Creating opportunities, instead of finding them

Hi there! I’m Krystal, and although I’ve only existed on this planet for 19 years — I come bearing some advice for my fellow college students, youngsters, millennials, or whoever you are.

Finding means competition

Despite how talented and driven you think you are, there will always be someone just as talented and just as driven. That’s the way life works. So when it comes to finding opportunities, whether for a job or academics, competition is looming. Granted, it’s not always a bad thing — competition encourages you to work harder and be better.

But what I’m saying is that you don’t always have to find and compete for opportunities. I grew up believing that as long as I found opportunities and chased after them, they’d be mine. What often ended up happening was that I’d lose the opportunity and think less of myself. Why wasn’t I good enough? What could I have done differently? Did I not have talent or drive?

No, it wasn’t any of those. It’s just that someone else was better suited for the job, had values in line with the company, or simply got there first — things that were out of my control.

How to create your own opportunities

After my first train-wreck-of-a-semester at college, I applied for an internship at Nelnet. The internship allowed me to rotate through four departments: workforce management, innovation hub, audit, and marketing. To be honest, I didn’t learn a whole lot about these departments — and that’s on me. I didn’t come in with the mentality to absorb information, as I should’ve. However, I learned so much about myself. Here are just a few examples:

  • Sitting at a computer for hours isn’t my jam
  • I’d much rather ask a person for information, than search for it
  • My brain isn’t really wired for auditing or crunching numbers

This — to me — was extremely valuable. Now, let me tell you what was lifechanging for me. During my innovation hub rotation, I discovered 1 Million Cups (a weekly meetup for local entrepreneurs). It was here where I began networking with people I admired and aspired to become. Two things eventually happened towards the end of my internship with Nelnet: (1) I joined Startup Nebraska after being a regular attendee and (2) I listened to a crazy man pitch a crazy idea.

Startup Nebraska is a Facebook group dedicated to easy and open communication between entrepreneurs in (you guessed it) Nebraska. The crazy idea was throwing a conference in six months. With my internship ending, I was getting really frustrated with the job search. I took a chance and posted on Startup Nebraska.

“Hi everyone!
Although it’s a little premature, I’m looking for an internship for the 2017–18 school year.
I’m a marketing major at UNL and would love if you guys could keep me in your thoughts in case you know of anyone looking for students.
Thanks!”

Within a day, I had four people reach out to me. One of those people was the crazy man with the crazy idea. Within a week, I was offered an summer internship to handle logistics for that conference. My mom wasn’t too happy that I accepted an internship and decided to move to Lincoln all in one day and without telling her.

Fast forward to June 19th–21st: we had over 500 people buy tickets, an amazing speaker lineup, and multiple sponsors. It was a major success for being thrown together in six months (props to the crazy man) and for being the first ever. Anyways, I was offered a position on the team — now I coordinate our podcast, write content for our weekly emails, and handle social media marketing.

the boxes around me took our graphic designer a long time to build

So what now?

Yeah, I’m asking myself that too. I’m still pretty young and naive, so take these tidbits of advice with a grain of salt.

  1. Put yourself out there — even if it seems crazy
  2. Learn something, if not what you expected to learn
  3. Let your mom know things step-by-step, not afterwards

The third piece might only apply to me, but might as well share the “wisdom.” Cheers!