Hey you 2014 college grads,
You did it!
No more all-nighters, nail-biting finals, no more books…OK, I’ll lay off the Alice Cooper.
When I was 8, I thought that by the time I graduated college, I would have everything figured out.
That I would win the Olympic gold medal in figure skating.
That I would go off and travel through Europe for a year.
I didn’t have any plan beyond that. I thought I would have figured it out a little more by that time. I mean, that’s 14 years to figure out what you want to do right? More than a decade should be plenty of time.
Well the 8-year-old me was very wrong (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).
I did not win Olympic gold and go on tour with Stars on Ice.
I did not backpack through Europe once I left college.
But I HAVE learned a lot since walking through my beautiful campus for the last time; I’m putting this out there because all of this is stuff I wish I would have heard before I threw my cap into the air like this:
- You Don’t Have To Take Every Opportunity That Comes Your Way
Right after I left college, many of my friends went abroad again to teach English.
Amongst the many shouts of “You should go!” I decided to walk away from it and look for other opportunities.
I could almost hear people wondering why I walked away from something that seemed tailor made for me. I spoke Japanese. I was a Communications major. I liked to travel. It seemed like a “No duh,” sort of move.
I gave up other opportunities because I realized that I was less excited for the opportunities themselves than for the perks attached to them.
Do I regret some of the choices I made?
But I can’t change the past. So why stay stuck?
- Taking Time To Decompress Is Okay (So Long As You Don’t Turn Into A Couch Potato)
Let’s get real here:
When you get down from post-graduation euphoria, you’ll probably be greeted by the question, “So what’s next?”
And over again.
But come on. You just graduated.
Sure it was fun. But it was also really, really hard.
There are things you’re going to miss; there are things you aren’t going to miss as much.
You’ve earned a little break. Take a minute to digest what you just did, celebrate your accomplishment.
College is not a breeze (or at least, it wasn’t for me).
That diploma represents every all-nighter, exam, essay, and project you ever completed. Top that off with every friend, every experience you had.
Not so light now, huh?
It’s okay for you to take some time to recover. It’s going to feel strange. But the uncertainty can be really exciting, too.
Because now YOU can take advantage of the other amazing opportunities around you.
So go seize yours.
- Rejection Isn’t A Reflection Of You
So let’s face it. Unless you’re really proactive and got a job right out of school, you’re going to be applying to hundreds of jobs.
You’re going to spend hours tweaking your resume and personal statements making them just right.
And you’re going to be told no.
And there will be a point where you’ll probably run out of steam.
Because looking for a job is a full-time job in itself.
After a while, I was starting to wonder if I had a neon sign over my head that said, “Do not hire me.”
It was hard not to take those rejections personally. After all, I had spent a lot of time on my application materials.
But it wasn’t until I heard Jia Jiang speak at a conference in Portland that I changed my thinking. Or at least shifted it.
“Rejection is nothing more than someone’s opinion and preference. It says as much about the person who gives the rejection as the people who receive it.”
I’d say that’s worth remembering as you’re staring wide-eyed at a pile of applications that puts your thesis textbooks to shame, wouldn’t you?
Every step you make in your career is a stepping stone, preparing you for bigger and better things.
- (Fill-in-The-Blank) Is The Thief of Joy
Say it with me now:
After I graduated, I took a temporary break from social media because it was giving me a lot of fodder for comparisons.
My friends were going abroad and getting jobs. And here I was trying to work through personal issues going from one failed treatment to the next. I was comparing myself to them, beating myself up in my head saying, “I should have a job by now.” I should this, I should that. It was relentless.
Temporarily disconnecting myself from social media took away that ammunition, and it was blissful.
I still take breaks from my personal Facebook page every now and again when I feel myself getting overwhelmed. It helps me focus on the outside world and it stops comparisons in my head, at least temporarily.
It can be tempting to beat yourself up because you see a friend getting a job faster than you, or doing things you want to be doing.
The best advice I can give is to set goals for yourself. Work a little each day toward your goal of finding a job. You won’t get one instantly, but it’s a lot more satisfying to know that you’re putting the work in.
- It’s OK Not to Know
Yes, ladies and gents, it’s okay to say “I don’t know yet.”
You are not your parents. You think differently; you do things differently. You don’t have to do everything their way to make them happy.
Parents (especially Asians) have trouble digesting this fact. Sure, they want the best for you. But sometimes their definition of “best” differs from yours.
Sure they’re doing their best, but sometimes it’s not enough. You’re growing up; there will be a day where you will have to do everything for yourself.
Some would say not knowing what to do is scary. Others would say that that’s where the fun is.
You don’t have to know where life will take you because it sometimes throws you loopholes. You will take detours.
Experiment. Put yourself out there to find out what really lights a fire under your butt.
You get to decide.
College grads, sound off in the comments below and let me know what you wish you had known when you walked off that stage?