Life after graduation:
The Post-Grad’s Guide to Not Freaking Out
If you happen to be one of those people who burst out the womb knowing exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up, I applaud you. If you get sweaty and start hyperventilating when anyone asks you the inevitable post grad question — ‘what are you going to do after you graduate’ — I can relate.
How did we get ourselves into this mess?
Our generation has grown with the impression that we can be anything and do anything we put our minds to — yet the majority of us are seemingly overwhelmed by options and underwhelmed by hard work.
This age of endless possibilities has birthed a lackluster, laissez fair generation with too many options. Some of us, like myself, were born with an average ability to do many things well — which means that we can do most things to a mediocre degree of success. Once you finally graduate and life stretches out in front of you — vast, long and short at the same time — you realize that now you’ve got to carve out your path in the world. You haven’t really had a quarter life crisis until your mom introduces you as ‘Molly, just graduated, no job’.
It’s easy to brush that off. The hard part comes next.
How to beat the post grad blues
Take the first step.
Chances are you’ve gone through some sort of education and have a vague idea of where you want to go. Get a whiteboard and a marker and start mapping out the criteria for ‘your perfect job’ (let’s reach high people):
· Does it involve something creative, logical, research based? Do you want to work with your hands, with people, with computers?
· Do you want to work independently or as a part of a team?
· Do you want to work in an office? What kind of office? Conservative, creative, lab based, etc.
· Do you want to work big, small, start-up, blue collar, white collar, space collar?
· Do you want to start your own business?
· How much do you want to be making at entry level?
· What kinds of growth opportunities are there in the industry?
Chances are most jobs will have a little of it all. The good part comes from choosing the direction and following up with some great strategic moves.
Immerse Yourself Completely
· Networking is scary but a necessary (awkward) evil of the business world. Get comfortable in the awkwardness of it all. Expanding your social network will benefit you now and in the future. Building your network should be a top priority for acquiring mentors, jobs, friends and drinking buddies. Always start at the food table.
· Create opportunities for yourself. Find experience in working on projects within the industry you are targeting (maybe even pro-bono). Set up informational interviews. Go in with a pain point that you need help solving. Ask for two connections from each informational interview.
· Never stop learning. With every new topic, there is a learning curve that can seem intimidating, but a continuous emphasis on education, training and learning will inspire new paths. Start taking classes on your downtown at your local community colleges, art colleges. Research local groups or volunteer opportunities, read everything, subscribe to blogs, online publications and listen to podcasts and audiobooks.
Lastly, please remember — This whole thing is one big adventure. After graduation, don’t be afraid to take some time off, take a trip, do some soul searching and relax. Remember that your entire life has been planned and mapped out to this point — this is the first time you actually have the ability to say ‘ok. What next?’.
Nothing is as equally exciting (and frightening) as a blank slate.