If you’re like me and most of my friends, graduating college is awesome! You envision doors flying open to your dream job, and by the time you hit 30 you’ll be an executive-level director at some firm in the city.
Well, here’s a reality check: You’re probably going to be a hot mess for a while. Don’t get me wrong, some people find their niche and develop into a career as they dreamed they would, but most of us flounder, stumble and quite frankly, think that going back to school doesn’t sound that bad.
I spent a solid year after college wondering why I even majored in advertising and public relations. I actually called my Mom and told her that I was going to go back to school and become a teacher. She laughed, but then realized I was serious, so we had a ‘come to Jesus’ conversation about my future.
I promise to not get gospel-ish on you, but looking back, this is what I would say to my graduating self:
Stick It Out
There’s a quote from Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon that has never left me. It’s during Sam’s interview at Acuretta Systems with Brazo. Sam is searching for a job that makes him “feel like he matters,” and Brazo says, “You know what I think? You want the job after this job. But, son, this is the job that’s standing in your way.”
When this movie came out in 2011, I was in one of those jobs. That job that is definitely not what you want to do, but necessary to suffer through. The experience I gained from that job allowed me to get one step closer to my current job, which I consider my dream job. So stick it out, because most likely, you’re going to have a few jobs that are standing in the way, but they will make landing that job possible and so much more amazing when it finally happens.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
How the heck will we ever know what doesn’t work if we never fail? And unless you’ve developed some unearthly superpower of knowledge, chances are that you have no idea what you’re doing 99% of the time. So take risks and fail often. You have a great excuse to be fearless… you don’t know any better. Take advantage of that.
We’re all familiar with Edison and that he discovered 10,000 ways not to build a light bulb. I have failed so many times, but I’ve never given up. You are going to make mistakes or try things that don’t always work out, but that’s a good thing. Next time you’ll know what to really focus on, or how to be more successful. Failure can be a really good thing.
In college, you’re in a unique position where you see your friends ALL THE TIME. You have open and flexible schedules, three months or more of vacation a year, at least one long weekend a month, etc. Once you leave college, you are most likely going to get very busy and far less flexible. This is why I suggest getting involved in a local young professionals group, volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about, or join a service club.
Groups like these are not only going to make your life feel more balanced, but they are also going to help you meet and connect with people like you. It’s going to help open doors to businesses and possible jobs that you’ve been dreaming of– so if you have to do one thing, get involved in your community.
Bringing me to the next point…
It can be really tough to not throw yourself into your work and allow it to consume you, but DON’T DO IT. Even if you are doing what you love, you still need time to take care of yourself and decompress. Take a walk. Eat lunch away from your desk (I am so guilty of this one). Go to the gym (I need to do this more). Leave your cell phone at home while you grab a coffee at a local cafe. Become a volunteer dog walker/cat socializer at your local shelter.
Find things that bring joy to your life so that when works gets you stressed you’ll have a way to make it better.
Everything Will Come Together… Eventually
After I graduated, I went into panic mode… how was I going to pay rent, student loans, and credit card debt? Do I leave NYC, or do I stay?
Well, five years, three companies, and seven job titles later… I’ve finally found the job that makes me feel like I matter. There were days where I felt like it was never going to happen, but now, I have no doubt that life has a funny way of working out. You just have to be brave enough to trust that eventually, everything will come together.
If you could go back and give advice to your graduating self, what would it be?