wracking and frustrating to not have the cash flow, but I was fortunate to have a part-time job and temporary work come up, as well as supportive and loving parents, to help me along the way.

Anyone who knows you (or reads your blog) knows that you are always on the go!  How do you juggle all of your commitments?  Any tips for people (like myself) who feel overwhelmed with trying to do it all?

You’re right, I am always on the go. I like to keep my life busy, otherwise I’d be quite the couch potato. My biggest tip for keeping it all straight? Get a calendar! I’m a very visual person, so I have my calendar hanging right by my front door. I make sure to write down all of my meetings and deadlines and that way I can get a glimpse at the month ahead every morning when I walk out the door. My other tip? Do what you want to do! Yes, I keep my social calendar full with meetings, events, and parties, but that’s clearly not the choice for everyone. I’ve always been a busy person. Growing up I was involved in dance, piano, multiple choirs, C.A.R., and church. Rarely did I go straight home after school, starting from kindergarten through graduation. The same was true in college. So it’s always been very natural for me to have something to do every day of the week. A former boss once gave me a card that said “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember, you choose how you spend your life. Don’t take on too much and don’t do anything that you don’t love.

I love that advice so much.  Can you share some of your challenges since graduating from college?

Finding balance. When you’re in school, you live by a schedule. You go to class, you study for class, you go out, rinse, repeat. Then comes the real world. Suddenly, you get to choose how you spend your time! Sure, you’re working a set schedule (or semi-set schedule, depending on your career choice). But after that, you have so much free time, and you have to decide how to fill it. You also have to make decisions about what direction you take in life. Do you concentrate on your career? Do you concentrate on personal goals? Do you concentrate on doing the grown-up thing? When do you get married? When do you have kids? When do you buy a house? I’ve found that the greatest challenge is figuring all of these things out, and realizing that you may never know for sure. You have to head down a path and hope that it’s right, or that you don’t go the wrong way for so long that you get lost trying to find your way back.

Jamie and her ever-growing fan club!

It seems as though random happenstance has played a role in the progression of your career.  Can you share a little more about that?

I feel like owe where I am today to a complete random happenstance. My best friend from high school got a job at the Capitol when she graduated from college. I was still in school and she suggested that I send her my resume and she’d pass it around when people started hiring for the Legislative Session. She gave my resume to her friend from college. Her friend from college worked across the hall from my first job. It was on a Tuesday about a week before the Legislative Session was set to convene (early January), and I get a call. This office had received my resume and was interested in having me come to Austin and work for them. My resume included some of the leadership roles and awards I’ve earned in the DAR (as well as C.A.R.), and it turned out that the Chief of Staff in this particular office was also a member of DAR, so she knew I’d be a good hire. I drove to Austin on Friday to meet the office to make sure it was a good fit, and moved to Austin on Monday and started work on that Wednesday. It still makes my head spin a little bit just thinking about it!

Finally, if you could go back and give your 22-year old self any advice, what would it be?

Probably the same thing I would say to myself if I could go back to when I graduated from high school. No matter what you think your life has in store for you, or how many plans you have, you’re not going to be anywhere close to where you thought you’d be at any given time, and that’s okay. It’s actually much, much better. While I still have much further to go, I’m so content with the path I’ve taken to get here, and so grateful for the journey.

I considered posting a picture of Jamie and I in our awkward pre-teen phase but figured this was prettier!

Many thanks to Jamie for sharing her experiences with us!  You can check out her blog here.  As always, feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section!

Profiles in Post-Collegiate Courage: Daniel Wanke

Calling courageous post-collegiates! For the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring interviews with interesting post-collegiates who will be sharing some of their experiences and offer some advice.   Want to nominate someone to be featured (including yourself)?  Email postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dotcom]

Washington, DC has always been a city that calls to post-collegiates.  Where better to toil away as an intern or aide as you network, strategize, and prepare your own eventual public office run?  Take one look at the demographics of the Obama White House staff and you’ll see that being an under-30 Washingtonian doesn’t always mean fetching coffee!  While Daniel Wanke isn’t likely to employed by a Democrat any time soon, he is toiling away in the capitol city and agreed to answer some questions about life in the political fast lane.

 

Daniel, standing outside the West Wing in 2006, the year when he first came to DC as an intern

Let’s start this off easy.  Who is Daniel Wanke?

I’m originally from a small town in southern Wisconsin where I grew up on a farm.  I’m a life-long nerd, amateur chef, and a musician.  Before deciding on a career in law and politics, I actually was on track with a career in science and was interested in either biochemistry or biology as a college major.  I had also been in the advanced English classes and did well in history, government and foreign languages.  I’d also spent years studying American history as a member of the Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.), [Ed.note – This is how Daniel and I met!] which is a youth organization for descendants of patriots in the War for Independence.

One day while I was looking at colleges, I realized that I wasn’t terribly interested in spending the rest of my life in a lab. I thought about what I was good at and decided to be a pre-law student instead with a major in political science.

As noted, I call myself a musician.  I did consider music school, but I had my concerns–career opportunities, etc.  Just prior to my senior year in high school, I discovered my singing voice.  I’d been in choirs, but was not anything remarkable.  Then it developed all of a sudden after I went to a music camp at Concordia University Chicago, which I had attended to play in the orchestra.  Ultimately, I stuck to my plan to be a pre-law student.  It was a tough decision to not go to music school. I knew that if I didn’t make it as a performer, I’d end up a music teacher, and I didn’t want to do that.  I kept up with my music through various choirs and have done a number of solo performances over the last 9 years since I discovered my voice.

