Graduation: one of the best days of a college student’s life.

And it could be the scariest.

You’re all done with school, so what happens next?

In this episode of Think Tank of Three, we’re giving advice for upcoming graduates.

If you’re soon to finish school or know someone who, this podcast will be very helpful.


Kathryn Janicek: [00:00:00] Graduation: one of the best days of a college student’s life–and it could be the scariest. You’re all done with school–so what happens next? In this episode of Think Tank of Three, we’re giving advice for upcoming graduates. So if you’re soon to finish school or know someone who, is stick around, this podcast could be very helpful.

[00:00:24] [INTRO]

Kathryn Janicek: [00:00:54] Hi this is Kathryn here with Audrea Fink and Julie Holton. Audrea, do you remember your college graduation?

Audrea Fink: [00:01:02] I sure do. I had very long, long hair and no prospects. What about you Julie?

Julie Holton: [00:01:10] Well, I didn’t have that issue! I remember my college graduation because I had the stomach flu! My entire time at graduation I was literally just saying over and over, “Don’t up don’t throw up don’t throw up, just get through the day!”.

Audrea Fink: [00:01:25] Oh man!

Julie Holton: [00:01:26] Yeah lots of fun.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:01:27] Oh that’s funny. I remember my grandmother being there, my parents; they stayed up overnight, it was in Milwaukee–but other than that I really don’t remember. It was just such a blur right? For me it was– I thought everybody has to graduate from college, so I just didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It was like when we graduated from high school. My mom was like you have to have a party, I have to throw you a party. I was like everybody graduates from high school. Like why is it such a big deal? And I felt that way a little bit about college. But I will say this could be a tip for people who are in college: I waited until my last year to really get a ton of credits done so I’d be fully-graduate in four years. So I literally like, I would get- I was in one of those colleges where they’d drop you if you had like a C or below or something. So if I felt like I wasn’t doing well in the class, I would just drop it freshman and sophomore year, and then all of sudden junior year came up and they’re like, you are not going to graduate in four years if you don’t start taking classes. So, my fourth year I had to take 32 credits each semester.

Julie Holton: [00:02:28] No wonder why you’re so good at being busy now!

Kathryn Janicek: [00:02:33] I did that myself and I will say like the biggest tip I can give anyone who might not just be graduating, but maybe it is a year away from graduation, or two years, or going to college is to map your four years out. If you’re like me and your parents are like, “you graduate in four years or you’re stuck with the entire bill for this year,” I would say map it out. Because you can’t count on a counselor always keeping you to that timeframe. And so I think that’s the biggest thing that I did because I literally had trauma early and could not even go to Milwaukee for like 10 years after that because I did it to myself. My fourth year was not fun as it should have been, your senior year should be fun, and it was not, it was super stressful.

Audrea Fink: [00:03:13] I had such a different college experience from you! You poor thing. I did community college first, and so when I was done with my AA, I was like, eh who cares about this thing. And then when I went to my four-year, which would have been a two-year, I was so in love with school that I just- I did an extra year because I was like, “This is amazing I never want to leave this place.” And then when I finally had to go, I wasn’t prepared because I was like can’t we just stay in school forever?!

Julie Holton: [00:03:39] So I also had kind of an opposite experience from both of you because I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I graduated in three and a half years. I had some credits going into college from some AP courses that I took in high school, and then I had long-loved the language of French, and so I studied abroad one summer over in in France, and that one class for that summer was worth 12 credits, so that was really a full semester there. So anyway I had a bunch of credits going in, and I graduated; I was actually two classes away from a double major and I was like, “Nope I am out of here.” I was so ready to begin my career, which I know is also crazy that I was just ready to go, I was ready. So I graduated early and didn’t look back. I do sometimes wish that I had taken that extra semester and had an extra semester of doing all of the fun things that college students do. So there was a time for maybe like the first five years after college where I looked back and I was like, “Why did I start this real world so early, why didn’t I just take an extra semester to party and have fun and be a college kid?” But yeah, that’s what propelled my career for sure.

