First, congratulations! Don’t take this moment for granted and celebrate your success – you’ve worked hard. Second, realize that the next year will be the most eye opening transition of your life. Nothing will ever be as easy as college was and you WILL second guess everything you’ve ever done up until this point.
Luckily, you have people who have gone through this and WANT to help you feel not so lost. So, here’s what I wish I knew before I graduated:
1. HAVE ABSOLUTELY ZERO EXPECTATIONS
I think that I learned this the hard way and put every hope and every dream into every interview. I seriously expected to receive every job that I interviewed for. Not to say that you shouldn’t believe in yourself, but you have to learn your place in the world – you won’t get everything you want, you won’t fit into every position, you won’t be at the top, and maybe you won’t be at that company you’ve dreamt about forever. I learned that, over the course of MANY interviews, A LOT of research, and generally just finding out who I am, what I need, and where I see myself, that everything really does happen the way it should happen. You just have to keep putting yourself out there.
You’re going to go on several interviews with companies that you’ll want to walk the halls of for the next 25 years. And good for you – because you actually made it TO those halls. You’ll have a great interview: smooth, two-sided, and they might even ask you when you can start (OR they’ll make you write a press release on how you’ve RECEIVED the job! That really did happen!). Walk out of that interview thinking there is NO CHANCE, because then you can only receive good news. Your reaction to rejection will determine the rest of your life. You can’t be sad over the “deciding to go in a different direction” email – you just can’t. Smile. Pick yourself up. Keep going.
2. DON’T CHASE THE MONEY (GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME)
It might take a while to find your fit, to feel like you’re making a difference – and that’s okay! College plants this idea in our heads that we are meant to get a degree and change the world, start a business, become a poet, publish a book, and then we are all SO frustrated when we’re sitting behind a computer working on Excel spreadsheets because we think we’re not living up to our potential. We have to start somewhere. It’s good that you feel restless; it means you won’t become complacent, you’ll always look for more, and you’ll expand.
I’ve been struggling with this idea of succumbing to the corporate world, as I’ve always envisioned myself doing something “cool.” What the hell is “cool,” Danielle? NOW, I learned that “cool” is closing a deal that took a really long time to work on, “cool” is selling out a launch that took weeks of planning, “cool” is analyzing the sh*t out of Instagram story metrics, “cool” is color coding the entire sunglasses closet. “COOL” IS NOTHING AND “COOL” IS COMPLETELY UP TO YOU. As long as you’re learning, as long as you’re meeting people, as long as you’re laughing, your job is perfect. Get in. Work hard. Ask for more.
3. BECOME CERTIFIED IN EXCEL
Excel WILL BE YOUR LIFE. Study it. Learn it. Live it. Know what a Pivot Table is. Know what a V-Lookup is. Get ahead. You don’t want to be the one Googling how to find the delta of column A and column B – because that’s where I’m at.
I took a Yoga class in college. In one class, my teacher made us fall asleep. Literally assigned us to FALL ASLEEP – something that I’ve been doing for the past 23 YEARS of my life. You know what I haven’t been doing all this time? EX. CEL. TEACH ME THAT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY. So, I actually did a little research and my school offers a two-day certification class. I’m begging you, my ex-classmates, take the time and certify yourself! If there’s anything to actually focus on and completely absorb, it’s this.
4. DO RESEARCH ON YOURSELF
Seriously sit down one day and write down everything you actually know about yourself. Not just what the world wants from you or anything about your major or where you went abroad, but things that: you fear, love, are uncomfortable with, what you want to improve on, what makes you cry, what gives you butterflies, what you think about first thing in the morning, what books you pick up at the bookstore, who you laugh the most with, if you prefer candlelight over a fireplace, what makes you feel the most like you.
Write down these parts of yourself that the rest of the world would have no idea about. Get to know who you are and want you want. It’s a lot harder than it seems. After graduating, you’re a free bird and you will be asked, probably every single day, what your next move is. You should have some sort of idea about what that may be. Maybe it’s nothing big, maybe it’s taking time off to travel, to sleep, to go to the beach, and that is so fine. Just have some sort of plan and time frame – it will keep you on track!
In my case, I knew I wanted to come home to New York, I wanted to be around my family, I wanted to travel, I wanted to get a job, I wanted to be with my boyfriend, I wanted to go to the gym everyday, I wanted to party with my friends, I wanted to chill, I wanted to be busy, I wanted a purpose, I wanted everything. Let me tell you, it’s impossible. People who succeed, people who do well where they are do so because they’re working towards ONE thing, not EVERY thing. They aren’t spreading themselves too thin. You aren’t doing yourself, your business, or ANYONE any good if you aren’t ALL IN. Find your next move and put all of yourself into it – that’s the only way it works.
5. COMPARISON WILL KILL YOU
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt
This has been my new life saying for the past couple of months and it should be yours, too. Why? Because your friends will start getting jobs, good jobs, that they love and are getting paid the big bucks for. You will wonder what the hell you’re doing wrong. The answer is nothing. Relax and stop looking at anyone else.
“Why did she get that job?” “Why can’t I be in Thailand?” “What does she have that I don’t?” “Why don’t I have that salary or 401k plan?” It feels as if you get sucked into another world: alone, lost, drowning, the last to cross the finish line, the only one who doesn’t have her life together. NEWS FLASH: everyone is trying to find their way, some people are just better at disguising it.
I’ve been starting to utilize people more. I’m asking more questions. I’m blindly walking into unfamiliar situations. I’m listening harder. And most importantly – I’m realizing that I’m the only one on my path.
I’ve made a promise with myself to be conscious about my thoughts and to send positivity and appreciation to everyone out there making it and living fully. This life shouldn’t be about comparison or self-doubt, it should be about learning YOUR path and YOUR happy and celebrating others’ successes along the way.
Post-grad life is exciting and bright and new and scary and weird and you’re going to learn a lot about yourself over the next couple of months. Be ready to embrace the “real world” with a smile and some patience; please don’t take it too seriously.