I had picked Purdue University initially due to my science background. I fell in love with the place at first sight and for a variety of reasons I needed a fresh start in a new place. Purdue offered exactly that. Although it is primarily known as an engineering school, I found their liberal arts programs to be quite strong. I never regretted not going to a school more focused on arts programs. Purdue was fully supportive of my studies and I enjoyed having to justify them to the engineers. I became very active on the College Republicans at Purdue where I volunteered for a number of political campaigns, took part in several on campus events, developed my writing on hot topics and got plugged into a number of debates. I had no idea at the time that it was leading to a career in Washington.

Currently, I work in government relations for a trade association for commercial insurance companies that is located in Washington, D.C. I work on legislation and regulations impacting the association’s members, performing research, writing summaries and assisting in lobbying and public affairs campaigns at the state and federal level.

On your graduation day from Purdue, what your life plan at that moment?

My initial plan was to return to Wisconsin, find a job, and work for a couple of years while I prepared to go to law school.  I had finished my degree in three years, which left me reluctant to push forward with more schooling and I had not had a chance to take the LSAT during college.  I had planned to take it during that time and explore schools, but a job in Wisconsin that was suitable for me never came about.

You graduated in 2005.  Since then, what things have you pursued that were not part of that initial plan.

As I had hinted at earlier, I never expected to have a career in Washington at this point in my life. I’d always thought it was possible since I wanted to stay involved in politics.  Everything about my life since graduating college has been completely unplanned and unexpected.  Certainly once I got to Washington, I began doing things with a purpose like networking, making friends and career choices, but that I am doing any of this at all right now was at first a complete surprise.

Photographic evidence of Daniel's Republican status - and yes, that's the real Ann Coulter, not a wax figure

What passions or projects have you wanted to pursue but haven’t yet?  Why?

I’ve wanted to make use of my French that I studied for so long, but my current job doesn’t provide that opportunity.  I’d also like to study other languages.  I hope that at some point I am able to do that and I plan to seek out opportunities allowing me to do so.

What have been the greatest challenges in your life since college?

Balancing a very demanding job against having my own life and interests has been a huge challenge.  As a working “adult” (if I must be called that), being at the office all day doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things.  It came to a point this year where I had to quit all of my activities outside of work with the exception of music.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t find the time to do some of them here and there, but I genuinely have needed a break so that I could refocus and reevaluate my capabilities.

More challenging still has been living far away from my family.  I love my work, friends and living in D.C., but it’s hard being away from the home team. I don’t get to see my nephews nearly as much as I’d like to, and there’s the occasional guilt-laden commentary from my mom about finding work closer to home. Despite these challenges though, I doubt I’ll leave D.C. any time soon. I really love the area and the opportunities available.

As noted before, I am a big believer in random happenstance.  Do you have any examples of such occurences in your post-collegiate life?

Random happenstance is exactly how I ended up in Washington.  One day in December 2005, I was watching Fox News with my mom. [Ed. note: This blog does not endorse the viewing of Fox News.]  They had on a staffer from Young America’s Foundation to discuss some political issues.  I don’t remember what they were talking about, but I suddenly realized I had worked with them during college.  I was still looking for a job at this point, four months after graduating.  I’d heard the classic catch-22 phrase over and over in job interviews, “What’s your experience?”  The answer for someone who just graduated from college is never easy.  At this point I had turned to internship opportunities so that I could gain said experience.  I looked into the Foundation’s internship program and gave them a call.  I was told that they already were in their final decisionmaking process, but that they would interview me anyway.  So a day later, I did the phone interview and submitted the application package.  A couple of days later, I got a phone call with an internship offer.  I could hardly believe I had beaten all of their other candidates, but apparently I had. This was December 2005 and the internship started in January. So, on four weeks notice I packed up the bare essentials for this whirlwind opportunity and came out to  Northern Virginia to work. Towards the end of my internship, I started going on job interviews and about a month after I left the Foundation, I was offered my current job, where I have worked for four years.  None of this was planned as I noted, I didn’t come from a family with connections in politics and I didn’t spend years building towards a career in D.C.  It just happened.

If you could go back and tell yourself anything on your graduation day, what would you say?

I’m really not sure what I would say since so much of what has happened since then that I didn’t plan, although it’s worked out pretty well. I’d probably be at risk of copping out and saying something cheesy like “expect the unexpected.” But if I had the chance to say something to me that day I’d try and make myself understand how to face challenging times. I’d survived a lot up to that point, but I think I have a better perspective on it now than I did then and I’ve seen more challenges over that past few years. I think I’d tell myself to remember to breathe during the difficult times. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in one’s trials that something so simple as breathing becomes a task on life’s to-do list. And I don’t just mean the physical act of inhaling and exhaling. Obviously, that’s controlled by the part of the brain in charge of things we do automatically like our heart beat. I mean that one has to remember to breathe in the mental and spiritual sense. In the midst of a difficult time, it’s so easy to lose that rhythm on which each of us operates–that part that defines who we are. So, I guess I’d want myself to remember that and to take time to rediscover breathing when life throws us off the course we are on and to remember that we might not be meant to retake that course at all.

Daniel and I have been friends for 8 years and I never miss an opportunity to come to DC for a visit!

Many thanks to Dan for being our first male post-collegiate!  Didn’t get enough?  You can follow him on Twitter or feel free to leave additional questions for Dan in the comments section!