CollegeCon is over. Now what?
From my six weeks of working as the social media director for CollegeCon, I have come away with a multitude of lessons. Some lessons were as a result of things I did, and others were because of things I didn’t do. Overall, I see my experience as a beneficial one and I can see lots of room for growth.
Lesson 1 – Teamwork
With almost every team I am assigned to, people have looked to me as the leader and I have accepted that calling. Ever since my elementary school days, I have hated group projects. My main qualms come because of the people that I am forced to work with. A lot of the time, I tend to be close-minded and don’t make much of an effort to include the weakest members of the team. This does nothing but hurt the final product, whether it is a presentation, paper, or the final score in a game.
Working for CollegeCon, I went from being the leader to being the follower. Not only that, there were times when I could see that I was the weakest team member. Being in this new place, I had the chance to observe good examples of leadership. The leaders on my team were supportive of my efforts and didn’t get frustrated with me when I made mistakes. I was given praise for things that I did well, which boosted my confidence and encouraged me to work harder. Because of the support that I received, I felt like a valuable member of the team and I could see that I was making a difference. The enthusiasm, grit, and hard work that I saw in those leading me led me to see that the work I was doing was real and that it mattered. I saw that if I didn’t do my job, the final product would be lacking in one way or another.
I realize that I wasn’t randomly selected to work for CollegeCon, but the teamwork and leadership principles that I learned are just as applicable in a chosen environment as they are in a random one.
Lesson 2 – Focus and Flow
When you stay at home every other day and have the freedom to decide how, what, and where you learn, it can be hard to maintain a high level of focus at all times. There were days when all I wanted to do was watch movies or play Ultimate Frisbee or eat copious amounts of craisins (they are basically the best food ever). And there were days when I did all three of those things, but for the most part, I was focused on the task that was given to me. I had to learn for myself what the best learning and working environment was for me, which involved a lot of trial and error. I learned that listening to podcasts during every second of the day is usually not the best thing for productivity or creativity—silence truly is golden because it allows my mind to wander and allows me to think clearly.
When I did find the productivity and creativity sweet spot, magic would happen. I had days when I felt like I could work for hours. In fact, I didn’t feel like I was working at all. When I buckled down and really focused, I got more done and I felt like I accomplished things. It’s much more exhausting to resist work than to just sit down and do it. The flow that I experienced when I was doing truly deep work was cathartic and motivating, and although I don’t yet have the perfect formula for achieving it consistently, I have learned about what it takes to get there.
Lesson 3 – Work
I know how to work hard—Years of working on a farm growing up have ensured that. When I was asked to take on the role of the director of social media for CollegeCon, I expected that there would be a fair amount of work involved. There were some weeks when I would work for 10-15 hours on CollegeCon, and others when I would only work 2-4 hours. It was the long days, one in particular, that helped me grow the most.
One day in the morning, I met with my boss to talk about organizing the CollegeCon Connect Campaign. I thought that the meeting went well, and I was motivated to get to work on the assignment that I had been given. After working all day on CollegeCon Connect, I had created what I thought were solid pieces of content for a pretty clear idea. That night, I had a long talk with the video producer about the campaign and my ideas were turned upside down. What I thought would be a simple phone call explaining what I had done, soon became an hour-long brainstorming session. I had never been in that situation before—my ideas were valuable and viable. Additionally, my horizons were broadened by the big thinking and analysis of the video producer.
Once my mind had been thoroughly changed regarding the direction to take the CollegeCon Connect Campaign, I called my boss to explain my thoughts. In reply to this radically different strategy, she said in so many words, “Um…no,” which is understandable. That day, I had a small, rough idea, that was scaled into a big, specific idea, and then shrunken down into a medium-sized idea. It was fun to work hard all day and night on a project that began as just an idea, and I learned that there is nothing more powerful than the power of thought.
Lesson 4 – Make Friends
The night before CollegeCon, I was asked to help set things up. I knew that it was going to be a big job, and when I saw the few people who had shown up to help, I accepted the fact that I would be working until midnight or later. (Or is it earlier, since it is the early morning…?) My boss posted a plea for volunteers on a community Facebook page, and sure enough, people came by to help. I sent out a text to a few of my friends, and they also showed up.
I was amazed at the willingness of people to help out and I came to realize the importance of fostering good relationships with people, especially as an entrepreneur. No, having good relationships isn’t so you can cash in on a few favors when you are in a bind. When you have good friends, you are happier and more willing to work hard. Also, when your friends are working with you, it’s a lot more fun.
Of the people I know who have started companies approximately 100% need to see a therapist
— Austen Allred (@AustenAllred) March 21, 2017
Also, maybe if you have good friends you won’t need a therapist. Or your friends become your therapist…Whatever.
Working as the social media director for CollegeCon was a great experience, and I’m excited to start my next step working as the social media director for the Educated Refugee Foundation.