￼I had one mission in mind when I entered college: graduate with a job that made me look good. After all I was the brilliant, 4.2 GPA high school student who had built a life based off of the praise of my achievements. I needed to show everyone just how successful I would be at our ten year high school reunion. Well it’s been four years since I’ve said that to myself, and last month I indeed crossed that stage into the mythical land of postundergraduate life. There were job offers on the table (including one that would have made me a pubgoing, expat in London), but ultimately none were signed. I left college exactly how I promised myself I wouldn’t leave it jobless.
Many of my peers would be panicking about not finding this holy grail of achievement & security post graduation, but I’m not. If anything I actually feel liberated, and here’s why:
1. There’s no better time to figure out my life
I think that there’s a mentality many millennials my age have accepted we’re going to hate our first job. Yet, we’re going to accept that job offer anyway: there’s connections to be made, a steady paycheck, and a half empty promise for advancement.
We tell everyone we’ll pursue our dreams only in the far future when we’re more stable. But the thing is we’ll never be in a more stable place than now to go after what we’re really passionate for. We have no mortgages to pay, families to support, or car payments to keep making. What’s great about being a recent graduate is that I’m still used to living frugally: sharing a room and still occupying the twin sized bed that gives me the occasional morning backache is still bearable. My cost of living is covered by a relatively stress free odd job, and I come home with the excitement and energy to figure out my own stupid, crazy dream of becoming a writer.
2. Not having a routine to follow is difficult, but also liberating
So you might hate your first job, but here’s the flip side a lot of the times that job is going to be really easy to go to each week. That Monday after I graduated, I spent that first week of unemployment numbing myself with Netflix, and felt physically ill. For once I had a completely empty calendar, and honestly didn’t know how to not mindlessly go to class and meetings all
￼day. The truth is being 100% responsible for what happens in your life is scary and hard to face, especially when you’ve had your life scheduled since kindergarten.
It’s uncomfortable, but you soon realize that instead of having an email automatically generate appointments on your calendar, you now have that power. That now gloriously blank agenda can be filled with work meaningful to me. The blog that I always wanted to start writing during college? I now have a 3 hour block to work on it each Thursday.
3. I’m completely stripped of what I’m supposed to be
One of the unexpected surprises of graduating college is that none of your past accomplishments actually matter now. It’s hard saying that I used to be the president of a cocurricular organization, or used to be a student ambassador of the university. In business school I got drilled about the importance of having a proper email signature, and now mine is completely blank. It’s pretty sparse, and I’m not going to lie that for a while it made me feel slightly useless. But here’s the silver lining: that empty email signature and LinkedIn profile is now waiting for you to take charge of your story and finally put what you’ve always wanted it to say, like “Associate Food Editor”, “Freelance Landscape Photographer”, or “Cardiothoracic Ninja Surgeon”.
4. Uncertainty is terrifying, but something I’ve embraced
If you are the stereotypical Type A person like me, chances are you need to have your next couple of years planned out. If it’s not you fly into this irrational disaster planning mode. We think taking the uncertainty out of our future will psuedoprotect ourselves from all the bad things that could happen, and need that clear map to make sure we don’t take a wrong turn and drive off of a cliff. But having such a concrete roadmap means that you’re closing yourself off from all the great detours and routes that could come your way. If you tell yourself you’re definitely going to stay at that accounting firm for the next two years, you’ve just given yourself the world’s best excuse to never step outside that predetermined route. Had I taken that job in London, I never would have emailed one of my professors about pursuing that crazy dream of mine. I then never￼ would have learned that he’s connected to a 3 time James Beard Award winning cookbook author.
Now of course uncertainty is uncomfortable, and it’s supposed to be! I’m exposing myself to a lot of potential heartache and undoubtedly some spectacular failures. But it’s better than sealing myself off from what could be some pretty outstanding milestones & opportunities.
Unemployment is not game over
Like 95% of kids across America, the Rainbow Road map in Mario Kart was my achilles heel. Falling off the edge of that hypnotizing road into the black pit surely meant I would lose, so to me going at a snail’s pace around every turn was the much better alternative. Many people equate being unemployed as driving off the edge of that road and losing the game, but that’s not how I view it at all. Instead, it’s more like the restart button you press after you’ve realized that you’re lost and headed too far in the wrong direction. Being unemployed simply lifts you right back to the starting line so you can begin again via the route you’ve always wanted to go.