2 Years, 2 Lessons, 2 Words

Facebook memories are wild, y’all. Mine keep popping up to remind me that 2 years ago, I graduated from college.

Two years!? Are you kidding me?! 

On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like that’s even remotely possible. I still feel like a baby adult, just barely sprung from the comforts of college, with not nearly enough of this “real world” thing figured out to have been away from school so long.

(And, yes, I do realize that 2 years is really not that long in the grand scheme of things. But in the short-term, that feels pretty long-term.)

As I’ve reflected on the many, many pictures that Facebook has brought back to life, and as I’ve perused through the many, many other pictures of those younger than me in caps and gowns, I’ve also reflected on what I’ve learned in the past two years. I don’t know if there’s an adequate way to sum it all up, because if there’s a blanket theme here, it’s that these first couple of years truly on your own are so incredibly instrumental. I have learned more in the past twenty-four months than I ever could have expected. It’s true what they say: you never really do stop learning. It’s just that the lessons change.

However, I am going to ever-so-humbly attempt to sum up the countless lessons I’ve learned since graduating with two words. It’s two words for two main lessons learned in the past two years:

Speak up. 

These words, I’ve discovered, can be applied to the two main facets of life post-graduation: professional and personal.

Professionally, this one is probably pretty obvious, and I likely sound like a broken record of any professional development course for young professionals. I was told this so many times when I leapt into the full-time world. “Speak up,” they told me, “make your voice heard.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that concept is incredibly intimidating, especially for a fresh graduate. It’s likely your first full-time job in your chosen profession, and you’re likely nervous, and you’re most definitely still figuring things out.

And there everyone is, telling you to speak up.

Well, I hate to tell you this… but they’re right.

It’s not, however, just speaking up about the big things. It’s not necessarily throwing out some wild and crazy radical idea that is going to entirely change the trajectory of a project or an account (although, sometimes, it is). Sometimes, it’s just as important to speak up about the little things. Don’t let the smallest things go unnoticed – point it out. Now, keep in mind I speak from the role of a PR professional here, but I’m sure there’s parallel ways to apply this concept. Don’t let an extra apostrophe go unmarked, just because it’s in a release written by someone above you. If you think a particular sentence is worded strangely, say something. If you notice that there’s a hashtag getting more use than the one that’s in that social post, suggest it. Speaking up doesn’t need to always be monumental. It can be small – sometimes, the quietest behind-the-scenes voices are the loudest.

That said, it’s also important to speak up about your professional needs. Do you need a little extra guidance on something? Would you feel better if someone reread that email for the fifth time before you hit “send” for the client? There is no harm in asking. The worst thing they’ll ever say is no.

The same thing goes for your personal life. Speak up. In some ways, I feel like this can be even more intimidating in your personal circle. Opinions are everywhere and the internet has just given us an even louder void to shout into (I can say that – this blog is one of those voices.)

But it’s so important to let your own voice be heard… especially by yourself.

College is a wonderful time for gaining knowledge, but it’s when you start to apply that knowledge that you really figure out what you think about it. Don’t get me wrong – I think a lot of our core opinions are formed in school and in what we learn from school, but as with anything you learn, it’s when you apply it that it really begins to click (or so they used to tell me in math class.)

Speaking up in your personal circle also encourages healthy conversation, and sometimes debate. It’s important to know the opinions of those you love most, and how to get past disagreements… because inevitably, there will be some, even about the smallest of things but more likely about the big ones.

Beyond opinions, though, it’s so important to speak up and just tell them you love them… or that you’re mad at them… when you want to spend more time with them… when you need a little space. Verbalizing our heartfelt thoughts and genuinely formed opinions is a crucial element of adult relationships, and as an adult, those relationships are an essential part of thriving.

So speak up. It’s the two-word phrase that I can offer to any graduate. Be it personally or professionally, just make sure that your voice is heard.

It matters.

So do you.

Oh, and congratulations.

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