Audrea Fink: [00:04:54] I feel like our three stories are so indicative of who we are as humans. Like, the over-achiever, Kathryn is totally the partier then buckles down, and I’m like, “I don’t know, we’ll get there when we get there. Let’s just keep reading about this obscure subject.”.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:05:10] I’m dying inside right now. I wish that I would have done it the Julie way because I– if anyone’s listening and it’s still early on in college, studying abroad, I think, is one of the best things that you can possibly have absolutely no it was important. I didn’t think about, “Boy. This is the time when you could really see a country and a lot cheaper than when you grow up and you’re out of college.” Your opportunity that you had there, Julie, is incredible. So if anyone still early on, I would do that.

Julie Holton: [00:05:40] It’s hands down single best thing I’ve done. For sure. I mean I’m in my mid 30s and even to date, it was the biggest learning experience, not just because of what I was studying, but just culturally, and having to go and be on my own. Absolutely. Study abroad.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:05:55] That’s great. I’m so glad. I’m so glad that that came up on this podcast. Good. So if you’re listening study abroad, for sure.

Julie Holton: [00:06:00] OK. So with so much weighing on an important day, it makes sense to wonder what’s next. Kathryn I’m curious from you: What were your next steps after graduation, if you had any, and when did you start planning for that?

Kathryn Janicek: [00:06:12] My next steps were: I had to pack of U-Haul my parents were there, packed a U-Haul, and I was on my way to Champaign, Illinois for a full time producer position. In college, senior year and junior year, I had part-time associate producer position from Milwaukee, but this was my first full time job and it started literally like two or three days after graduation. So the next morning after graduation ceremony, we were packing a U-Haul and my parents were helping me go down to the apartment that we had already found and move into my new city. So that was pretty exciting.

Audrea Fink: [00:06:47] You had such a different experience for me I’m so excited for you, Kathryn, that sounds amazing. Mine was like almost paralysis. So I had been working part time at an executive coaching and leadership company called Promega LLC, here in Seattle. It was awesome. I had the best boss ever, Less Luía. And when I finished my degree I was like, “Well I love who I work with. I love what I’m doing. Maybe I’ll just work here full time.” I made no plans whatsoever. And finally, he [Audrea’s boss] was like, “All right. Audrea. It’s time for you to be a baby bird and get pushed out of this nest. You need to go find a real job now.” And I’m so grateful he did that, because, I didn’t know how long I would have just sat there being like, well, I’m content where I’m at, which would not have paid my bills or my student loans. But he was really great and he was like, “Go find your passion now, because this part time job that you worked through in college is not going to cut it for you in real life.” And then I found a job and it was just a job. It wasn’t like dream job, it wasn’t doing dream work. It was just something full time to enter the workforce. Very, very un-strategic.

Julie Holton: [00:07:53] With my story I think it’s important to just back up for a moment and say that I was that weird kid that in fifth grade I knew what I wanted to do. OK. So like from fifth grade on, I had watched Dateline, it was my favorite show as a fifth grader. I know, I watched 60 Minutes with my parents, so. I wanted to be the next Jane Pauley–which I didn’t ever end up being. I found a different path when I was in college, I loved producing and went on to become an executive producer, but, so I just need to back up and say that’s why I was such an overachiever. I had known for so long the direction I wanted to go and I fully recognize that is not the case for everyone. In fact for most people, that is not the case. So when I graduated from college. I already had a full time job. In fact I had already made the second bump up the career ladder so to speak. My very first internship within two weeks turned into a part time job so I was actually producing weekend newscasts in Lansing while I was still going to college. And then my news director had actually left that station to move up to a different market and took me along with her. So by that point I had a full time job, four 10 hour days that I was producing newscasts before I graduated. So that was also incentive for me to graduate and be done with school early, because I already had a salary. I was already able to pay the bills. And so for me, when I graduated, that was the start where I had some freedom. I was able to start looking to see where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. And I knew I wanted to leave Michigan, and I knew that that was the time. So within a few months for me after graduation I had started interviewing and I landed that next job in another state and was able to move on from there.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:09:37] That’s awesome. I just you know and I don’t want I want to be overwhelmed with they worry because Julie was definitely she says that she is super over achiever she knew it is that great. A lot of people don’t know and college is really that exploratory period where they might get a business degree or something because they still don’t know, but they get something that would be a a beneficial degree. So it’s lucky, it’s awesome, that Julie knew from such an early age. I know I started writing for my school paper seventh grade because I just knew. But this is- it’s unusual. That’s unusual. Now, what about the people who don’t really know, you know, they don’t have a plan. Julie, for example, you know that you were already working in college and then you just started your next career. I know that there’s a lot of students who just don’t even know what to do when it comes to planning or how to plan ahead for something they’re not even sure what it looks like. What do you, Julie, suggest for students who are preparing to graduate and they don’t have anything planned at all, or they aren’t even sure what they are planning?

