Dear Class of 2023: You’re Ready for This

As I was contemplating a topic for my Maroon-News alumni column, The Wall Street Journal published a story about the “jittery job market” that the Class of 2023 is facing. Many major media outlets are covering this challenge for graduates, which inspired me to use this opportunity to remind current students — especially seniors — that you will leave Colgate with so many of the key qualities and skills needed to get and thrive in a good job.

Consider this a pep talk.

My years at Colgate definitely shaped so much of who I am, and what I do. After junior year, I spent the summer giving campus tours to prospective students. It was a paid summer position: three or four tours, every day. I was so passionate about Colgate that I wanted to convince everyone to come here. I shared all the impressive stats about the University and wove in stories about my experiences on campus. I also became a skilled, backwards, uphill walker. I loved that job.

Today, while my backwards walking skills have diminished, my job isn’t all too different, in principle at least.

As Chief Communications Officer for BuzzFeed, I develop internal and external strategies to build a strong narrative for our company — the leading digital media company. It’s a narrative that is meant to attract consumers and many other constituencies, like advertisers and platform partners (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). When we get it right, we drive readership, fandom and revenue.

When I graduated from Colgate, other grads were moving swiftly into banking, accounting, retail, advertising and graduate programs of all kinds, but I wanted to try my hand at publicity. I seem to remember meeting an alum at a networking event who suggested that publicity was a good field for writers and talkers… girl with dark hair and raised hand emoji (that’s me).

I’ve consistently seen Colgate develop great writers, communicators (talkers) and problem-solvers. Colgate students ask great questions, and listen. You are curious, smart and fun. I look for all of those skills and qualities when I hire people, and those skills and qualities translate across multiple professions and fields.

I also look for people with leadership potential. You have so many opportunities to hone your leadership skills at Colgate, some more obvious than others.

Leading an organization on campus or being captain of a sports team provides a tremendous amount of relevant experience for any workplace. But, learning to live well with someone who has a very different background or lifestyle from yours develops you as a leader, too. Organizations across almost all disciplines today value inclusive leadership. We look for candidates who can work well with others, collaborate with colleagues that have different communication and work styles and bring others along as organizations adapt and change. Think about situations you’ve been in at school that have developed you as someone who can quickly fit into an organization, learn and adapt to the culture and quickly contribute.

It’s fair to say that it’s a challenging time to get a job in some sectors, so it’s more important than ever to begin a job search with a solid understanding of your skills, strengths and interests. What’s also necessary: resilience. I believe that may be the most critical life skill. We all face rejection over the years — even the most successful people do. But, how we handle it is all that matters. And, Colgate develops resiliency.

If you have walked up the hill to class from downtown in winter, you are resilient. If you have faced opponents from other Division I sports teams, you are resilient. If you passed Organic Chemistry, you are resilient! Those experiences will serve you well as you apply for internships or jobs with varying degrees of success, and as you enter the workforce.

Many times early in my career I had no prior experience in what I was doing. And a lot of the time, especially early on in your career, neither will you. You’ll have moments of creeping self-doubt… where you wonder how long it will be before someone finds out that you’re “faking it.” The truth is: You’re not. There’s no such thing.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many recent Colgate grads, including a recent grad who was a tremendous asset to our communications team at BuzzFeed. I have been so impressed by every graduate I’ve met. You clearly leave here with the skills, perspective and poise to succeed in the working world.

I want to encourage you to boldly pursue opportunities, to be good to each other when you get into the working world and to be easy on yourselves if things don’t come as easily as you hoped. I know it feels stressful right now, but I believe in all of you and am confident you have great things ahead.