Upon Looking Back… A Reflection Synthesis

I feel I should start this reflection/analysis/synthesis out with a tell-all preface.  I do not do reflection writing.  I know, I know, I am a literature major, which involves a whole lot of writing.  While this is true, the type of writing I produce as a literature major is boring, at least in comparison to journalistic, colored, personal, and creative writing found in blogs and, I am sure, in my others classmates’ reflections.   My writing is usually third person, polished, researched, edited, critical literary analysis writing.  The type of writing I am used to does not include feelings, emotions, personal thoughts, or, (gasp!) first person.  In my youth and beyond, I have tried on multiple occasions to keep a personal journal, but would always angrily tear it apart after reading my own writing.  I was embarrassed of my writing, my thoughts, and what I thought was worth writing, the “news-worthy” details of my life never seemed important a day later.  However, one of the most important things I learned on this trip was how to challenge myself.  I learned this while writing blog entries and comments for the first time, meeting and making new friends in what turned out to be a sometimes stressful living situation, and daring to raise my hand with a question to ask impressive and accomplished professionals.  While traveling on this adventure, I learned that I wish to stretch, push, extend, and thrive to become a more successful person, professionally and personally.  To stretch, push, and extend myself, I must try new things.  This reflection paper is in itself, my attempt to try something new.  This fact alone should demonstrate a large portion of what I have learned, and how I have grown while on this trip.  This reflection paper should also demonstrate how I use the knowledge I gained as I take the skills, confidence, and ideals learned and push myself to open my Microsoft Word and type, something personal, something colorful, and hopefully something that I can call important in days, weeks, and even months to come.
Throughout this media impact tour I have become more aware of the many options available in potential future careers.  My interests in such careers shifted, morphed, changed and grew through our important meetings and by exploring potential lifestyles and careers.  Although this discovery of my options is an exciting revelation, it is also incredibly overwhelming and quite frightening.  Sitting in on most of these discussions with such successful people I found myself scared of all the options I have and the decisions I have to make so soon.  I also felt humbled by the fact that they would want to meet with us.  I am, after all, just a lowly college student from Washington.  Washington State.  Almost all of the professionals we visited encouraged finding internships and really striving to dive into the field that most grabs our attention.  Yet how do we find this field?  In the short amount of time I have left before graduating and entering the “real world” it seems I must narrow down, if not pick, my career choice so that I can apply for, and hopefully receive, an internship.  I must do and decide this all before I even attempt to apply for a spot in the profession I must choose to seek.  An internship will then make me a stronger applicant when I choose to apply for a career.  But which career?  For what position?  In which location?  How do I “get my foot in the door” if I have dozens of doors to choose from and only two feet?  Throughout this journey, I uncovered the questions I need to ask and answer of myself before moving forward in my search for a career.
I am not and have never been a procrastinator.  That is my best friend.  And I am glad she can do that.  My friend would rather wake up during the wee hours of the morning to finish, or start, her paper due at nine that morning.  She thrives and produces her best work under tight, constricting deadlines.  I very much admire this about her, while I am quite opposite in this regard.  I, on the other hand, would rather have my assignments done and reviewed at least a day in advance.  I thrive by living with organization and daily plans to complete my work early.  I enjoy extra time to look over my work.  I would classify myself as an organized person, almost a perfectionist, however, I do not believe any of my work is ever perfect.  Yet, the first thing I ever learned to like about myself was my strong work ethic and my organization.  Conversely, I cannot shake the feeling that I am procrastinating some of the, arguably, most important decisions and actions in my life.  That is, what to do when I graduate?  What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Which career should I choose?  Do I have any chance of breaking my way into that profession?  Should I have back-ups?  And what should those be?  How do I choose?  Where do I start?

This journey made me aware of these questions and the pressing need to answer them before proceeding on into that scary, real, competitive professional world.  I believe raising questions is an important part of finding answers, for how can you find the answers if you don’t know where to look for them?  I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this trip and the undergo the process of uncovering these questions as I think they will have a great impact on the next stage of my life as I will soon transfer from student to working employee.
As I stated, the first portion of this trip raised all of these questions inside myself.  They rebounded off my brain and I felt the pressure of them everywhere.  Yet, somewhere along the trip these pesky questions seemed to dissipate.  What replaced these seemingly unanswerable questions were confidence, calmness, and ease.  I learned this ease through observing the professionals, through bonding with fellow travelers and through embracing the questions I have of myself while actively seeking answers.  I believe that all the things I learned on this trip are valuable skills, feelings, contacts and life lessons.  I am proud to have been a part of this trip and to have gained so much from this experience.