Julie Holton: [00:10:42] Start having conversations with people so that you can start figuring out what it is that you might want to do. For me, the turning point was a college class that I took that had nothing to do with my major. It had nothing to do with broadcasting or TV news. It was actually a class about interviewing and job interviewing. And so this was a public relations class and I learned through this class; hands down one of the best classes I ever took, and it had nothing to do with it. What I ended up doing it was more about communication styles with different types of people. And I learned through this class that I just needed to just start talking to a variety of people, no matter what they did for their careers, no matter where they were in life or where they were going, just to find out what was the path that they took. How did they get to where they are? And that really inspired me as a college junior at that point to start reaching out and making connections with people. And ladies you know me, I am pretty extroverted, but this was outside of my comfort zone. I was cold calling and cold emailing people and that’s just not something that I like to do. So I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing this, but I remember I reached out to a news director at a TV station in Flint, someone I had never met before, only found his name online, and reached out to him and made that connection and asked if I could just come meet with him. And if I could job shadow someone in his newsroom. And it’s interesting to look back because that was such a turning point for me, and at the time I had no idea how significant that would be. But he opened his newsroom to me and he was impressed that I had reached out to him and that I was interested in this way. And you know so I went and I got to meet a variety of people, and see what they did, and how they got to where they were, and that was a turning point.

Audrea Fink: [00:12:28] Yeah I think that idea of sort of informational interviews is one of the best things you can do as a college student regardless of when you are in college. Because you learn about a variety of fields right? I think some of the advice I wish someone had told me in college was don’t look for your perfect title. Find the work that motivates you. So I know that I love to coach. I know that I love this sort of hunt of business development. But I don’t think if someone said you want to be a salesperson or you want to be a coach, that that would have meant anything to me in the moment. I certainly would not have looked for my particular job title. My job title is almost meaningless in comparison to the work that I do. So I think those informational interviews are so valuable because you can go in and ask you know a CEO or a producer or a doctor or a lawyer, “What does work look like to you? What are the things that you deal with? What are the upsides and downsides?” When I first got out of college I think my “plan” if you were to call it one was, eventually I would go to law school and I would become a lawyer and I was looking for the title of lawyer, and now that I work in the legal industry I know that I will never be a lawyer. It’s not the work I want to do. It’s not where my passions lie. But I would have known that in college if I had bothered to talk to an attorney and be like, talk to me about what this means vs. seeking out a title.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:13:53] That’s smart. So mine is kind of twofold because I understand there are people who have the support of their parents who they can actually– if you don’t have anything, if you don’t have a job and you really are not sure, I would say volunteer or get an internship in somewhere that’s pulling you that you’re really excited about, that you’re passionate about, because no matter what, in the end, whether you’re 20 30 40 50 60 70, you are going to have a good life if you love your job; if you love what you’re doing. So don’t just look at the USA Today or U.S. News or you know some kind of economic journal about what pays the most. I would really look at what you like to do because whatever you’d like to do you can get good at because you’ll enjoy studying and researching and finding out how to do it. That’s one. So volunteering or getting an internship and learning a couple things about somewhere that’s pulling at you is important. But I understand there’s a lot of people who don’t have that kind of income where you know, I couldn’t just kind of take a year off and find myself because it was important that I had rent money and, you know, I could afford a car or something. So in that point, in that case, you might need to take a part time job that kind of pays the bills and then intern or, you know, mentor or shadow somebody 20 hours a week when you’re not working. Because 60 hours a week is totally ok. You might end up working that some day. So having to work, you know– if it’s a Walgreens job, or working for U.P.S., or something is OK. It pays the bills. But then make sure that you’re following your dream on the side and you’re giving 20 hours you know volunteering or interning somewhere.

