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Time to go to work?

Carl Zmaila

There is no perfect way to transition from college into the work world. Yes, it is an accomplishment to obtain a sheepskin. But, many Nevadans have taken hunting trips and never caught the prize buck. A college degree is just that a hunting license that shows you’ve been qualified to work in a professional arena. How, when, and where you enter that arena is a very personal choice.

Currently, I am finishing my degree and have an internship at a young and successful local company. The point has come where I must decide which direction to go. Many opportunities have crossed my mind, including traveling the world, going to law school, or pursuing my master’s degree, but I have decided to work. There were three deciding factors: Happiness, scratching an itch, and the time value of money.

My current internship involved collecting and entering data. The truth is that I hate this job. Sitting in front of a computer screen and pushing buttons is not my ideal work setting. Then why is it that everyday I still wake up enthusiastic and ready to work? The intelligent and eclectic personalities that are encountered around my office create an environment to look forward to. Each day brings a new challenge, a unique situation never encountered before. My data job gives me a great opportunity to be in the bear pit without having to fight the bear. Seeing all the internal and external factors of a business are important for a young businessperson. Going from school to work is just a change in learning environments, but work has a different pulse. It is a sink-or-swim atmosphere, one that cannot be replicated in college, one with a much steeper and dangerous learning curve.

This new learning environment is not the only reason to choose the work path. For people like me there is an itch to scratch, and it is screaming, “Can you succeed?” My love for responsibility and leadership resonate deeply with the work world. Even more important than the love of success is the fear of failure. Some people are courageous enough to run right at failure, stare it in the face, and hopefully laugh while running to the next challenge. I want to be one of these people, letting the positive lessons learned from failure drive me to success.

But there are some realities that need to be faced. Success and failure will be results of the same process taught in school. Innovation, unique thinking, and hard work will still be the tools that lead to success. I am entering a field that has a high entry to barrier and I’m willing to pay my dues. Many college kids seem to think a degree should come with immediate success and gratification. The hard truth is it takes even more preparation beyond the degree to enter the work world.

School represents a safe and consistent return on investment, but few have struck it big without taking some chances. Yes, it may be a revolutionary idea to go “all in” on my first hand, but in today’s play-it-safe world it is too easy to stay in school and never give it a run on your own. Being critical of the advanced degree route would be wrong. But, eventually one has to produce. School is a safe hand, one that has visible boundaries and answers, and one that never forces you to be accountable at the level that the work world demands. That is why many advanced degree programs are moving towards work experience as a prerequisite for admission.

Another issue with the veil of safety that school represents is income or the lack thereof. The time value of money is one true triumph of man. The simple facts are consistent: Saving, coupled with compounding interest, is a valuable tool in growing wealth. This is a serious factor to weigh when deciding whether to take on a few more years of school, travel the world, or even just spend a few extra years bumming around. The nest egg grows much faster if started at a younger age.

When is the right time to step up to the table and see if you can succeed? This is a question that no one can answer but you. A million visits to the career counselor, a hundred lunches with the most successful person you know, or the best book about being successful yield only perspectives on the rat race. The most important step, in my opinion, is making a decision for yourself and not following anyone else’s lead.

If I am right, then one day everyone is invited over to my house, where we can discuss the prize buck hanging above my fireplace.

Carl Zmaila is an intern at NAI Alliance. He can be reached at 336-4623 or czmaila@naialliance.com