A late-night quicky: reflections on joining a modern workplace. How college students should view work.

I guess I've stopped following my "rules"

I’m trying out something new – just give me a sec.

I just set a stopwatch. I am going to try to write these more quickly. I hope you like your meat a little red, dear reader. My hope is that by the time this piece is published, you will still be able to hear it moo (or whatever noise unpublished ideas make before they finish their pilgrimage to the Internet).

I caught a glimpse of my first post. I’m a little embarrassed, but if you are a blogger I am sure you understand that you can catch yourself actually surfing your own site. Apparently in my little manifesto, I listed three solemn rules which I swore not to break:

  1. No advertising on Facebook
  2. No spending too much time on how things look aesthetically.
  3. No investing time trying to get my blog to be google-able

I regret to inform you that I have left all three of these rules broken as of last October. Consistently, since “I hate bloggers” (Brace for Ego), I am obligated to hate myself for it.


But I don’t regret anything. It’s a brave new world. I will allow those three aims to fall along the wayside, so long as I revitalize my initiative to write more regularly – hence the stopwatch and pining for a more raw flow of content.

College graduates feel pretty smart

I felt pretty good coming out of college. I know the status quo for graduating seniors is that most of their jokes ought end with “… and I can’t believe they are giving me a degree in this stuff…”, but secretly I think they are some of the most hell-certain people on earth.

A college senior may joke about their own sense of inadequacy, but don’t you buy it for a second.

But maybe you really are as useless graduating as you think you are. I have no idea. I have never met you. I’m just telling you what was happening in my head.

Making a quaint home in that feeling of uselessness

But the scariest lesson that I learned after college was that I really am useless. And living a life buttressed by an unbroken line of grand delusions leaves you with… a really big delusion. Deep down inside, I really expected to spend most of my time teaching people things. I may have given people the impression that I was interested in experience as derived from the experience of others, but I think I actually expected to be OK.

I know, right? Disgusting. If you are graduating college and this is kind of hitting you like grapefruit in the eye, let’s add a little understanding to this. In hindsight, I feel like it’s kind of inevitable that college Seniors are so self-centered right out of the gate.

After all, everything has been about you. Everything around you has existed to teach you something. I’m reminded of Neo’s test in the Matrix.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/oXv3SSijPFc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

I think all those nights I was stressing out – feeling like my future was falling apart – was just part of a grand simulation. I’m not sure if I was ever actually in any danger, because if you tried your best in overcoming a challenge that a teacher gave you and failed, everyone failed. You didn’t learn anything, and even though your teacher will put on a tough face and give you the grade you deserve, she will likely go home and reevaluate the challenge. Homework assignments really just simulate real world problems, save when you fail, everything melts out of view to make room for the next working world simulation.

In other words, you can actually change the outcome of problems by failing. They go away, and an easier problem is presented.

Your education isn’t anyone’s chief purpose – and it shouldn’t be

This is why coming into an actual workplace was so jarring. Your failure doesn’t change the outcome. If you are given a task at work and you fail, nothing about the problem changes. The task doesn’t exist to teach you anything. Sure – your employer will be delighted if you do, but no one will flinch if you don’t. Money is still made, business is still done, and the corporation marches on. Everyone who collaborated with you at 4:30 PM is already more focused on their kids by 5:30 PM.

It’s because working for a company, your education shouldn’t govern your actions – it should follow them.

I hope this isn’t sounding like just another “work sucks” blog. I rejoice in this. People may not depend on your education in your field, but they do depend on your output. Naturally, your self-driven education should lead to more output, but the distinction is important if you ever want to escape the self-centered perspective on problems ingrained in us during our education.

At work, there are a lot of meetings. Don’t talk at first. Seriously – if you will just be logical for a second, what could you possibly contribute to a discussion about the vision for the company or the best way to make stake-holders happy? I’m not saying you shouldn’t participate – listen like hell and fill every moment of dead air with a good question.

Eventually, there will be a need for your input, and it will feel very right and appropriate. I’m sure this is true for any line of work, but I have noticed in my line of work that the longer you hang around, the more pieces of the architecture you touch; and the more pieces you touch, the more insights you can contribute. At some time, someone is going to want to know what font the Export Worklist button at the bottom corner of the page is using. When that happens, I’ll be the rockstar of the day.


Figure 2: "Who the hell made this button Comic Sans?"

As a college graduate with my first working job, I like to think of myself as sort of a black box. I like to think I am always collection information. I help out when I can, but I am doing my best to always default on listening instead of relating .

God bless teachers, but God, also bless the weary, vetted souls that have to work with college graduates. We need a lot of help. We might try to show off every now and then with the little we know, but it’s just because we feel the need to surround ourselves with something familiar – if not our friends and classmates, it’s something that feels like the success we were feeling under the support of teachers. And don’t be afraid to yell at us – I mean, really loudly. I swear that four minutes into a rant from that one scary dude at work who’s been there forever was just as dense as a four year degree, in most respects.

I am becoming a daily-grinder, a cubicle warrior, and a regular Dilbert reader. I get coffee headaches, I live for the weekend, and I prepare my small talk ahead of time. I pack a lunch, accumulate memorabilia with software company logos, and smile at our receptionist every morning. I think I am really starting to like the working world. Most importantly, I am getting very comfortable with the idea of being part of something that isn’t ultimately architected to teach me anything.

See you at the water cooler, readers. Tomorrow is another day, and another dollar.

Date: 2014-02-14 Fri 00:00

Author: Alex Recker

Created: 2018-11-12 Mon 07:36