Audrea Fink: [00:15:34] One other thing I’d say is that volunteering and internship, regardless of when you do it within your college career, always looks good on an application to your future employer.

Julie Holton: [00:15:44] Absolutely. I agree with both of you, and Kathryn to your point on having a job. If you need something to pay the bills, which I did as well when I was in college, my parents supported me, I also had a job, and I had an internship which turned into another job. I mean at one point I had two different jobs. It was crazy, and it was hard. At the time I thought, oh my gosh how do I manage this schedule? And now, trust me, I work more hours than I did back then! But the important thing is even if that job is at Walgreens or that job is waiting tables or wherever that job is–those skills are transferable. And make sure when you’re putting it on your resume you are explaining that, and you’re talking about that. As a hiring manager now with my own company and before when I was in news, if someone didn’t have a job, or volunteer work, or an internship, I was wondering what the heck was going on. What were they doing if they were only focusing on their studies? Great, good for them, but where was that experience? That real world experience. Without it, it’s really hard to get a job.

Audrea Fink: [00:16:41] And can I just get on a soapbox right here and now for a moment. Jules, one of the things you said that really kills me is when you are a student. If you do not have a job the chances of you getting as much out of your college experience are lower. There have been numerous studies. I don’t have them off top of my head but I literally say this to my husband constantly: If you get a job and you go to school, you will have a better experience overall. It forces you to prioritize. It forces your brain to shift, and so you have to use your brain in different ways on any given day, and your brain like any other part of your body, you need to flex it. For college students who do not have jobs at all, no internships, no volunteer; I don’t understand what–I don’t understand how you get anything out of that. You need to break up your time. Sorry.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:17:26] No that is great. I’ve never read a study like that, so it’s awesome to know that and deliver that to our audience. And a quick thing about internships is people reach out to me now and they’re out of college and they want an internship, or they did when I was managing newsroom or whatever; but it’s really important to know this if you’re listening to this and you’re currently in college or even if someone you know someone who’s in college an internship is a lot easier to find in college because you can get college credits. Companies are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place when you graduate, because they have to then–they should pay you something, you know that’s a whole nother topic of debate when you’re in college, and you have an internship–but when you graduate, you have to pay them. You have to pay that intern, because you can’t give them college credit. So it’s really important to get those internships in college. But if you can get, you know something outside of college if you still don’t have a job, there are some internships available. It’s a lot easier to get that internship when you’re in college so that company can give you credit.

Audrea Fink: [00:18:32] And there’s certain industries where if you don’t have an internship you can’t get a job. So for example my husband right now is going back to school for computer science and in looking at his prospects post graduation, if he hasn’t had at least two internships or one internship that lasted two years, he’s almost not hireable because they have no examples of him being able to do the work. So I think internships and volunteerism are huge. We had a friend who went back through for computer science and the relationship that got him a job was the relationships he had built volunteering for Girls Who Code and teaching girls to code. So I think, Kathryn, I think these two are like– almost as important as getting a college education is volunteerism and internships.

Julie Holton: [00:19:17] And before we set off some anxiety, let’s remember it’s so important to plan ahead. But it’s also not the end of the world. If you haven’t done all of this planning, if you haven’t had your internship like Audrea just said, there are volunteer opportunities, there are other ways you can get that experience. And it’s not the end of the world either if that perfect job doesn’t come up right away.

Audrea Fink: [00:19:38] Absolutely. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Having someone point you in the right direction and guide you towards something new can be really valuable, so it’s always a great start to look at who you want to be, the person you want to become, and see if you can get some help from them or get some guidance from them. So for example, if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re not a student, you are professional, maybe you could be a mentor for someone. Maybe you could take those informational interviews from someone else. You could always use your experience as a professional to help someone out who is in college trying to get their start.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:20:14] That’s a great point Audrea. I can strongly relate to that. I, like all three of us I’m sure, we get you know emails through LinkedIn and people reach out to us and say, “Can you please mentor this college student? Or this young person or this person who just graduated with their masters?” And I try to do as many as I can. I always have someone who I’m mentoring. I also, like, in a couple weeks I’m speaking a girls program here in Chicago, so it is really important that we do our parts as professionals.

