Dear readers, friends, mentees, dreamers, and entrepreneurs, pleasure to virtually meet you. My name is Tsvetta Kaleynska. I am a social media data guru, an entrepreneur, an expert, and a life-long student.
I still remember my first week moving to the United States. It felt like a moment ago, though it has already been over 12 years since then. As an international student from Bulgaria, in 2008 I received a scholarship to attend a tiny college in the heart of Brooklyn, NY. I took the risk of moving into this new country by myself and never looked back. I clearly recall how excited I was to set my foot in America – I was new to college life, to Brooklyn, and to living abroad. I had just arrived in the United States to embark on the most exciting journey during an incredibly tumultuous time. My arrival happened to coincide with the 2008 financial crisis. Vivid memories of the tension in the NYC air come across my mind as I think of that summer month of August and the grim news reports about the American economy. There were constant discussions about the economic turmoil that was taking place. Large corporations were filing for bankruptcy, and the unemployment rate was skyrocketing in front of my eyes.
Ignore the Noise
My uneasiness about the news and chatter was quickly tempered by my loving professors and college staff as they encouraged me to focus on learning and not on the noise. Throughout my courses, I met some of my best friends – many of whom later became my employers, mentors, and have helped me in numerous ways. Being able to ignore the noise and chaos around me was not only a valuable learning experience but also a crucial experience that has been beneficial throughout my life. I often heard many of my classmates complain about the economy, how hard it was to find internships, and many other (what I thought were) “excuses” on why they couldn’t apply themselves more. At the same time, many were also restless and opting out for coffee dates vs. looking for the next opportunity. They seemed to simply focus on the noise, letting it consume them. As an international student, I had a completely different approach to the situation – I decided to use every single minute of my days to apply for internships (both paid and unpaid). I understood that being in the workforce as early as possible will give me more time to build my resume, earn experience, and meet new people. In the end, ignoring the noise was what made me successful early in my college career – with many jobs under my belt, money in my pocket, and a huge network outside of school.
Build a Diverse Network
Having interned in my first year at St. Francis was another good decision I made which paid off in the long run. Throughout the 4 school years, I had more than 6 internships. This presented me with the unique chance to pick a career I would enjoy. I chose diverse internships – from nonprofits to huge corporations to agencies. On average, I spent 8 months with each and used my free time to get certifications. The places I interned at varied in pay too – some were unpaid which surely was challenging, but those actually turned out to be the most interesting ones I had. My favorite unpaid experience was to work with an organization called SUNSGLOW which provided training for legal and judicial reform, respect for Human Rights, and the Enhancement of Good Governance Across National Borders. At the end of my internship, I got to meet a Supreme court judge in New York City and sit on a real case in court.
With every single internship I completed, I realized that the more diverse my network became, the better placed I was on the job market. By the time I graduated, I had worked at so many organizations and had 3 job offers on the table. Never underestimate the power of your efforts – they will not go unseen if you give your all. While my classmates were just beginning their job hunt, having offers lined up after graduation was a great relief for me and proved that all the hard work I had put in did not go unnoticed.
Last but not least, I recommend you pick friends and mentors from all walks of life. The diverse culture and experience between them all will help shape your views of the world and contribute to the growth of your dreams.
Never. Stop. Dreaming!
While I faced many challenges along the way, I persevered through all because I truly believed in myself. I learned that life is a series of ups and downs and knowing how to handle the very highs and the very lows is part of being successful.
Write down your goals, structure them, out a timeline behind them, and stay focused.
Do not take your days for granted – every day is a new opportunity, so make sure you appreciate your days and your time. Don’t waste them wondering what could have been if you picked something different. Trust me when I say that there will be many regrets, mistakes, and fears, but in moments like that, refer back to your written goals and keep going.
I still remember my first week of entrepreneurship, I received a letter from a former part-time employer that they would sue me shall I continue with registering my company. While I was upset and disappointed by their decision, I pushed through the difficulties and never stopped. Because my dreams will never stop, and nor shall yours. You must be persistent in the pursuance of your goals, and never let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you are embarking on the entrepreneurship journey in 2020, there is no doubt that you will remember this year through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic; a global event that has impacted every aspect of our lives – from #socialdistancing to new virtual classrooms and realities to economic fallouts. Dear dreamers, be optimistic and know that your professors (as annoying as they can be at times), mentors, your network, your family will be there for you. Trust that your connections will be there to assist you with internships, jobs, mentorship, advice, and guidance. Continue dreaming big and dare to dream even bigger. The same network you build now will support you in your endeavors and will warmly welcome you to the extended entrepreneurs’ family soon. And remember, the best is yet to come.