When you go off to college, you’re given four years. Four years to learn everything there is to learn. “The best four years of your life.” OK, maybe an extra semester or two if you opted for the five year plan. But still, it’s your time to make mistakes, to grow, to find yourself, but mostly, a time to learn.
Fast forward to seven months after college graduation.
Seven months seems like no time at all. Barely creeping over that half year mark and only 214 days out of 365. Psh – Seven months is nothing.
That is, of course, until you’re looking at it like this: Seven months out of college and I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.
Sure, I’ve landed my first job. I’m paying the bills to my very own apartment. I’m starting my career and I’m still maintaining somewhat of a social life. I’m living every college grad’s dream, right?
I’m happy, I’m getting by, and I’m learning a lot through working in my first corporate setting at my desk placed in the office of my first official “big girl job.”
I’ve learned a lot over the past seven months that came from outside of my newfound workplace, too. Whether it was that job searching is more than just submitting your resume and copy and pasted cover letter over 100 times before you even land yourself an interview, or that networks are important but don’t guarantee anything, even when you’re totally convinced that your best friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s sister is going to land you that dream job you’re probably (OK, definitely) underqualified for. Or maybe that my limit for margaritas is no longer eight, but instead two, if I can even find the energy to make it out on a Friday after a long 40+ hour work week.
Job searching, careers, life; they’re not easy and they’re certainly not handed to you. But they’re exciting, and they undoubtedly have more to teach than you ever got from that three hour lecture twice a week on Aristotle vs. Plato. If you asked me what I’ve learned in the past seven months after leaving my tiny, perfect, sometimes hell-like, home-away-from-home college university that I adored, my answer would look something like this:
Don’t envy peers who are seemingly doing “better” than you.
It’s easy to see friends and Facebook acquaintances post about their new job, their big move, or their acceptance into grad school and it’s even easier to be jealous and wonder why it didn’t come as quickly for you. Here’s the thing to remember: There is no right or wrong place for you to be at this moment in time, so don’t let the terrifying idea that you’re going to be left behind get to your head.
You don’t have to settle…
…for the first job that’s offered to you, for the crappy apartment, for friends, or significant others, or for someone else’s expectations of what you should be doing. Chances are you know what you want out of all of these things, so stick to your guns on the important stuff.
Money isn’t always important.
You’re young, you see a world full of money and those who have it, and you figure, okay, I did what I was supposed to do. Bring on the fat paychecks. But quite honestly, the only jobs that are attainable for college grads in today’s economy pay very little. So what? If you made all the money in the world at your first job, you would never be motivated to move forward. There is never a reason to feel unlucky for what you have accomplished – no matter the pay.
You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with…
…professionally and personally. Keep your meaningful relationships and drop the ones that do nothing for you. Realize it’s OK to do this and more importantly, realize that it’s OK to create new friendships. Whether it’s inside your place of work or within your social circle, everyone influences you in one way or another. Choose wisely.
Never stop building your resume.
Out of college and zero luck thus far in the job department? Find an internship. Take a class. Volunteer. Join a young professionals group. Stop waiting for something to fall into your lap. Make use of the (what may seem like never-ending) spare time in-between graduation and landing that rock star job. And once you’ve landed that job? Keep building. Your first job is more than likely not your last, so even when you think you’re working hard, work harder.
And most importantly, don’t stress and don’t panic. Don’t spend too much time trying to keep your head above the water just to forget how much you’ve always loved to swim. Take every job application and every interview with a grain of salt, a slice of lime, and a shot of tequila (afterwards, of course).
You are no where near as lost as you think you are. Your opportunity will come. Visit new places, pick up a new hobby, dream big. Do all the things you’ve always wanted to do because now is your chance to do so. Twenty-something is not nearly as old as we like to think it is. You were lucky enough to walk away from four years (OK, maybe five) of college with at least some of your sanity still intact, so don’t blow it now – no matter how many people ask you the terrifying question, “What are you going to do, now?” Tell them that you? You are on your way.