I will start this adventure of lessons and learning by describing the basic nuggets of knowledge I picked up from the cities themselves and how these views impacted my life and my future life decisions.  During our time in New York City I did learn that I do not want to live in NYC.  I am just not cut out for the New York big-city lifestyle.  I do not thrive on crowds, high prices, always-noisy atmospheres or crowded, sometimes smelly subway cars.  I do not enjoy feeling of hopeless misdirection, nor the cold stun of the freezing wind whistling between the cool, steel towers that are the buildings of the city, blocking out the sun and most of the, sometimes blue sky.  I found I enjoy mountains rather than the skyscraper jungle of NYC and waiting for the “walk” signal before crossing the street.  I would prefer to live in a city were the fear of being run down by a crazy, honking taxi driver is absurd, not a relatively common occurrence.  Not to mention the silence I enjoy at home, in NYC broken by honk after honk of frustrated drivers blaring his/her horn for no apparent rhyme or reason.  I enjoyed being a tourist in NYC, but I believe I would have a hard time living for an extended time in the Big Apple.
Our second stop, Washington DC, I found to be quite different.  I do like the New York subway system better, or I was simply more used to the lines, trains, turns, and switches of that system, as opposed to the DC metro.  However, on the whole, I could see myself living in DC while this image was not possible to imagine in NYC.  While DC does have the big city feel, the surrounding area is much calmer.  The off-the-beaten-track areas of DC are places I would not mind living it.  One random detail about DC that made my day a little brighter and my thoughts on the city a little cheerier happened at a chain fast food restaurant.  This fast food place was clean and the employees helpful and nice, but more than this was the softly playing Christian music in the background.  While I am sure this same scene could be heard in many other places in many other cities, the fact that this organization was a chain and was still choosing to rock Christian music impressed and stuck with me.  I like the area for more than one restaurant’s music selection and this fact could potential help me in deciding what job I wish to take and may be helpful in my pursuit of an internship to spice up my resume.
In contrast to the earlier, almost negative sounding, newly developed opinions I hold about New York City, I discovered some parts of NYC that I truly appreciated and enjoyed.  I liked how there was always a new restaurant to try, and new street to see and new cultures to observe on the subway.   I also liked that there always seemed to be people to make an impression on, to greet or to help.  I surprised me how appreciative waiters, doormen, security guards, etc were to receive a simple, “thank you” for the simplest of actions.  Yet, their responses cemented in my mind that perhaps city dwellers do not thank a waitress for refilling an empty water glass or thank an aging security guard for holding open the door.  While I was in New York City I was happy to do these things, to give money to awful, disruptive singers on the subway and thank and smile at everyone I could, but I believe I empirically learned this is not a common action.   I believe that I could survive and function in a place like New York City.  I think I could navigate the subway stations effectively, find good, A-Rated places to get, and use common sense to maintain a decent lifestyle in the never-sleeping city.  Yet, I am not sure this is an environment I wish to spend a large portion of my life in.  I am scared the city would dampen my view of the world and kill the “thank you” before it slipped out of my mouth, while frightening away the appreciation I have for cultures and cities, new and remembered.  These big-city lessons and independence I learned may influence my decision to look for a profession that could function without the big-city lifestyle in New York City.
Thus ends my, hopefully colorful, lessons learned from the city.  To sum it up, I liked both, would visit both again, I learned from both, I could live and enjoy myself in one, while I would not like living in the other.  I feel more mature because of our visit, because of the experience gained, and the independence found.  I hope it is clear how much and how completely I enjoyed this trip.  It was educational, eye opening, and fun.  I found the cities exciting and invigorating.  I enjoyed trying new food, seeing a show on Broadway, pushing onto compacted subway cars like native New Yorkers and all the rest of the adventures we took part in.  It is my opinion that I l grew as a person, a friend and a student on this trip.  I truly believed I learned something valuable from each of these experiences and locations.
