Gradulthood — What I’ve Learnt in Year One

You’ve finished University, you’ve got your degree. Huge congratulations to you for being autonomous and getting the countless essays written, lectures attended all whilst maintaining an avid social life and developing as a young adult. You went down a path and completed it successfully: School, College, Uni — Check!

Now comes the big decision; the decision that looms over those in their early 20s — What do I do next? The paths that were so clear before for those who wanted to follow suit in education are not so clear anymore… In fact you can do almost anything. Actually: anything. In Gradulthood the most difficult question to answer is ‘What do I want?’. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a career move but that’s what I’m focusing on in this piece.

The only way this question could possibly be answered before all thoughts spiral out of control and panic sets in, is to break it down into digestable chunks. If this all seems cliché, I apologise but these are questions I’ve attempted to find answers to in my first year as a Graduate.

1. What motivates you?
This could be anything — a sense of fulfillment, a big fat paycheck, helping others, having your name up on a board with #1 adjacent, making a difference to an industry (big or small). List the things in your life that you’re proud of and see if there’s a reoccurring pattern.

2. What are your interests?
I love to write. That’s a passion of mine and always has been. I also love communication with people and spreading a message through multi-modality. I enjoy making things look aesthetically pleasing. Networking with new people, I enjoy greatly and I like to see people enjoying themselves. All this to me added up and equated to the broad field of Marketing and Events. Write down all your interests and see which industries or career paths could encompass them.

3. What are your gifts, talents and strengths?
You may be incredible at crunching numbers, have the ability to charm the monkeys from the trees, have an unbelievable amount of compassion and humility or be excellent at organising people. If it’s hard to pin-point what it is that you excel in, write down every subject you’ve enjoyed and/or ask your friends and family what they think your talents are. This can be a great gauge for what you embark on.

So now for the lessons.

1. You may start off on one path and end up at a destination that wasn’t even signposted.
From what I’ve seen, this happens a lot in Gradulthood. You walk down one road and it isn’t as linear as going to University and ending up with a degree. You acquire a job role that perhaps you didn’t realise was a possibility for you within that company. This can be positive and we mustn’t forget that companies can be flexible. If you prove your worth in an alternative role there’s nothing to say you can’t bring value in a different role to the one you were hired for.

2. The road can get bumpy.
Do excuse the journey/road/epic adventure metaphors but sometimes we enter a job or take up a pastime that we aren’t made for even if we thought we were. But don’t let this discourage you! Quitting doesn’t mean failure — it may just mean that you’ve discovered another part of your personal jigsaw. You may have prioritised money over self fulfillment, or prioritised job satisfaction over the money that you really want to make. Whatever it is, you always have time to turn around and head in a different direction.

3. You’re making a foundation for your future.
Regardless of whether you’ve landed the first job, volunteer work or apprenticeship you’ve always wanted (or not!), it all contributes to developing yourself in the field you want to be in. You create connections, improve your communication, add skills to your repertoire, realise your strengths. However you also understand more about the way you work best, the types of people you like to work with, what your weaknesses are and how to improve the skills you’re lacking in.

Of course there are other lessons specific to the industry I work in that have been learnt as well as negotiating life in the office but the focus of this was not on those specifics but rather the overall picture after graduating.

Gradulthood can be confusing, overwhelming and scary. We often compare ourselves to other people of our own age but it’s important to remember that success is based on your own personal answers to the three questions above.

So, fellow Graduates and Early 20'ers. Show yourself what you’ve got!