Almost Famous: Success and careers after college

In honor of recent graduates: When you finished your schooling, did you know what you wanted to do in life? How long did it take to find a job or profession that “fit” you? Are you still in your original field?

I had the idea that after college I would move back home, my mom and dad would move out, and I’d get the house! I’m being brutally honest; at 21 years old, I had potential but I was much more into partying. In my opinion at the time, I had learned two very valuable things in college: Never run out of beer and only date girls who have their own cars!

What I wanted in life at that point was to be judged according to my wit, knowledge, and education, but I learned that I was really judged by my actions. (I was also judged by an actual judge, but we won’t go into that.)

After college, I started working for AT&T during the divestiture. I learned a lot about office politics but little about what I wanted to do with my life. I came from successful people and I was expected to be affluent, not just earn a living. So, naturally, I wanted to be in show business or become an artist. My education was in psychology, history, and marketing, so it seemed I was only qualified to think deeply about convincing people to spend money in the past!

When we look back through our career tracks, most of us talk about the “path” we were on; but if we really take time to think about it, it seems more like an unblazed trail than a path. Personally, what I traveled was more like that worn area you see in someone’s yard from people cutting through the lawn because they did not have the patience to walk around it.

When I became a corporate department head at a Fortune 500 company at age 27, I was clearly promoted beyond my abilities. People used to mistake me for my own assistant (which does have its benefits when you want to avoid people you have never met). I was forced to learn to be influential, considering that every conversation my management peers had with me started with the word “Son”!

Along my “unblazed” trail, I became a professional stand-up comedian, touring the country and appearing at places like the Comedy Store in Los Angeles and the Funny Firm in Chicago. I appeared with people who are now household names, and one of my ex-girlfriends went on to be a famous movie star. I did some TV and radio and had speaking parts in a few films (which went directly to video). People often ask me how this segment of my career came about. All I can say is I went to an open mic night, and within a year I was earning a living on the road. I did this hot and heavy for six or seven years before realizing that, for me, making people laugh was not enough. I’ve got nothing against stand-up – I just wanted to make more of a contribution. Plus, living in a different city each week and sharing the comedy condo with depressed guys who used to be famous and their tattooed girlfriends with big snakes around their necks … let’s just say it gets old after a while.

Ultimately, I put my business background, education, and show business experience together to create the life I have now. In 1996 I started a research-based training company that specializes in personal influence in areas of leadership, sales, marketing, change management, and safety. Through this company I now speak at conventions 100 times a year. (It’s still a lot of travel but not as many tattoos and snakes … depending on the convention.)

My advice to graduates is to do very little of what you don’t do well and a lot of what you do very well. It’s practical, proven advice that might also sound profound if you are under 25 years old and still hung over from college.

27 Responses to Almost Famous: Success and careers after college

  1. Very nice advices and story, I’m in pretty much the same situation as almost everyone in college and I’m 22. It’s very hard not to thing about the parties but must finish what I’ve started.

  2. we’ve spent approximately the last seventeen years sitting in a classroom absorbing bits of knowledge. Every now and then you were tested to see how well you remembered that information. Occasionally, you had to write a research paper; sometimes quite an extensive one. Finally, pay close attention to corporate culture. Learn how things work. Are relationships formal or friendly? Think to become a successfull
    Thanks for your nice article

  3. coffee beans says:

    the real life just started when you have graduated from college.

  4. Steve says:

    Great post, story, and advice. I went to college and graduated with a Marketing Degree, but I am in constant pursuit of the show-biz. Hopefully, I will have a little bit of luck and my hard work will pay off.

  5. Couldn’t agree more I spent years trying to be a corporate chemist, then coach it was only when I put all my analytical experience to work in a field that excited me that I made real progress.

    Stop trying to live someone elses successful life and make the most of who you are :o)


  6. danny says:

    Very true, here in the UK many many new graduates struggle to get into their chosen career even with a very good degree. I think the best advice is to be very selective when chosing what to study in the first place.