Valuable experiences were also gained in our “classroom”, or our meetings.  From the beginning of the trip the importance of internships were clearly expressed.  Professionals from our first stop, John Wiley & Sons, and almost every stop since that first meeting with those very first muffins in New Jersey discussed the importance internships carry.  Internships hold importance because they represent experience, selection and qualification.  It was voiced over and over again at different locations, where various people in the same conference-style setting stated and showed how internships must be found and completed before expecting to be looked seriously at or apply for a major position within a company.  In some cases, internships must be competed before applying for higher and more prestigious internships.  In all honesty, I had never thoughts much about internships before this trip.  In complete honesty, before this trip I never really thought about marketing myself, my resume, or even the fact that there might be a struggle to find a job.  I never imagined the competition, the economic ramifications or the lack of jobs available.  I guess I thought a job would just magically fall onto my lap upon earning my degree.  My perception changed seriously as I learned more about the reality of the professional world on this trip.  This is one huge aspect in which this trip gave me eye opening insight and ideas for tools for access in the future, professional world.  The importance of internships now weights down on me like a heavy fur coat pulls a trapped individual deeper into the dark of the freezing pool of murky water.  The murky water here is the future, the coat the lack of an internship and solid resume, the trapped individual represents myself.  Internships are now my glass ceiling keeping me from fresh air and the outside world.  I cannot get to where I could be hired without an internship.  However, there is another blocking point that I must address before I push through the fur coat and the glass ceiling and get an internship.  I must decide what I want to do first.  Knowing what I want to do will give me an idea of what internship I should look for, which will then give me experience and a fuller and stronger resume.  I learned I needed these important trade tools because of this trip and the advice we received during our meetings.  Because of this lesson I now know what I need to accomplish before entering the professional realm.
While I feel the weight of internships and my empty resume, the people I meet and their attitudes about their work truly touched and inspired me.  The people that we meet with seemed happy with the careers they chose, expect for one instance at an entertainment news organization, in which I perceived the want of more substance in writing from three of the people we met with.  This common reality of enjoying work, I learned, is inspiring to me as we visited so many various places doing so many different things, while all had the common denominator of happy, passionate employees.  It was also good for me to learn that the individuals we meet with have so many different backgrounds.  Various majors, activities, clubs, jobs, etc, landed these individuals were they are today.  This encouraged me and by discovering this I learned to hope for the future.  Many of the people I met tried other jobs first and worked their way to where they are now.  I feel like I could do this and be successful.  I believe this was a main goal of the trip.  To learn what you are capable of, to learn how others have accomplished what they have, and to see where to potentially fit in to the professional world.  I believe I learned this and it deeply influenced my worldview and my perceptions about occupations and the future.  All of these values I found in the meetings we were a part of in both in New York City and in Washington DC, through the individuals we meet, and through the passion those inspiring individuals illustrated.
In a different way, I believe that the unenthused professionals at the entertainment news group taught me a very important life lesson.  This lesson was observed, not by the words that were said or through the tour they directed us on, neither was this idea found in the research and background information on the organization I completed before the trip.  I learned from the individuals’ lack of passion that you must care what you do, as this is a necessary part of being successful.  You must think that your work matters, holds significance and makes a difference.  Like the professionals at the book publishing fair stated again and again, passion must be evident in actions, statements, resumes, and work.  I decided these employees must lack passion for the work they do.  While there are nice individuals and were kind enough to take time out of their busy day to meet us, the lack of enthusiasm displayed on their faces, in their words, actions, and in their work spoke louder than their words.  Because of this, I strive to seek a career that matters to me.  I wish to be positive about what I do.  More often than not, I want to wake up happy to be allowed the opportunity to go into work.  I want to lead and inspire by example while making a difference.  I appreciate this lesson learned as well as the people and professionals I feel embrace this lesson and lead me by example.
At these meetings in which I picked up on the positive attitude of the speakers and the significance of internships, I also learned how no one that is anyone would look at you twice if you don’t have experience and knowledge on how to market yourself.  I learned that resumes are a reflection on you and show what you can do.  How to “get your foot into the door” is then not to send a single shoe to the company you want to hire you, but is to have an intelligent, error-free, complete resume detailing internship, skills, and experience.  More than this, your resume and cover letter must illustrate your passion for working and for working for that particular organization.  Why you want the job must be included as well as the foundational question, “why you?”  What makes you so much more special than anyone else? More qualified?  Harder working?  While some of the information gained at the long meetings was, in fact, common-knowledge, other bits were helpful.  I learned your resume must market you, because no one else is going to do it for you.  You must also believe in yourself, your skills and qualifications in order to market yourself and get a job.  I certainly felt that the individuals without the nametags and security badges, with steady salaries and fancy offices sitting at the front of the table marketed themselves very well.  I also felt these professionals believed in themselves.  This ties back into the life lesson of enjoying and believing in what you do, passionately.  This experience of meeting these professionals who truly practicing what they preached may have helped me truly understand what it means to be a successful business professional in today’s world.  I will use and apply this lesson by picking a career that means something to me.  While I acknowledge that I will not start out in my dream job, I will do my best to act passionate about whatever job I manage to find that I believe in.
