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The Real-Life KPIs: The Lessons I Took Away From Graduate School

(Image courtesy of Ashton Kutcher speaks on Aug. 11, 2013, during the Teen Choice Awards 2013 in Universal City, Calif. Credit: Getty Images)

The best advice I ever heard was from Ashton Kutcher. I first heard it at sixteen when my mom showed me his Teen Choice Award speech. In his speech, he described the tricks of the trade he learned throughout his career. He told the audience how the people who create the parameters of "life" are no smarter than you or me. I don't want to spoil the speech, but I want to explore the last point he makes.

(Video courtesy of Brandon Myer's YouTube account)

At sixteen, I focused on the earlier parts of the speech discussing sexiness and opportunity. But at twenty-four, I think about this last part once a week at a minimum. As I enter the next chapter in life, I want to tell you what parameters, aka KPIs, I found true in this chapter. During my second semester of graduate, the Michael Jordan of Hussman, VK Fields, taught students the term KPI. KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. When constructing communication plans for anything, a communication professional must explicitly state what they want to accomplish. I want to tell you my KPIs that I learned in graduate school.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Image showcases the KPI Key Performance Indicator for Business Concept - Modern graphic interface showing symbols of job target evaluation and analytical numbers for marketing KPI management graphic.)

1. Its okay not to know your next steps

I'm not going to lie to you. When writing this post, I still have no idea what I will do when I graduate. I felt this feeling once before in college, and I dreaded it. I wanted to seamlessly transition from college to young adulthood. That did not happen. Until I was applying to grad school, I watched the 90-day fiancé franchise at home with my dad while my friends were moving on with their lives. I was jealous of my friends who managed to move to the big city, get the coveted job, or start law/grad/medical school. They appeared to master the alchemy of young adulthood. I could not even find the page to look up the potion. This is how I viewed uncertainty. To me, uncertainty was quicksand that made you feel drowned in worry. But, I have to thank Johnny for a different perspective.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

One time I was on a phone call with one of my friend's older brother. Let's call my friend's older brother Johnny. Johnny is a jack of all trades who has a Midas touch. Because Johnny works in the communications realm, he saved me a lot of time and aggravation by helping me with my thesis. During my phone call with him, he taught me something: if you look at uncertainties as possibilities, it enables you to plan for the future.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Image depicts Road sign with words known and unknown. White two street signs with arrow on metal pole. Directional road, Crossroads Road Sign, Two Arrows on blue sky.)

I know this sounds counterintuitive. But hear me out. This blog was supposed to be a one-semester assignment. I was supposed to write three times a week about anything. I quickly realized how hard it is to create engaging content. Eventually, one brand took a chance on me and allowed me to write about it. As more opportunities came in, I had the opportunity to experience professional and personal development beyond measure. This blog allowed me to intern at a great public relations firm, make connections in the industry, and even attend a Duke basketball game. I realized that the uncertainty of the assignment and its opportunities allowed me to know that this is the realm I want to work in. By not knowing your next steps, you are enabled to set up perimeters for future professional and personal goals. You could develop your own KPIs that you would have never thought of if you knew everything that would happen to you.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

2. Graduate school gives you the ingredients for success, but you have to discover the recipe for success

(Image courtesy of me. Image depicts Remy Huss)

After moving to North Carolina, my family missed my dog living at home so much that they got his half-brother Remy. Remy is named after the protagonist of the 2007 Pixar movie Ratatouille. Once you know Remy, you realize he is more bear than a rodent, hence why I call him my baby bear (and many other nicknames). But, Remy does have a similar trait with his namesake; the ability to fearless pursue what you want. For both Remys, this pursuit mainly involves food. Remy Huss loves his food to the point that he tries to get food from anyone and everyone. Remy the Rat loves food to the point that he uses a human as a vehicle to accomplish his goals. Both Remys made the most of the opportunities presented; Remy Huss is a fixture in my family, and Remy the Rat is an institution in French cuisine. Both worked to make the most of the opportunities presented to them.

(Gif courtesy of Wix)

When you are in graduate school, you are given the ingredients for success. You learn theories, vocabulary, and writing techniques. Yet, once that unit is over, you can let these ingredients spoil or practice your craft to the point it impresses your Anton Ego.

(Gif courtesy of Wix)

3. You are the arbitrator of how you feel

II recently wrote a piece about a person's ability to filter if someone's words impact you. I did not learn this lesson until last year. I used to let people dictate how I would feel about myself (specifically the guys I used to see). If I had a crush on someone and, let's say he liked someone else named Rachel, it was not the best feeling in the world. I would feel second best to the person that got the coveted title of "someone I'm seeing."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Last year, I reached out to one of those guys for a school assignment, the blog. He posted a company on LinkedIn, and inspired by his post, I reached out and wrote a piece about the company. I texted him, asking if we could chat as a professional courtesy call. During our conversation, I told him how anything attached to his name could have consequences (either positive or negative). He then told me how this isn't the Washington Post and just a student blog. I took a beat and told him he's right; it's not the Washington Post, but many people read this, and it would get back to him. That was the moment in my life when I decided that I was not going to let someone whose behavior has been nothing but bad towards me dictate how I view myself. While you're in graduate school, you will encounter people who don't understand you. It's a waste of time and energy to discover and remedy their perception towards you; instead, you know that you can decide if someone has the power to make you feel less than.

(Gif courtesy of Wix)

4. The best is still unwritten

There is a common film trope about how people peaked in high school or college. They typically serve as the antagonist who wants to remind the main character about their station in life. But here is a secret that no one wants to tell you. You can decide if the best times of your life are ahead or behind you. You can view the future as the diet version of when you were "on top." But I have to tell you something, Natasha Bedingfield was right; the best is still unwritten. As I am nearing the end of graduate school, I can not tell you where I will be or what I will be doing. My time at UNC has given me the confidence, foundation, and skills to make the next chapter of my life just as riveting as this one.

(Video courtesy of SME (on behalf of Sony BMG Music UK); LatinAutor, ASCAP, AMRA, SOLAR Music Rights Management, CMRRA, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, Audiam (Publishing), Sony ATV Publishing, LatinAutorPerf, LatinAutor - SonyATV, and 15 Music Rights Societies. Video found on )


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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