Dear College Graduate,
First of all, congratulations on your graduation! You made it and all of your hard work is about to pay off! You have been preparing for this for the last few years and you are ready to take on anything life throws your way. But before you go and change the world there are a few things I’d like to say.
I can clearly remember the panic that set in three years ago when I walked across the stage and shook hands with my University’s president at my graduation. I had this fancy degree but had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt unprepared, overwhelmed, and lost. I had set all of these unrealistic goals for myself to get a job before I graduated and make something of myself.
If you just graduated and feel the same way, this letter is for you.
If you just graduated and think you have it all figured out, this letter is also for you.
College prepares you for a lot of things. Group presentations, business casual dress, and your elevator pitch, just to name a few. But the real world can be a little different. You can graduate with honors and lose the job to someone who didn’t graduate with honors. You can have all the internship and volunteer experience and still lose the job to someone with none. You can land your dream job only to realize it isn’t actually what you want to do with the rest of your life.
These years after graduation are to find yourself and to find what you want to do with your life. Let me tell you right now that you will fail. You will have moments where you question everything about yourself. You will feel lost, scared, and overwhelmed. It’s all okay. You will be okay.
It’s important to remember that there’s no “right” thing to do after graduating from college. It’s not necessarily “right” for you to go right to grad school or find your dream job after one interview. It’s not a race to have your life all figured out before your classmate does. Take your time and truly try to figure out what is “right” for you.
One big thing I realized quickly after graduation was that my life was not going to turn out exactly the way I wanted it to. I decided not to pursue my MBA which was a heartbreaking decision at the time. I also took a job in finance after dreaming about being a marketing executive in a big city for most of my life. These two changes really changed my life path.
My definition of success changed during this period of my life. I stopped defining success in the traditional terms of having a ton of money and being a the top of the corporate ladder. Now I define success as making an impact in my everyday role and providing leadership and guidance to those around me who need it. I work hard and enjoy what I’m doing and that’s success to me.
My biggest piece of advice is to go ahead and fill out that job application that you are looking at. Apply for the job that seems out of league or the one that you aren’t sure about. Do your research, ask questions, go to interviews, and get yourself out there. You never know what job will end up being your dream job! You will never get a job if you never fill out a job application.
Most of all, don’t make your life choices based on what others are telling you to do. It’s not about what your parents want you to do, or what your friends are doing, or what you thought you wanted to do four years ago. Do what feels right now.
Accept that you will feel overwhelmed and scared at times. You won’t always have all the right answers and it might be uncomfortable. Great things take time so don’t expect life to be perfect overnight.
So go and start dreaming. Take a leap of faith and apply for that job you’ve been thinking about. Accept that you will make mistakes and fall down a few times. Know that you will pick yourself back up and figure it out. Success comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s your turn to figure out what success means to you.
Best of luck to you on your journey.
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash