So there I was attending my university, which is like an Olympus in the sky because it sits on the highest of seven hills and is a land dominated by kings, queens, culture influencers, leaders and revolutionists in the making.
As I walked across the graduation stage, I exited from my oasis in the sky and entered reality and adulthood. Those moments are never meant to last forever but remain in your memory bank to apply to future situations. This is how you know the lesson is indeed learned. So, as a young professional, I implement the four things my HBCU taught to my everyday life and career.
Knowledge is Empowering. Knowledge about self is strengthening, and knowledge about the world molds a strategic mind.
You go to college to seek post-secondary education, but an HBCU will not only push you academically, but it will expose you to different cultures and your history.
I found find myself lost in the Black Archives on campus learning about the positive impact students before I left on this nation. From being the first to participate in bus boycott or becoming the first person of color to chair a fortune 500 company. I received information that surpasses the image of Blacks as just being slaves. I was exposed to the legacies of civilizations built across Africa and their discoveries and traditions.
It did not stop at the schools “museum”. Our history was embedded in every class to show how the “black” race has contributed to everything and all things under the sun. In return, I felt full-filled, content with the dynamics of my culture and most importantly the knowledge I received brought me confidence.
2. Style = Confidence
With knowledge come confidences, which humans express in their posture, faces, gestures and of course wardrobe.
One of my marketing professors made it clear why many brands seek HBCU on campuses to receive an honest view of our complexity.
My college colleagues and I created our campus culture such as Greek life, clubs & organizations and campus events the way suitable for us. So we created signature dances routines, timeless homecoming experiences, and unique fashion trends. Not everybody dresses the same, but we dressed like us.
As much as we have the opportunity to express ourselves, faculty and staff at an HBCU will never allow you to forget you are at an institution of higher learning. Therefore, I learn distinctly what article of clothing is appropriate for when, in addition to using your clothing to stand out.
Applying that in the real world, I know when interviewing for a position or attending an important meeting to have something that sets me apart. Whether it is a pin, broach or a tribal print button down shirt underneath my blazer, it draws attention to me when I speak. I then have the opportunity to showcase my intelligence to my cohorts or interviewer. They might perceive my outfit as cute, but in actually they are impressed with my exuding confidence.
Network with a persistent and strategic state-of-mind
A classmate of mine told me during freshman year: it’s not always what you know, but whom you know and who knows you.
Attending an HBCU has taught me the value of garnering and maintaining good relationships with whomever I meet. This is how you network with a persistent and strategic state-of-mind.
My campus is filled with future lawmakers, entrepreneurs, and inventors, so I took advantage of my time being on the same campus as them to learn and leverage information among them. I did not remain in my ivory tower of a journalism school but explored the other 98 programs and their departments to find hopefully another student I could collaborate with.
Moreover, many companies come to campus, almost every year, trying to inform students about their services and potential positions. Even though I was not eligible for the internship or position because I did not meet their requirements, I still took these individuals contact information and connected with them. I will send them a thank you email, happy holiday email and an update emails about my journey in life.
Fast forward to my life after graduation, I went to New York City and applied the same networking techniques I mastered to get a job. I pulled out all the business cards I have kept over time and email individuals before, during and after my job hunt inquiring if they wanted to meet for lunch or if they knew of any opportunity that will be suitable to my skill and educational background. Two weeks after my aggressive hunt I receive two great jobs offers.
4. Keeping Calm
As much as you prepare and double check things happen.
It was so hard at first having to accept failure or “can’t get right moments.” I would have fits and see red during my first couple years, but during my junior year, I realize sometimes you have to step back and leave it in the universe’s hands.
My junior year I longed to study abroad. It is a process that involves a lot of paper work and cooperation with faculty and staff members. It was tough, but I learned how to conquer the university by having patience with others.
Now keeping calm does not mean you accept “no” for an answer, but that you understand how to breathe through the mishaps and complications.
Now as I work at one of top advertising firms in NYC, many times things go left even when I double check and put in extra hours to reach for perfection. So, what do I do during those tireless moments? I breathe, and remember this too shall past. I think about how a few months ago I could not image I would be here and in a few months I would look back and be proud that I made it through.