Happy Grad: Bennett Whitnell
April 16, 2014
Age: 27Graduation Date: 2009Major: EconomicsSchool: Illinois Wesleyan UniversityCurrent Position: Vice President, General Manager
Q: What was your biggest fear about leaving college and entering the “real world”?I graduated in 2009, right into the teeth of the recession. People graduating in the two years before me were getting big pay packages, sometimes creeping in on six figures right out of school. Now, most of them ended up having those packages cut significantly or losing their jobs completely in the recession.
...my biggest fear was that I was going to be thought less of for the amount of money I made.Not knowing that part of the story though, my biggest fear was that I was going to be thought less of for the amount of money I made. Most of the jobs I was finding had starting salaries in the mid-30's or were mostly commission paying jobs. What was everyone going to think when I wasn't pulling in big bucks?
Q: What five words would you use to explain your job search as a recent grad?Relentless, constant, persistent, creative, flexible.
Q: What is it about your situation now that makes you a happy grad?I have had a very intense/exciting few years since graduation. The realities of the American economy forced me to abandon some of my pre-conceived notions of what I was "supposed" to do with my life and just go with it. Those challenges forced me to learn a lot about myself and others.
When you can accept yourself for what you are, happiness comes pretty easy.The most important thing I learned was that I needed to walk my own path and not worry so much about what everyone else thought of what I was doing. When you can accept yourself for what you are, happiness comes pretty easy. In a few short years, I have helped to launch a sales program at a Fortune 500 company, establish two sales teams in a very competitive market, moved across the country, got married, and helped to start my own company because I didn't care what anybody else thought.
Q: What are the best things about your current role?I have a ton of freedom - I get to work on projects that I find interesting and help our customers make their business better. I'm also working very closely with my father. Building a family business has given me an opportunity to get to know him on a different level which has been incredibly rewarding.
Q: What advice would you give recent grads today about leaving college, and finding a career and life they love?Don't force it, when I talk to recent grads or soon to be grads, I'm always surprised at how specific they are making my job search. "I want to find a job where I do X, Y and Z and that is it" is a recipe for a very frustrating job search. Instead, look for a job that you can turn in to one that you want by putting your own spin on it.
"I want to find a job where I do X, Y and Z and that is it" is a recipe for a very frustrating job search. Instead, look for a job that you can turn in to one that you want by putting your own spin on it.Most people were surprised to hear that I went into the world of industrial supply sales after college (I was, too!). But in reality, the job gave me an opportunity to use my language skills, my problem solving ability, and gain a lot of experience looking at different types of businesses. I just happened to be selling screw drivers while I was doing those other things because nobody would let me do those things if I WASN'T selling screw drivers.
6. What are some of the best things about being a recent grad?You're free! Most students have student loans, which can put a bit of a damper on things. But after that? You have the two most valuable resources in the world... time and freedom! There is no mortgage to pay, no kids to feed, no real obligations to be met. You can take risks, bet on yourself, move across the country, or try something new. If you fail? Don't worry, there is plenty of time to dust yourself off and get back at it!
If you fail? Don't worry, there is plenty of time to dust yourself off and get back at it!