This Is What Every College Graduate Needs To Know About ‘Starting Your Life’

Jody Hong

Congratulations! You did it! You have graduated from college and are now here to become an honorable individual of society, get a job, and “start your life.” A term we so eagerly used throughout college and in the years leading up to adulthood.

I graduated two years ago with a degree in English and Journalism. It took me about seven months to land a career after graduation. Some may say I am lucky where I am. And do not get me wrong, I have an excellent job with full benefits, a pension, a 457 plan and 401K. I’m set for life! But, as I just rounded my year anniversary working full time, I couldn’t help but feel regretful. Everyone tells me, “Wow! 21 years old with a job THERE! That’s great!” And sure it sounds great, and I suppose it is sometimes – but not all of the time.

Society likes to make us believe that as soon as you graduate you need to find a job and get on your feet. For some, this may be the case and I apologize to you if that may be, because it was my case too. For those of you who have a home to go back to with a fridge filled with food, I suggest you not go down this path – at least for a year or so after college.  Also, do not go straight back to graduate school either.

If there is one thing I regret not doing right out of college it’s this: taking time for me. Allowing for a year or so to do whatever I wanted to do. Discover a hobby, go travel, do spontaneous activities, etc. Those are the moments that will come to define who we are and the memories we get to look back at. We have our entire lives to work (literally, I have 42 years until I can retire), but only a short time to live. So ask your parents for another 50 bucks, keep that crappy tip-based job, and take off whenever you want to. I say this because soon enough you are going to be in the 9AM-5PM Monday-Friday routine we are all defined by with a limit to TWO WEEKS vacation a year. TWO WEEKS. That means for 50 weeks of the year, we are working.

So, see the world, experience things, have regrets, and do silly things; I know I wish that I had done that.

Once I graduated, I went right into applying for jobs. I spruced up my resume and tried to build a professional network. While all of these things are important, I realize now that they should not have been my main focus. My main focus at that time should have been me. For almost 18 years, I was a student. Constantly being defined by the school calendar and filling my time with irrelevant tasks to obtain good grades and maintain the goal and achievement of scholarship in college.

What I didn’t realize right out of college would be that for that short period of time, I essentially didn’t have any mandated activities to tend to. Yes, I had a job as a sales associate in a local boutique, but that job barely defined who I was. The world was my playground, and I let it slip through my fingers. My only focuses for the seven months leading up to my interview were everything but for my self as an individual. These focuses didn’t help define me, or help me discover some secret passion I didn’t know I had. These focuses got me a career, yes; but they didn’t allow me to just be me for once. They forced me to be a desirable employee, a hot item on the job market. Not the jean-wearing, white t-shirt with a Nikon strapped over my shoulder kind of gal.

Something else people don’t tell you at graduation – it’s f*cking hard to get a job. I graduated undergrad a year early with a 3.95 GPA. I thought I had it all! I went on a total of FIFTEEN interviews at various companies for various positions before I landed where I am today. Not to mention I applied for a total of 37 jobs – only 15 of which I got a call for an interview. Do. Not. Get. Discouraged.

When it does become time to sit down and start applying for a career, do not let the turn-away notices dismay you. It is easy to let them, but assure yourself that you’ll land right where you’re meant to with time. 

I also learned from the whole job-seeking experience that it is not what you know, it’s who you know. You have heard this saying time and time again, but you will see in the job-seeking world, it truly comes to life. That being said, when you’re taking this year or so off, doing whatever it is you do that makes you fulfilled and happy – meet people. Talk to that guy on the train or that woman at the coffee shop. Sit next to a stranger on the park bench and spark up conversation. They may look at you weird and walk away, or they may talk back to you, perhaps allowing you to discover that they are some CEO of a start-up or large incorporation, and voila! You strike an interview just like that.

So I leave you young, strong-willed, successful college graduates with this. Do not let your job make you who you are. Make who you are influence your job. Take a day off here and there, enjoy the summers and never stop looking. Just because you land a career in one place does not give you a lifetime contractual agreement that you must stay there forever. Keep looking, keep discovering, and through that, you will find yourself. Congratulations class of 2017! TC mark

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