Julie Holton: [00:20:45] For sure. I spoke recently at a program for high school students, looking to younger girls who are starting–this was a program for entrepreneurs done through the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and I spoke on marketing related topics and these are students who want to become entrepreneurs and they’re working to build that. So there are so many programs like that available, as Audrea said, if you’re a professional and you’re looking to connect and to help give back, what a great way. But also like I mentioned at the very beginning, I did some cold emailing and cold calling when I was in college and I would say while it might be uncomfortable, it’s a great way to reach out and make some new connections.

Audrea Fink: [00:21:24] You also might think; if you do have a direction that you’re looking to go, you might look at like, are there any associations or organizations in that professional field that you can join? A lot of these associations, if you contact them and say, hey I’m a student, I want to learn more about the industry, they’ll let you attend either with a student membership or with no membership cost. So if you are really interested in marketing, there are so many marketing organizations that would be like, “Yeah come in and meet some of our members talk to them.” It’s a great way to sort of start networking young but then also really get into the field. And then if you have no idea, just try going to like your chambers events; your local chambers events are a great way to meet people, and again, most chambers if you tell them what you’re trying to do, just getting to know different industries, they’re not going to charge you their full membership price for that.

Julie Holton: [00:22:16] Getting involved is such a great idea, Audrea. I didn’t even think about it until you mentioned that. But I wrote for our college paper, I was part of our college TV news program. I sat on a few different organizations, and even just being a part of these different things allowed me to get to know different people who were coming from different experience levels. So even if you’re listening now and it’s close to graduation, it’s not too late. You can still reach out and connect with some of these organizations on campus.

Audrea Fink: [00:22:41] One last thing that I did in college that I think was really beneficial; part of this was because I went back as an older student, and so but I think anyone can do it it doesn’t matter your age. I really got to know my professors. So I had a handful of professors; I can think of five off the top of my head, who I could call today if I needed to. I spent time investing in some of my professors, and what that meant is when I was done with school I could reach out to them and say, hey, do you have any advice? Is there anyone you think I should meet with? And I did have a couple of my professors set up informational interviews for me that helped me figure out these are not the areas I wanted to go. I just I should have kept going with the exploratory instead of settling.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:23:24] Well I totally agree; those people also took those interviews and it’s so easy to make a difference in someone’s life as they’re growing up and choosing which path to go down, especially young women. We need to help more young women who might be worried that they’re not enough. This is something we definitely need to help change. But it does exist. So we need to help them. Those who might feel that they’re just not enough.

Audrea Fink: [00:23:45] Right. Because girls you are absolutely enough. Keep doing your best. You will be the strong independent women who don’t need no man and in whatever career you choose! But you have to put the work in.

Julie Holton: [00:23:55] And rarely do we start in our dream career. So if you start off and you’re waiting tables, or you’re in a completely unrelated career, that’s OK. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication and the first thing you do after graduation definitely will not be the last thing you do unless that’s where you want to be.

Kathryn Janicek: [00:24:14] Absolutely and I’m glad. I’m really, really glad, this topic came from someone who I mentor who I made my assistant. And this is her topic, she said I need advice for graduation. Because she’s graduating in 2019. So I am so glad. I hope this helped you, if you’re listening, I hope this was a great conversation. If you’re not going to be a graduate soon, please share this podcast with anyone who might need the advice right now. And if you have any topics to discuss that we haven’t talked about yet or that we need to expand on please, send us a message at, or Tweet us, or Instagram us, or you know Facebook us. Join us as we continue this conversation online, We blog weekly, subscribe and you’re going to get a first alert email, because when you’re on our email list, you’re very special. Also find us on social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and please join our private group on Facebook if you’d like to talk about stuff that you might not want to talk about publicly. We give and get advice freely there. Just look up the group in the community section on our Facebook page.

[00:25:26] [OUTRO]