Into the Yonder - A Conversation with College Seniors

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with members of the Ferris State University Journalism Professional and Technical Communications program planning to graduating this week.

As part of our lunchtime discussion, I was impressed by how excited and motivated they are to see what’s out there, what’s next. And while there are no cheat codes or shortcuts to getting where you want to be, there are some things we talked about that I think might help anyone in just about any stage of their career, regardless of of industry.

Be excellent at email.
It seems silly, but people who can reply quickly and effectively with e-mail, avoid writing more than five paragraphs when two will do, get to the point, and respond even if they don’t have an answer to let the sender know that they are looking into it and will reply — we love those people, don’t we?

If you have an email signature, you still should sign your name.

Make your subject lines specific. I want to have a pretty good idea what the subject matter is before I open it.

When emailing someone for the first time, please take a few minutes before you hit send and do some digging on them. Prime example: I’m a guy named Kelsey. Lots of folks would address me as Ms. Schnell in emails. I’ll forgive it on the first round, and I would edit my signature to say “Mr. Kelsey Schnell” to give a hint.

Bonus: Stop distributing your college email. My college email still works more than a decade later and I auto-forward anything relevant from it to my current email. Maybe it isn’t a deal breaker for every potential employer, but there’s no time like the present to set up the e-mail you’ll probably be using for the future and possibly the rest of your life, so don’t over complicate it.

Keep your network active.
Establish real connections and maintain them. Don’t be artificial just for the purpose of having an opportunity to ask someone for a favor down the road. Whether from peers, professional colleagues, folks you met once but got brave and connected with on LinkedIn — you never know from where your next great opportunity will come. But you have to be a good, contributing member of the network.

Save your work.
There are two levels to explore here.
Save the work you did in college, your papers or reports, portfolio pieces, and group projects. You might have passed the class but a few years from now when you’ve been on the job for awhile, you’ll look back and (hopefully) see how much you’ve improved, recall how that assignment was life or death back then and you survived, and remember that learning is a lifelong commitment.

Bonus: Your perspective when it comes time to hire, manage, or work with colleagues who haven’t had the benefit of your experience since graduation will be more realistic and more constructive than assuming everyone is on the same level as you.

If you ever used the “my computer crashed and I lost everything” excuse to get more time for a project, then you used your one opportunity and you will not get it back. Saving your work, attachments, and any file that you come into contact with and regularly backing it up on a separate system should go without saying from now on.

Continue embracing your hobbies.
“Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

One of those quips intended to be inspirational but really just unfair for people starting their careers. While I don’t think every day should be your worst day of work ever, I also think most people don’t stick around their first few jobs out of college because they love everything about them. There are unicorns out there but for the most part, you’re going to work at place, for people, or on things that won’t improve your happiness. Know that that is TOTALLY okay. It’s okay to take vacation days, too. Whatever you like doing for fun, keep doing it for fun. If you try to make that your career, you’re putting the fun part in jeopardy while you figure everything else out.

These were just some of the points that we discussed, and might not be for everyone. Any of us might have thought we had it all figured out when we collected our diploma. Some of us only pretended we had any idea what to do with our lives. Probably a good portion of us still are pretending.

And that should make anyone feel better about the unknown ahead of them. Just like the rest of us, you’ll figure it out as you go.

And always be careful of the “REPLY ALL” function.

Get to Know the Pro: Bill Chesney | EcoPrint Services

What started as a website design and development company called Rough Draft Designs took a turn to the more tactile when Bill Chesney moved from pixels to printing. He didn't ditch digital completely. His shop, EcoPrint Services in Grand Rapids, Mich., prides itself on its quick turnaround; most projects within just a few days, or even same day, and attention to the environmental impact from their actions.

Bill Chesney at his print shop in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Now, four years into running the business, he's given up on websites and focused on creating the quality materials for which his numerous repeat customers have come to know him.

"There are definitely days where I feel like I'm just printing, stacking, cutting, and counting and I don't even really *see* what's being made until the customer comes by to pick up their order and they're just amazed," he said. "They usually just light up and you realize that until now, this was just an idea or something on a screen, but now they can touch it and run their fingers over it and feel how heavy it is. It's transformational."

Bill sees plenty of folks come through the door of his shop. Newsletters for nonprofit organizations, signs for special events, business cards for entrepreneurs, and everything else you can imagine finds its way to 549 Ottawa Ave NW. But none of that phases Bill. His most common response is "We'll get it done." And he does. The crazy part is that he does.

Also passionate about music, Bill's presence in the local concert scene is known and artists regularly look to Bill for album covers, promo posters, stickers, and anything else to help reach more people. A musician himself, it's hard not to notice the working vintage jukebox in the shop filled with a combination of classic and contemporary artists. He helps coordinate festivals and concerts and still gets to the shop by 8am.


The real truth from Bill:

  1. Local. I love printing for my friends and family - and neighbors, and community, and total strangers...  
  2. Unique Challenges. It's rewarding to have clients come back, time-after-time, and trust me to meet their needs. It might take a few tries, but we always get there.
  3. Appreciates Flexibility. It's got to be exhausting to be so rigid all the time - loosen up a little! Your work is my work and it's important to me, too. Maybe I'll close down my shop early on a nice sunny day, or take a long lunch break - I'll always make sure your order is ready for you to grab without a hassle. You can breathe easy.
  4. Print-Ready Artwork. Marry me! Printing takes time... set up takes longer. It makes my life so much easier when a client 1) brings me files that are ready to go, or 2) understands that I can't spend hours setting up files for free. I have lots of templates available, and if I don't have one set up to fit your specific project - I have absolutely no problem making one for you. Still, that print ready artwork though...
  5. Respects Communication. Sometimes a job isn't a good fit for me - I'll let you know. Heck, If I can't help, I'll even give you recommendations for someone else who can. Please, do not come to me with a job that you had quoted out from an online source... it's not a fair comparison. Once you've had a real print shop experience, you'll understand. If you honestly don't get the difference, you might not be a good fit for the EcoPrint game.

*BONUS say thanks. Just a good policy in general. But thanking your printer isn't hard.