I believe because of and during this trip I learned how to act confidently.  I saw professionals in job settings I could someday see myself fulfilling, all who acted and spoke with confidence.  I saw Kara confidently leading our little group through crowded streets, sometimes knowing exactly where to go.  I saw students, normally so shy, asking question and speaking to the president of PBS and other impressive individuals.  To me, this trip was more than a checklist of places to go to take pictures of while having a few meetings along the way.  This trip built friendships, it strengthen bonds in relationships already developed and developing, it brought ideas and people together to produce common idea and to further individual ideals.  In me, this trip created confidence in myself.  I may not have a sparkling resume and an impressive big city, big company internships, or a detailed plan and researched history of the organization I wish to someday join.  Not yet anyway.  But I do have the ideas, the mind power, and the help to reach these things and to achieve my goals, confidently, because of experiences I had while on this journey.
My, lets call them… creative ideas can be seen as I walked away with lasting life lessons after visiting the Smithsonian in DC. While admiring the many things there are to admire at various Smithsonian museums during our trip, I realized that the kid-friendly text surrounding and describing the exhibits are, in reality, life lessons more than descriptions of museum displays.  These miniature life lessons can, will, and have taught me quite a lot about life, survival, and simply being myself.  The ability of mine to think cognitively during my “break”/free time makes me smile at the level of maturity I have reached.  Even when that maturity leads me to making cheesy statements about life from small phrases describing museum displays.
The first life lesson I learned was in the Museum of Natural History.  The “survival hint” simple stated, “Don’t Get Eaten”.  While this certainly applies to life in the deep sea, as the sign intended, it can also apply to my life, as I begin to try and separate myself from the pack and find a career.  I do not wish to get swallowed up by the competition; I do not want to fade away into the background, or into the acidic stomach of a much bigger, and probably more mean-looking fish.  I want to stand out and survive.  Of course, I must remember that skills; agility, brains, brawns and just a wee bit of luck are all needed to survive in the deep sea and in the professional world.  I must also remember the skills I learned through this trip and apply them to my goal of standing out and surviving.
Another sign/life tip read, “What’s for Dinner? Anything!”  This works in my life as, again I hunt for jobs, opportunities, experience, etc.  What will I accept?  Almost anything at this point, as long as it matches my morals and I can feel passionate about the work I am doing.  The hope is someday I will work my way up the food chain/corporate ladder and move on to better things.  This is a reminder to be patient, to accept what you get without being to picky and to constantly work up to something greater.  This sign is a signal for me to be more accepting.  Yes, I did get all that from a sign by a tank of old fish bones.
Another sign at the museum read, “The Work is Never Finished” Well said, Smithsonian, well said.  The work to educate myself I don’t believe will ever be complete, nor should it, because one cannot know everything.  This is not an excuse to quit, but a ploy egging you on to continue.  I will never stop learning and (hopefully) never stop trying or caring.  The work of a museum curator, of a person seeking employment, and of an educated individual is trying, never ending, and never finished.
At the Julia Child model kitchen, displayed proudly in a corner of the Smithsonian, this colorful quote can be found, “You can never have enough of these tools”.  While, of course the legendary chief is referencing frying pans, spatulas, mixers, and the like, I read this quote as an invitation to welcome more knowledge and skills.  We have heard a lot about resumes this trip and you can never have enough skills, experience (INTERNSHIPS!!!) or knowledge.  (As long as your resume is only one page… front and back, right??) These career and life tools are helpful and I believe the opportunity to use them and to expand them is always present.  You simply can’t have enough skills or, referring back to the earlier quote, you simply don’t have enough time to explore and expand all these skills, but you should try nonetheless.  While you are trying you should remember this last quote found again in Julia Child’s kitchen, “Above all, Have a Good Time!” This note cheerily inspires me to remember to have a good time.  If I am making a disastrous mess in the kitchen, getting rejected by graduate schools, hunting for non-existent jobs, limping around on a suddenly sore knee or icing the “good” leg because it is sore from supporting the bad one, I must remember that this is my life, my experiences, my hurt, and accomplishes and I can choose to make the best of it.  I can have a good time!  In expanding this quote to embrace the ideologies I learned on this trip, I can have a good time while doing what I want, passionately.  As I have learned that passion is a key ingredient to success in the professional business, in getting hired, while on a trip with others, and, like Julia Child, in the kitchen.
