One of the things I love doing is meeting with college students or recent graduates about life advice and career management topics. I cannot meet with everyone, but do the best that I can.
This morning, I met with one of my son’s former high school classmates, whom I’ll call Bill to protect his privacy. He wanted feedback on a website that he has built. I’ve also been advising him on how to network in the business world.
Bill this summer decided to do something different: move to Hawaii, pay for everything himself, and learn how to surf.
Bill took a room at a family friend’s house and found a job making smoothies. He wanted to work at a place that could give him free lunches.
For breakfast, he had a pack of instant oatmeal, for he had filled his guitar with a bunch of them and brought all that with him. He often for meals ate only peanut butter, straight out of the jar.
“So,” I asked, “what did you learn from it all?”
Bill thought for a bit. He learned to make new friends by joining hiking groups.
He also mentioned how odd it was to be the only white person in his neighborhood. Bill said that some native Hawaiians harbor hard feelings towards whites. Someone in the truck at one point got verbally aggressive.
Bill also said that he had to learn the informal protocol about surfing. The locals were totally cool, but if you cut off one of them while surfing, there could be violence.
Finally, Bill said how grateful he was to be home, to find a fridge and a pantry full of food.
As I’ve blogged before, I often encourage my children to seek out new experiences, to take a gap year if they can, or to get a minimum wage job. I think getting a new perspective on life can be very illuminating.
I told Bill that working at a smoothie shop may not seem like much, but that, IMO, he was learning a lot about himself. I think that’s a key component of career management: self-awareness.
Bill says he cannot bear the thought of drinking another smoothie. But, I think he gained a lot more in exchange.