With another wave of recent graduates entering the “real world” I thought it could be useful for some of you to have a little list to reference of things you may experience as you transition from student to full-blown adult.
As a relatively recent graduate myself, here’s my list of things I’ve found to be true after graduation:
You Might Leave Still Feeling Unsure of What You Want in LifeI know you just graduated and you think you’re supposed to know by now what it is you want; I know you’re looking at your degree thinking you’ve made your decision. Or maybe even looking at it in despair because you’re realizing you actually want nothing to do with that field.
I know society tries to force us to decide what we want to do in life pretty early on, but I’m saying screw it.
Yes, It’s good to give yourself some direction, everyone needs a place to start, but it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to know. Sure, some do. But many of us will continue to ask ourselves “what do I want to be when I’m older?” for many years to come—maybe even the rest of our lives.
It takes time.
We go off to college pretty young; at eighteen, we’re inexperienced; we’re ~green~. Biologically, the brain is still developing until around twenty-five years old, so we’re still growing into the people we’re meant to become. Asking and expecting anyone to decide at that age what they want to do with the rest of their life is a little ridiculous.
A lot of evolution occurs in a person during their years at college, the answers we gave at eighteen may not hold true at twenty-three. The answers we gave at graduation may not hold true once we get home.
I’m giving you permission to not know, despite having a degree.
And I’ll do you one better, I’m giving you permission to change your mind at any point. It’s your life, and you have it all laid out in front of you. You can take it anywhere you want it to go (theoretically). Don’t get trapped in the mindset that you have to have it all figured out right now.
You Might Feel Forced to ConformJust because there’s a path in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to take it. Sometimes the path laid out for us isn’t really the path we ought to take. No harm in following it, but no harm in deviating either. Just because everyone around you is getting a career job, doesn’t mean you have to be doing so as well. If you need to travel, travel. If you want to be a scuba instructor, be a scuba instructor. Life is short and the older you become, the more the cliché will sink in. So don’t spend your life doing something that doesn’t fulfill you. Don’t force things on yourself if you can avoid it. I know some of us have difficult circumstances that don’t allow us the luxury of doing whatever the hell we please, but I just want to remind you to do your best to advocate for yourself and to remember that there is no correct way to live your life. If the path everyone else is taking doesn’t feel right to you, it’s really okay to choose your own. Those that go their own way have a tendency to be change makers and innovators. There’s nothing shameful about being unconventional.
You Might Feel Out of Step with Your PeersYou may leave college, or approach graduation, with the sinking feeling that you’re not in step with your peers. Maybe you feel like they’re more prepared for the real world than you are. Maybe you’re worried because you don’t have the same ambitions as they do.
I’ve discussed it before and I’m sure I’ll discuss it again… Everyone feels inadequate or inferior to someone else. It’s worth repeating in many blogs because it’s something I see from people every day, and so many of us feel we are alone in it. Since graduating college, everyone I’ve spoken to has expressed concern about how they’re doing in life. They look at a successful friend and feel like failures in comparison. Your timeline is going to be different from someone else’s.
Everything will happen in it’s own time.
So what if you’re not exactly where you thought you ought to be in life? So what if someone else achieved things faster? They have their own struggles—believe me. Don’t get down on yourself about your progress in life. Don’t worry about whether or not your goals match theirs. We’re all just winging it anyway. As long as you’re making an effort, things will come together.
It May Take a While to Find WorkLet’s say you are ready and willing to break into the career world. You can have a stacked resume and still struggle. I think many of us, especially those with more experience under their belts, approach graduation thinking that we’ll definitely have an easier time nabbing a job than others, but the truth of it is: a lot of it is luck. It’s who you know. It’s being in the right place at the right time. I know quite a few people who thought they were complete failures when they found themselves still unemployed after a few months out of college or more. This is how it is for most people.
Expect to have a challenging time and accept that eventually you will find something.
You might have to take some part-time/casual work in the meantime, or maybe you’ll take some classes to develop a skill that might help land a job. It’s okay if you have to do this. It’s not admitting defeat. It’s not beneath you. It’s making the most out of your situation.
You Might Not Love Your Job OffersThe first job you’re offered or the first job you take may not be a dream-come-true. But just because you accept an offer, doesn’t mean you have to stay in that job forever.
The trend used to be: get a job, keep the job. But things have been shifting. Now it’s very common to move around. At this age and this stage in life, taking jobs can only help us. If the job sucks, you will learn what you can’t put up with and what you’re not interested in. You can gain something from any experience. Besides, the more you have for your resume, the better. When you’re fresh out of college, it can be very challenging to break into the work force. For some it takes ages. Ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you, but my advice is to take the jobs that come, even if they’re not dream jobs. You never know where something will lead you.
I know this one sort of sounds like I’m telling you to settle, but I’d like to avoid that phrasing. The gist is: You have to start somewhere, but you don’t have to end there. Sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs before you find the right fit.
*That being said, jumping around too much can sometimes reflect poorly on you.
You’ll Fall Down a Few Times, But You’ll Be FineGraduating is an adjustment. For most of our lives, we’ve had the routine of going to school; it was a constant in our lives. When we graduate, that constant goes away, which can be challenging to accept because we have to replace it with real, tangible, full-time responsibilities. During our time as students, we were relatively sheltered (some more than others of course, *cough* me *cough*). The real world will be different.
It will be daunting.
It might knock you down a lot.
But you will be fine.
Don’t worry about the things you’re leaving behind. There will be good things ahead. I’m not going to lie and say it won’t suck and be awful sometimes, because it will—growing up and becoming an adult isn’t easy, and neither is change. But you’ll get through it. Every stage in life has its pros and cons, so try to embrace this next step and remember that I’m right there with you, getting pummeled as well ;).
Paige is a recent graduate from the University of Missouri where she got her degree in English. She is going through the job search process just like you and writing about her findings as she goes. When she’s not blogging about the working world, she’s hanging out with her niece and daydreaming about travel.