They say experience is the toughest teacher

Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first, and the lesson afterward.”

I strongly believe you can only really know something once you experience it, just like children don’t learn to stay away from the stove until they touch it and burn their fingers. During my sophomore year, I interned at my college’s magazine, which proved to be a major learning experience.

I was tasked with going door to door to every business in State College and attempting to get the owners to purchase insanely overpriced advertisements. I had to keep following up with businesses even after they had politely declined my offer.

Many of the businesses I approached had been family owned for decades and had scarce funds for advertising, but my boss wanted me to convince these owners — who looked like various versions of my grandpa — that advertising in our magazine would be more beneficial than advertising in the college newspaper or the local times — I knew this wasn’t true. And because I knew this deep down, I couldn’t go back into these businesses and pester them until they caved like my boss wanted me to.

The worst part of it all was I learned the magazine had been trying to sell these advertisements to the local businesses for more than five years. These owners had heard our spiel and weren’t interested.

After what felt like the longest semester of my life, I learned a lot from the experience, especially about what to look for in future internship opportunities. I learned to ask more questions about the tasks I will work on before I take an internship and to research the company and its reputation.

The most important thing I learned is that I never want to work for a company that is asking me to do something I don’t believe in. If I can’t see the good in what I am doing and put my heart behind it, then that job will never be right for me.

My internship this summer is the polar opposite of the one I had a year and a half ago. I believe in the work I do for clients, and Bravo Group’s advocacy really does make a difference.

As part of the Campaign Creation Group, surrounded by professionals in all different stages of their lives with varying types of experience, I was curious about the ups and downs that brought them here. Members of CCG shared some of their wisdom with me about what advice they would give to their younger, less experienced selves.

As an intern with little experience so far, I loved hearing members of CCG’s advice to their younger selves. Their advice of being open-minded and your own advocate, accepting of difficulty and change, willing to admit mistakes and prepared to be wrong at times is something I will carry with me as I journey toward graduation and officially enter the real world a year from now.

Jeanette Krebs (managing editor): “Never stop learning how to write better. There is always a place in the business world for someone who knows how to write well.”

Stefanie Bierzonski (media news analyst): “As a young professional, you can feel the need to really dive in and prove yourself. You want to show that you care and are ‘on the ball.’ It’s important, though, to know the difference between being proactive and reactive. Sometimes taking a step back and assessing all the puzzle pieces and angles is the most proactive thing you can do.”

Rose Talbot (writer): “My piece of advice to my younger self would be to keep an open mind and not limit myself to one option for the future. I decided very early what I wanted to do and pursued that, but sometimes I wish I had kept a broader perspective and tried out other interests, hobbies and fields of studies as well while I was in school just to see what else was out there.”

Chris Conard Shultz (director of content strategy): “Be your own best advocate. Dream. Believe. Work hard. Don’t let life’s unfairness and the narrow-mindedness of others derail you. Be open to and accepting of difficulty and change; both are necessary to grow patience and character.”

Alizah Thornton (writer): “I would tell my younger self that sometimes the best plan is not having any plan. It’s important to stay flexible and explore options. Since I knew what I wanted to do as a career in 10th grade, I only focused on one college major and career track without considering all of my options. I always wanted to be a writer, but I would have never imaged the path that brought me where I am today — this path was unplanned.”

Mike Crist (copy editor): “Be more willing to admit your mistakes. People are more forgiving than you give them credit for when you do.”

Kim O’Brien (editor): “My motto right now is ‘Dig smarter, not harder.’ It’s a juxtaposition of two quotes. … The old adage ‘Work smarter, not harder,’ as well as a Rumi quote that helped guide my postgrad years: ‘Work. Keep digging your well. … Water is there somewhere.’ It’s important to put in the work, but don’t throw countless hours at something that won’t help you progress. Dig smarter, not harder.”

Bill Spinner (creative services practice lead): “Mostly, to be more open-minded and less certain I was right about things. When you’re young, you tend to be more passionate and strident in your opinions. Only age and experience teach you that there’s a good chance you may not be right at all. You begin to realize that the other person in an argument may have just as much of a chance of being right as you do.

“It’s part of another lesson you learn over time: For many questions, there simply are no right or wrong answers. There are just reasoned opinions that reflect the best judgment and information you have at the time. Had I known this earlier, I could have avoided certain misunderstandings and been more receptive to other people’s points of view.”

 

Lauren Koppenhaver || Harrisburg

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