I did have a good time on this trip.  I think, more importantly, I learned how to have a good time.  I learned confidence, I learned life skills, important future job tips, and how to act and fake it until I do make it, while having confidence that I will make it.   I have also learned how to be okay with myself.  I don’t have every detail of my life planned out picture perfectly.  I don’t know how I am going to get from Point A, where I am now, to Point B, where I want to be in X amount of years.  In fact, I hardly know what Point B is and I feel I have a dozen different, and sometimes-conflicting paths leading me there.  However, the confidence and “real world” experience I gained during this trip has made me more accepting of the fact that I don’t have every answer and every portion of my life planned out.  Upon hearing many of the professionals round-a-bout ways of making it to his/her dream job, I found more faith in the fact that I do not know where I am going, but with the skills I have and developed on this journey, I can fake it until I make it and can find my way to where I want to be.  This confidence has also made me aware of the areas I need to work on to get to point B and has given me the courage and energy I need to start addressing these issues.
While I did learn many practical things on this trip like what will earn me a job, what will make my resume more likely to get noticed, and what internships are the cream of the crop, I also learned many and insightful things about myself, what I can and can not handle and what I want in my future.  For example, I am not a New York City type of girl; I can’t handle all the nonsensical taxicab honking.   Also, I am learned that while I am unsure of what I want my future career to be, but because of this trip I know what I want it to look like.  While I do not need the fancy marble buildings that we saw at a large portion of the places we visited, I do need to feel that my job matters.  Like most of the professionals we visited I wish to be passionate about my job and be surrounded by others that feel the way I do and act passionately about the work we will accomplish together.
On a different note related to lessons learned about myself, I learned that I am more of a follower than a leader.  This comes to me as quite a shock after my high school days of being a section leader in band and teaching myself through directed studies.  I now find myself more comfortable following others around the city.  While this may simple be because my aged phone does not have GPS or a fancy interactive topical and subway map however, I think the root of my new follow-the-leader issue runs deeper than my technology.  During our meeting at the PEW foundation in Washington DC we were asked to introduce ourselves and give the location of where we live.  However, my fellow students started listing the commonly stated majors, minors and activities instead.  While I knew this was not the exact answer that was asked, I followed the herd and gave my routine answer.  This small example, to me, speaks volumes, as I follow more than I have the courage to lead.  Again, in scheduling sightseeing activities, I feel simply along for the ride, as I brought no thought-out or preconceived notions of what I wanted to see in either city we visited.  While this did not make the trip any less enjoyable, this feeling of follow-the-leader and my new lack of the ability to lead concerns me.  Because of my experiences on this trip, I have identified this follower status as a quality I wish to address in my life.  This drive to better myself, in addition with the sense of purpose and drive to get more involved was uncovered on this trip.   I believe addressing and working on these personal issues will help me as a person, a student, a leader, and a prospective employee.
This trip impacted my academic life and future simply by inspiring me to work harder and not forget my end goals.  In addition, upon hearing all the things some of the professionals juggled while earning an undergraduate degree, I feel urged to do more myself.  I wish to stand apart from others, on paper and in person.  Because of this trip I wish to get more involved with a wide variety of activities, academic and otherwise.  I believe that I can and will do this.  Because of this trip I will apply for as many internships as I can receive and juggle.  Because of the lessons I learned on this trip I will remember to think positively and look for a career, not just a job or a manner of means and money.  Because of the values I saw on this trip I choose to seek a career that I am passionate about, that matches my values and moral, a profession that means something to me.  I now know, because of this trip that I want a profession that I enjoy so much I want to invite, receive, and talk to college kids from a school across the country I know next to nothing about.  I want a job that makes me want to inspire others and inspires myself.  Because of the sights I saw, the people I met, and the experiences I had on this journey I will strive to be a better individual and work passionately to become a well-represented, experienced, passionate, and charismatic potential employee.

  1. #1 by James McPherson on February 13, 2011 - 2:38 am

    “It is my opinion that I l grew as a person, a friend and a student on this trip. I truly believed I learned something valuable from each of these experiences and locations.”

    I couldn’t hope for more. I enjoyed reading your reflections–thanks for sharing them.

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