  7. In college I sat dreaming about being a professional magician. Now, I am 29 years old and am finally living my dream that I did NOT need a degree for. If you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life…

  8. Zee says:

    Great Advice! It’s something that I can definatley relate to as I am 20 and in need for a good career start. Only problem is, in some places the oppurtinities are very limited so it is sometimes hard going for a career related to something you do well. From where I come from, I have learnt that in your early days, you try building ranks and then when you have a good enough CV (resume) then you can start going for the careers that you might be good at. Anyways, great article 🙂

  9. Karen says:

    Great advice. It is very true.

  10. Jackie says:

    Thanks for this advice – New in my career and your message really resonates with me. Perfect !

  11. That’s quite the story… being almost 25 myself I’m glad that I didn’t go the route of the college degree. Frankly, I think the higher education system is quite the scam. “You want how much for that piece of paper that doesn’t even guarantee me a job?” I decided to start my own business and I rarely regret it. Sure it would have been pleasant to live off the government for 4-8 years and have them pay for everything but sooner or later reality sets in and the $30,000-$200,000 of student loans that my friends are looking at are not quite so appealing. Plus, with the internet, you can get a college education. Rumor has it that MIT gives away their curriculum online for FREE not to mention the stuff you can learn from Expert Village or just a simple Google search. The age of the degree is coming to an end… make yourself valuable by developing skills you can take anywhere… good post!

  12. Ashutosh says:

    Great information in reality this can go on forever…Ever since I got stumble I’ve been coming across amazing sites every day.

  13. I can definitely relate to your story. It’s funny how college doesn’t seem all that far away either. However, the University of Pittsburgh is a long way from Orlando, Florida where I perform magic now. 🙂

    Now I have turned my hobby into a profession and magical entertainment is my true passion. I am glad that I have found your web site and look forward to following your posts and learning some keys that I can implement into my business.

  14. Great advice, I really enjoyed reading it.

  15. القمر says:

    I can definitely relate to your story. It’s funny how college doesn’t seem all that far away either. However, the University of Pittsburgh is a long way from Orlando, Florida where I perform magic now

  16. Very true, here in the UK many many new graduates struggle to get into their chosen career even with a very good degree. Stop trying to live someone elses successful life and make the most of who you are

  17. That’s right. There’s a saying that say’s what we decide for today may affect where we will be tomorrow. I hope I got it right…

  18. pctvblog says:

    Great article a useful blog to rely on.Thank you.

  19. robin thomsd says:

    i really enjoyed this. especially about the part where you shall only date girls with their own cars ! – seo services

  20. Vitaliy says:

    Very interesting write-up, enjoyed reading it from beginning to end. This is my first time on the blog here. You know, I thought I’d mention that I am currently 25 for at least a few more months and still in college, and still have other educational pursuits ahead of me but luckily no only drink as much as in the early days of college.
    What I found based on experience in college is that sometimes it’s much better to go a bit later than earlier.
    It seems that many young people go to college to get an education is something they don’t quite even understand.

    It’s odd because I went to college right out of college, got burned, took a long break, went to work, got experience, grew up and then went back to college and even though I now feel like I may be a bit behind others, I still feel I am considerably more ahead or advanced than many others.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. Be back very soon.

  21. Vitaliy says:

    I find it odd that you’d not show my comment, that truly says a lot, especially considering I had something to share unlike the dotcoms from above looking for PR.

    Well written post but this is truly disappointing.

  22. Amudhan says:

    Really a very enjoyable post. Regarding the part where you shall only date girls with a car, i tel;l you if you launch a video tutorial on “how to date girls with a car” every guy on this earth will buy it.

  23. Very few people these days seem to be able to get jobs in their chosen careers. Almost makes going to college a waste of time – which is a pity, particularly when it’s getting so expensive.

  24. matt says:

    I did much the same thing, partied hard played beer pong but dated girls regardless of whether they had a car or not!

    things are pretty different now in the 9-5 world i can tell you, but I certainly don’t regret university.

  25. juegos says:

    This is a great advise. you world starts after finishing graduation

  26. sumit says:

    I am glad that I have found your web site and look forward to following your posts.thanaks

  27. “do very little of what you don’t do well and a lot of what you do very well” This is the right thing to do. Don’t be stuck with it just keep moving.

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