School: Indiana University
Brennan Knotts is currently the Director of Marketing for Xemion web design directory and MobileDeveloper.net, a directory for mobile developers. As a former Orr Fellow, he spent 2+ years working for his host company Cantaloupe.tv and co-founded Pocket Tales, a social reading game for kids whose investors include east coast-based Startl and Dreamit Ventures.
Welcome to the newest Orr Fellows and congratulations! This post is for you. It's a short collection of advice I received or wish I'd received when I entered the Orr Fellowship. Follow this plan and you will earn the full potential of your salary in the Fellowship, which if no one told you is actually a lot more than that number on your paycheck.
1. Schedule drinks/coffee/lunch whatever with alumni as soon as you can
One of the smartest things I ever did as an Orr Fellow was reach out to alumni before I even started work. I'll admit it wasn't a master plan of mine - I just happened to meet some cool Fellows and wanted to hang out with them more (okay, I was in no condition to drive so I crashed on their couch and got brunch the next morning).
Not only did I build lasting friendships during those early days, but I received advice on my career and life that is still useful 4 years later.
I can promise you no alumni will turn you down. Even if they're not local they will make themselves available for a phone call. Just ask and be respectful of their time.
2. Don't ever miss a business leader meeting
I'm proud to say I never missed a business leader meeting during my tenure. No one is handing out trophies for this accomplishment, but you owe it to yourself to take advantage, exploit even, the opportunities you get during your two years.
Sometimes you will be tempted to believe that working late the night of a business leader meeting is more important than attending the BLM, but I assure you it isn't. Unless your boss is demanding you stay (in which case, we need to have a talk about that boss...), find a way to go.
At some point you'll grow tired of hearing someone else's "how I made it" story. You'll become restless and want to stop all this meeting and talking and start doing.
THAT's when you'll know you've internalized everything you've learned from these stories, because when you boil each down to its simplest element, each is a story about someone who went out and DID something.
3. Get a side project
Your work at your first job post college will not be intellectually stimulating. You'll hear this a million times but for some reason you won't believe it until you experience it yourself. (I think the bottom line is that only 20% of the meaningful work anyone does is the hard-thinking type of work and the other 80% is the tedious execution work, but that's for another post to debate...)
This is an advantage for two reasons: 1) because it allows you to learn the blocking and tackling of being in the working world, learning to work with people, prioritize your tasks, work effectively in meetings, etc. and 2) when you get home from work you're not emotionally and intellectually drained.
Use this leftover energy to work on something meaningful to you. Learn to code, start a business, help run a non-profit, pick up the guitar, start a blog, write for someone else's blog - just do something. You will never have as much available energy as you do at your entry-level job.
This side project also has the benefit of giving you something interesting to talk about when your networking with alumni.
4. Think big
Indiana is a big greenfield. That might be true literally, but I mean it figuratively. There are so many ways for you to leave a permanent mark on this community. Get an ambition and take up a cause. No idea is too big. You decided to come to Indiana so take advantage of the fact that it's not New York or San Francisco and that you can actually get access to the movers and shakers in the community and that everything hasn't "been done before."
Co-founding Hackers and Founders, now Verge, was my contribution in this regard. And although Verge has addressed a huge gap in the Indianapolis tech community, there are so many more big opportunities - and that's just the tech community. I challenge you to find your own big idea and go after it.
Are you looking for entry-level jobs in Indiana or business jobs in Indianapolis? Learn more about the Orr Fellowship at www.orrfellowship.org.