It was May 2011. I had done it. I had earned a college degree! Everyone was proud. One small problem: I had no job. I entered UNCG in 2006 and was certain that, by the autumn of 2010, I’d be in New York counting more money than my parents had ever made. What I didn’t count on was the economic recession that would cause my internship at a financial advising firm to rescind my offer of employment as they “restructured.” I went from being president of the largest and most successful National Pan-Hellenic Council organization on campus, EUC facility manager, and member of the Bryan School Dean’s student advisory committee to a job seeker going through a pot or two of coffee each day so he could keep applying for jobs. I thought I had hit rock bottom. I was wrong.
In late October 2011, my father went to the hospital with a terrible headache. He never walked out. At the time I was also in the final round of interviews for a position in Charlotte. The day before my dad’s funeral, the company made an offer. I would start a month later. I was living in Greensboro, going back and forth to Durham to handle family matters, and preparing to move to Charlotte to begin a job, all while (unhealthily) grieving. That was my rock bottom. From there, I knew I could go nowhere but up.
Immediately after school, I took a hard hit. But that motivated me to truly examine my passions, my goals, and my future. I realized that I had the dexterity to handle life’s challenges and that I needed to look internally to decide what my future would hold.
I developed my passion for branding, by way of fundraising. Now I am the director of marketing for a nonprofit. I also consult individuals, small businesses, and nonprofits on developing their brands. I took what I learned about everything from supply and demand to entrepreneurship and worked to develop my niche. My success has hinged on lifelong learning. Without continuing to learn, I would be unable to effectively consult, my actions in marketing would be outdated, and I would be as ineffective as a letter written in hieroglyphics. Find articles, podcasts, and books that keep you abreast of what is happening in all the industries you encounter. That is what will keep your mind sharp as you establish yourself as one of the Bryan School’s great problem-solvers.
While life hasn’t been perfect for me after graduation, I’ve had some amazing opportunities. I’ve traveled to over a dozen countries in under three years. I married a woman I met a UNCG. I discovered that business is about much more than a degree. I would like to think that the best thing that has happened for me since graduation, as far as my brand goes, has been the opportunity to write guest pieces for Diddy’s publication, Revolt. That opened doors for me to be taken seriously as a business writer and allowed me to increase my going rate for long-form writing. Additionally, the exposure that it provided was key in setting me apart from many of my peers and it has positioned me for talks with publishers regarding a foray into authorship.
Real life, though challenging, has been amazing. Eight years after graduation, I’ve navigated this, at times disorienting (and apparently endless) stage of life known as adulthood. And, I’ll be completely honest: I don’t have all the answers you’ll need. All I can do is share my story and offer just a little advice.
Your life after graduation will be full of highs and lows. My advice is to let neither define you but let both enhance you.
Deryle A. Daniels, Jr. is a 2011 graduate of UNC Greensboro. This blog was originally published in 2019.