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September 15, 2015

Why Post-Graduation Isn't the Rest of Your Life

What if after we graduate, life isn’t downhill from there?

I don’t know, college is great. I can do whatever I want and don’t have adult responsibilities. Figuring out my career and getting a full-time job is going to be hard, then working full-time is going to be so boring. Once we graduate, we have to figure out the rest of our lives!

How many times have you heard your graduating friend say, “Ugh I’m not ready for the real world”? It’s as if the period after we graduate is one huge chunk of reality ready to slap us in the face. We don’t always feel ready for it.

Partly, we believe this because:

  • It’s the first time in our lives our direction isn’t determined by our parents or school
  • We think our major solely determines our career path
  • We’re conditioned to think our success comes from the approval of others
  • It’s not as easy to make new friends and keep in touch with old ones
  • We think we need to have the next decade of our career figured out

I urge us to get out of this mindset. It’s unhealthy and unnecessarily anxiety-provoking.

I admit, I have yet to experience post-grad myself. But conceiving post-grad as the “rest of our lives” is almost like a myth about getting hired after we graduate. Whether you’re a college student or a recent grad, this mindset isn’t healthy.

Consider these 4 reasons why post-graduation won’t be the rest of our lives.

The Good News

  1. Work now is less about having a full-time job and more about what we accomplish.

For our parents and grandparents, it was normal for them to be in the same company for 5-20 years. This is not the case with our generation.

Switching Jobs Post-Graduation

(from Harvard Business Review’s Setting the Record on Switching Jobs)

Most employees leave their job after just 1 year. 1 year!

The nature of work has changed and isn’t going to stop changing. More people work shorter periods at their full-time jobs.  More people have messy career paths. More people become entrepreneurs, freelancers, and intrapreneurs. It’s less about our job title and prestige, and more about the projects we ship and what we accomplish.

What does this mean for us college students and grads? Our first job isn’t the determinant of our career path. Rather than thinking of it as such, think of your first job as an opportunity to gain new skills, meet experts in fields you’re considering, and make a damn good impact.

If you end up enjoying the job, great! You’ve now found something you’d like to pursue.

If you don’t enjoy it, try Kendrick’s approach of asking yourself what jobs you don’t see yourself doing, and try a different line of work.  Treat every job as an experience to learn and contribute while keeping your career path flexible.

  1. We have instant access to unlimited information.

Since we’re living in a digital age, we can:

Because information is literally at our fingertips, we have no reason to be stuck in our career progression.

  1. It’s okay if you’re not sure what your passion is.

Speaking of being stuck, how many times have we heard “follow your passion!” as career advice?

It’s widely accepted now that this advice is obsolete and impractical. Of course, we all want to end up being passionate with our work.  But “following our passion” doesn’t actually help us become passionate about it. We become passionate at something once we’ve put in deliberate practice to: (1) get extremely good at it, and (2) make a positive, meaningful contribution with it.

So instead of following our passion, find work that’s interesting to you, practice it deliberately, and figure out how it can benefit others/society/the world.

Then the passion will follow you.

  1. Success is defined by you.

Not by your GPA, your parents, your college involvements, or your boss.

School and society have done a great job getting us to believe that success is a laundry list of accomplishments. Take 5 AP classes every term... while being on the baseball team… while being involved in 5 different clubs… while playing the clarinet in band… while volunteering in a hospital on the weekends. Then we’ll get into a prestigious college.

They’ve gotten us to believe that success is a bunch of the what, but they haven’t told us that success isn’t about the why. Why am I majoring in biology? Why am I involved with my co-ed fraternity? Why am taking computer science classes?

That why is your why. We all have a different why driving our what. Thus, there’s no one else that can truly measure your success but you.

The Next Chapter

A friend of mine posted a Facebook status I couldn’t believe to be any more true:

“If you spend the rest of your life saying college was the best years of your life, you're not living right.”

Without a doubt, college is a phenomenal time we won’t ever be able to relive. But let’s remind ourselves that it’s one of the many chapters in our book.

The same goes for post-grad. It’s not the rest of the book.

It’s just the next chapter.


So treat post-grad as your next step in life, not the rest of it.

What are you going to do in your next chapter?

 

 

Photo credits go to  daisyon.
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