Dear Recent Graduate of the University of I-Wish-I-Could-Go-Back,
You’re FREAKING out — or maybe you’re not because you are off to some grad/law/certificate/school and if so, you’re not freaking out yet.
But you’re freaking out because you don’t know what to expect. For the last 20 years of your life, since your mommy dragged your diapered baby powered butt to Mommy-and-Me, you have been told what to do, where to go, and for how long. You probably even spent the last four years getting prepared for the “real world” by going to college to learn the inside outs of some textbook major juxtaposed with learning the exotic taste of mixed drinks at a grungy bar and the detailed anatomy of you-know-who.
And now you’re here. Living back at home in your childhood twin sized bed, terribly wall papered room, suffocated by boxes of memories and nags from your mom like, “So, did you decide what you want to do with your life today?” on repeat.
Welcome to purgatory.
I graduated three years ago and since then, I have had four different jobs and have postmarked myself in three different states. And while all of that may sound fandango and ring with bells of success, I admit that it came with incidents of soaking the rug on my bathroom floor with tears, months of silence from thousands of sent job applications, leaving me wondering if I would be stuck living on the second floor of my parent’s house, screaming down for my mom to make me some meat loaf for the rest of my life.
My 3.6 GPA in college and framed diploma, that collects more dust than interest, left me doing a jig of a dance that moved me backward and forward for over two years–making me realize I knew more about how to bubble in scantrons and write three paragraph essays than how to make it in this world. And so I have rummaged through my mistakes and my mishaps to shower you with 13 things, class of 2013, I wish I knew when I was twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out how to hopscotch my way on over to the dark side, the world of business:
1. Make the first move
Old folks would always tell me “When I grow up the boys will be knocking down my door”, well they aren’t and neither will job opportunities.
2. Represent yourself
No one knows who you are, what you have done, why you know you are the person they have always been looking for. They know nothing except the words you carefully chose to display to them against a white background in Times New Roman font. You’ll only have a fixed word count or a few seconds on the clock to prove yourself–so take inventory on what makes you SO great and push forward with that.
3. It’s going to be okay
Understand that even though you feel as though you are the only person in the world who does not know exactly what they want to do, you’re not alone. In fact, not only do most people have no clue but also what they think is not what they end up doing. It’s okay to not know. It’s not okay to not do anything about it.
4. NO No’s
Don’t take no for an answer–meet people in the middle. If they reject your job application, ask to meet them in person. Don’t say no–Your Aunt Margie wants you to go on a date with her tennis friend’s cousins best friends brother. Go. You never know how they can change your life.
5. Talk to everyone
Maybe in college you only spoke to a core group of people but here, in the real world, if you want to move up and want to get out there you need to talk to everyone. Start with a handshake finish with exchanging contact information. Everyone you meet will help you get one step closer to your treasure—a paying job you actually like.
6. Fill up your piggy bank
The further you go the more money you will need. I worked and saved my pennies for two years so I could let the change jingle out of my pockets and move to New York.
7. Do something
If you find yourself becoming part of your couch and wake up one morning with Doritos in your eyebrows it’s time to get moving. Doing nothing will suck you in and leave you unmotivated and smelly. Even if it is not your dream job, get to work doing something.
8. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
Sally Sue may be having the time of her life in law school but Sally Sue didn’t have a childhood dream of being a nonfiction writer or a copywriter at an ad firm.
9. Let go–a little bit
Yeah, yeah, it’s sad that you’ll never see ALL these people again in college or be able to get away with drinking multi-colored drinks at a bar or saying YOLO. Sulk, compartmentalize and move forward. You’ll still have just as much fun–and fine, you can still say YOLO.
10. Work harder than you ever have
For no grade and maybe, at first, no paycheck.
11. Trust your gut
The decisions I have made to end a job or to move to a new state have been guided by my gut, nothing else. Don’t confuse the bubbles that pop in your stomach as acid reflex–they are letting you know what’s up, so don’t ignore them.
12. Start at the bottom
Your dreams of becoming a top executive, a famous musician, or just simply your own boss, may be a few sizes too big, right now. When you’re just getting started in your career, understand that you’re not above doing anything. You may start off as an assistant at a magazine sorting out beauty products and sending out FedEx packages, in hopes of one-day becoming the Editor-in-Chief. Every new thing you do will one day give you an advantage, will one day be worth it.
13. Never, Never, Never, Give Up
If you promise yourself this, you will be okay. I pinky–spin around three times handshake–promise you that.
I advise you to eat that feeling that swarms around like a crew of bees in the pit of your stomach, up. Go ahead, leave the depression and dance around in circles because you are free (and young at that). You don’t have a 24-page paper on the Treaty of Paris to write and no one is forcing you to dismember the body parts inside a frog to pass biology. You haven’t been this uninhibited, unstoppable, since your pre-potty training days.
Revel in it. Brag about it. Let it absorb into the cracks of your muscles because soon, real soon we hope, you will be cracking the cramps out of your neck and developing onset arthritis typing at a keyboard all day.
All while I urge you, I beg you, I get on one knee for you to remember that it will all be fine, it will all be okay.
It’s been three years since my own graduation and I’m sitting in my office, on the 12th floor of a New York City building, writing a speech for someone who does not speak a word of English and wearing a prom dress for the sole reason that it is Friday. It’s quite the adventure–this whole real world thing.
Welcome grads of 2013! “I wish you more than luck”.
image – Shutterstock