Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shake Your Tassels

Graduation is in the air!  Whether you are graduating from high school, and ready to embark on college, or graduating from college  and moving on to, dun dun dun...THE REAL WORLD (ahhh), Congratulations!! I've been there, and I know you are feeling all kinds of emotions, but above all you should feel very proud for getting to this point.

With that being said, I want to put on my Yoda hat and give you a little advice, some words of wisdom if you will. 

Life is very much like a game of dominoes. One move can significantly affect the rest of your life. I know this from experience. Here's a little bit about the story of me, Courtney Foster, Kitchen & Bath Designer.....

I graduated from high school in 2004 and went to college at The University of Georgia. I applied to the University of Georgia with a declared major of pre-pharmacy. I know what you're thinking... YOU, a pharmacist?? But let me just tell you, I was pretty good at chemistry in high school, so I thought why not!? Well, lesson #1, high school is completely different than college (in the best ways possible, but different, nonetheless). I arrived at orientation the summer before my freshman year and promptly changed my major to Interior Design. Today, I can't honestly tell you why I decided to do this, but at the time it just felt right and I'm SO glad I went with that gut feeling. Little did I know this was the first domino that set the path for my entire career.

I enjoyed college, made some great friends and learned a lot over the course of those four years. I was accepted into the Interior Design program and began my first semester of interior design classes my Junior year. Starting this program changed college for me. Suddenly I went from being mildly interested in my classes to truly enjoying what I was learning. And even better, I was surrounded by about 27 people who felt the same way and shared the same passion. Now, don't get me wrong, my classes were challenging and I practically lived at school along with several of my classmates . I put in more all nighters than I care to remember and my junior and senior years in college were extremely stressful. My work was a reflection of me, and I was in the presence of so much talent, I couldn't afford to skimp on my projects.

For the first year in the program we were all taking the same classes, learning the same material and doing the same projects. But our senior year was different. While most of our classes were the same, there were two classes offered that were optional - Advanced CAD and Kitchen & Bath Design. For me, the decision to take both of these classes was a no-brainer. Not trying to sound like Sheldon Cooper (BAZINGA!), but we are in college to learn; why wouldn't you take every class you could get your hands on, in the field that you hoped to get a job in?! Helloooooo obvious!!! Well, thank God I chose this path, because this decision was the next domino that shaped my future.

Fast forward to the end of my senior year, projects were in full swing, resumes were sent out, our senior show was on the horizon and I hear of the opportunity (offered only to those of us who took the Kitchen & Bath class) to go to Chicago and and attend the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Hello, another no-brainer, of course I wanted to go! I needed a job after college!  But there were two obstacles.

  1. We had to pay our own way to Chicago, including air far, hotel, etc...
  2. this trip was right smack at the end of our senior year, during crunch time, not only for finals and final projects but for a big senior show we would put on for our friends and family to see our work.

Who am I kidding, even with these obstacles I still knew I wanted to go. I'm a sucker for cities I've never been to and a little work overload never hurt anyone, right?! So, my grandparents generously offered to sponsor my trip, and BOOM, it was a done deal, I was going to Chicago.

Again, this was one of those domino moves, except this was the MAC DADDY of domino moves for me. This trip completely changed my life.

A handful of us ended up going on the trip, including my good friends, Courtney R & Holly. Upon registering for KBIS we were invited to a slew of parties and events, one of which was the Atlanta Party. The Atlanta party was the day before the KBIS show started and the evening of our arrival to Chicago.

Side note: The day we arrived in Chicago was lucky from the beginning. Somehow our groups ended up going in different directions and I was left to explore Chicago with Courtney R. and Holly. As we were roaming the city, we came upon a theatre and saw that WICKED was playing. We went inside to see how much tickets were, just for the fun of it, and found out that they were actually doing a drawing for people to win FREE tickets to the show. So we entered. And, we won. Not only did we win tickets to Wicked but we won FRONT ROW CENTER TICKETS TO WICKED!

After the show (which was awesome by the way) we headed towards the Atlanta Party. The idea of going to this party sounded a lot better as were planning the trip, but it dawned on us as we were approaching the location that we knew no one. We walk into the location and see the party is upstairs, there were a lot of people and to say we were intimidated was an understatement. After several pep talks among the three of us we decided to go up... and the next domino fell.

So, There we were, standing among all of these Atlanta based designers, knowing no one, feeling completely out of place. And then everything changed... Out of nowhere came, who I now refer to as The Glue of Atlanta. Having heard we were "bulldogs" he instantly started talking to us and found out we had paid our own way to come to this show and that Courtney R. and I were going to be graduating in a few weeks and were looking for a job. One thing led to another and he introduced us to a respected Atlanta based Kitchen & Bath designer, who, little did we know at the time, would soon become our first employer. We didn't get job offers that evening but, not long after graduation we were BOTH hired and started our Kitchen & Bath design careers.

Here we are, taking on Chicago, changing our lives without even knowing it.
This story happened about 4 years ago. Since then I have changed companies (still in the Kitchen & Bath Industry) won the 2011 Calla Award for Large Kitchen and started this design blog. But it all happened because of several key decisions I made along the way.

In the words of Zac Brown, "You only get one chance at life to leave your mark upon it, and when a pony, he comes riding by you better sit your sweet ass on it." Pardon my French (I'm quoting), but this verse is so true.  In today's economy everybody is hungry and looking for opportunities. If you don't pounce on opportunities when they present themselves there will be 10 people waiting to take your place.

Network, network, network. This is easily THE most important advice I can give you. No matter where you are, who you're with or what you're doing, be aware that the key to your future could be right under your nose.

Congrats Class of 2012!!!!!!

2 Appreciated Comments :

Maria G. said...

I just discovered your blog through the CR Home Design Showroom's facebook page. I have really enjoyed reading and have learned a lot!!! Loved the post on the way oak is cut to give the different looks....who woulda thunk?

This post about the domino effects of life really hit home with me. My first job out of school led me to my husband. It is almost a little frightening to think of where I would be now if I hadn't gotten that job. Let's not think about it!!! ;) Crazy how certain experiences or opportunities taken can change your life...mostly for the better. Good luck in your career, you seem to be on the path to greatness!!!

Courtney Foster Shearer said...

Wow - thank you so much, what a sweet comment. I'm so glad you found the blog and have enjoyed reading it, I certainly enjoy writing my posts each week! This post is so true to my life, one decision can change everything!

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