Why I didn’t apply for jobs after college and instead defined #mysuccess
“So, are you working now?”
I’ve probably been asked that ~118 times since I graduated from college in June. I’ve heard it from family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and baristas when there was time for small talk.
That’s the question that I always expect when I mention that I recently graduated. I don’t blame people for asking it. Our society has programmed a timeline into our head:
K-12-> College -> Job -> Marriage -> Family -> Retirement
So, since I just graduated from college, of course people will be asking me about my job situation. Totally acceptable, right?
Well, I’m not going to lie. I sometimes became frustrated by the fact that my “success” was being measured by whether or not I had landed some professional work experience.
The frustration came from the fact that although I didn’t have an official job, I was “working”. I was working to discover who I am. I didn’t know what my career was going to look like, but I did know that my degree simply didn’t teach enough of the skills I needed (it was the first year the degree was offered, so my colleagues and I were the guinea pigs).
Some graduates get jobs right out of college, which is amazing! I am always so happy to hear my colleagues announce that they got job offers. Throughout this article, though, I am speaking from the perspective of a confused graduate that wasn’t ready to apply for jobs right away since I simply did not know what I wanted to do.
I wanted to take time to learn more about myself and explore the different routes I could take post-college.
So, I did.
I overcame my introversion and attended as many local tech gatherings/conferences as I could, bussing back and forth for hours to get to random studios and warehouses throughout the city. I connected with industry professionals and became immersed in their diverse stories. I taught myself the hard and soft skills that my degree did not. I found where I feel comfortable and where I do not.
Most importantly, I discovered a passion that makes my heart beat. It would have been harder to identify what that passion was if I didn’t take the time to explore and connect with the local tech community.
That feels like success to me.
It might not work for everyone…
Now, I am speaking from my own experience. My career development strategies suited my life, but can’t apply to everyone. I am in the creative industry, so I can’t speak for other degrees (such as Nursing, Teaching, Accounting, etc). Also, I understand if people simply want a job straight out of college. Getting experience right away can be good for some people.
But I do believe in the importance of exploring. The gap between college graduation and job applications needs to widen in order to allot a period of time for a graduate to find where they feel happy in the world. It doesn’t matter when you get a job — could be weeks, months years before you do — but it does matter that you take the time to learn more about yourself if you don’t feel ready.
Getting a job won’t magically make you happy
I used to work at a Career Center on my college campus where I interacted with students every week. About 75% of them dragged themselves into the office clenching their teeth with anxiety.
Sometimes I would stop and calmly ask, “why do you want this job?”
Many responses included “I want to have Amazon on my resume” or “my mom is making me apply.”
Those responses were not surprising. Colleges emphasize that the ultimate goal is to get a job, and big-name companies like Amazon were flaunted to students frequently at career fairs on campus.
Students were encouraged to explore options and build professional relationships, but not enough. Students focused more on getting the job rather than building the connections.
There needs to be a stronger emphasis on self-discovery and professional development, and less on landing a gig at a big-name company.
Those big-name companies aren’t necessarily bad. There just needs to be more light shed on less traditional routes. I want to make it clear that someone’s passion could be making a lot of money or achieving a high job status, and that is totally fine. I’m speaking for others that don’t define success based on income/employment.
Another issue was that so many students at the Career Center were convinced that they could get their dream job just by submitting a resume and cover letter.
That rarely happened for a couple reasons:
- Students didn’t actually know what their dream job was since they didn’t take the time to explore options
- Job applications are just not enough for getting a gig in the creative industry
Instead, students should be encouraged to attend events like Meetups, where they can make extremely valuable connections. Students should initiate informational interviews with professionals to obtain career advice that they won’t find with a Google search. Students should work on projects outside of school to figure out what type of work makes them happiest.
There’s a lot more to the job search than just the resume.
Sidenote: I recommend checking out videos from composer and sound designer Akash Thakkar. He shares advice for networking that applies beyond the game industry.
So what am I doing now?
After spending past months attending 20+ tech events and building 50+ relationships with amazing people that share the same passion that I do, I am happy to say that I recently got offered my dream job as a design engineer in virtual reality. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity, especially as a first job. I can’t express how happy I am to be collaborating with such an admirable team of creatives.
So, to all of you students, professionals, retirees — anyone who is trying to figure out the mysterious future — listening to your gut is far more rewarding than listening to society’s expectations. It takes time, motivation, and patience — not only from yourself, but from the people around you — to discover your passion.
And it’s never too late to do that.
What is your success?
Success can take an indefinite amount of forms. It’s not just about being rich and famous.
In fact, a survey from Strayer University in 2014 revealed that “90% [of Americans] believe that success is more about happiness than power, possessions, or prestige.” Yet our culture still measures success based on tangible factors such as income and job status.
But I don’t want to live the American Dream. I’m not following the timeline I mentioned earlier. I am defining #mysuccess by following my heart. Sounds cheesy, but it’s the cheesy stuff that can make us happiest. And I want all of you to be happy, so please — follow your heart, too!
Putting money aside — when you experience that “something” that fuels your passion and energy, whether it takes the form of a job, volunteer opportunity, hobby, lifestyle, relationship— whatever it may be — stick with it. And when you do experience that “something”, or if you already have, share your story:
Inspire others. Remind them that success comes in many forms. It is defined by YOU and only you.
Listen to Dr. Seuss
Since I can’t come up with a better quote than my homie Dr. Seuss, I’ll leave you with this:
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go….