I’ve been reflecting a lot on my last year of college, mostly because my sister and many of her friends are approaching their final years in college. Some are even turning to me for advice. I wish I had the answers for you, I really do. A ton of people will have “advice” for you, whether or not you are seeking it. I don’t suggest you throw caution to the wind and ignore words of wisdom people have to offer you. I simply suggest that college seniors try not to be overcome with anxiety and worry when faced with the prospect of facing the real world. A lot of advice will come your way, and you may choose to take it, or you may choose to ignore it. If I were to go back, I would tell myself to seek advice from those people who seem the happiest with their post-graduate life, and whose careers are similar to what interests me.
My final two years in college were both exciting, and stressful. On the one hand, I finally turned 21 and discovered a world of exciting nightlife, close friendships, and cocktails. On the other, I panicked. I was trying extremely hard to “figure it all out” before I graduated. Figuring it all out entailed a summer of the most mind numbing internship I have ever experienced, GRE’s, grad school apps, and spending the last six months before graduation mass applying to thousands of jobs on Indeed and Linkedin. Only to find no job, not get into the graduate school of my dreams, and experience a heart-wrenching reality check that I would be moving home after four years of freedom.
Three weeks after moving home, I was comfortable with the idea of no graduate school, home cooked meals every night, and an internship that did not bore me out of my mind. Had I skipped taking the GRE’s before I was 100 percent sure of what I wanted to do, traveled, or stayed home and read, instead of earning money by doing work I hated, would my career have plummeted? Had I spent more time with friends, and less time applying to jobs, would I have missed some major career opportunity? I think not.
Don’t get me wrong, a huge part of the reason I landed an internship so quickly is because I was already looking for work before graduation. Additionally, I recently applied to graduate programs ( in a completely different field), and not having to take the GRE while I worked made this process considerably easier. However, I don’t think my life would be vastly different two years after graduation had I not worried about those things, and simply tried to enjoy the last bits of my undergraduate experience.
For a lot of people my life is not the definition of success. Two years after graduation, I’m still saving by living at home, I don’t have a manager title, but I am happy. I’ve recently accepted an amazing position in marketing operations with a large corporation, I have a fantastic group of friends and mentors, and I feel really well-adjusted to my life. I still don’t think I have it all figured out. I have yet to own a home, or attend graduate school, meet the person of my dreams, have children etc. However, I am not the only one who doesn’t feel like I have it figured out. People who have graduate degrees, are millenial homeowners ( in California!), and have amazing titles, are married, have kids, or are comfortable with their decision not to do any of these things, don’t feel that they have it figured out. People who are in their late twenties, early thirties, working at the Google’s and Facebook’s do not think they have it all “figured out.” No one really has it all figured out, and you don’t really have to.
I recently attended a Business Marketing Association ( BMA) event in downtown Mountain View, where I met VP’s, CEO’s and other senior professionals who were deep into their careers. Many of these people were trying to figure out the next steps in their life, some were going back to graduate school after 15+ years working in one field, only to study something completely different from the field in which they had cultivated a career. Life is fluid, decisions are not final, and it is OKAY not to have all the answers right this second.
At this point I am going to leave you with some words of wisdom a truly amazing professor told our class before graduation. I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something along the lines of “In your professional and personal life you are going to face a great deal of challenges, and how you deal with them is going to define your life.”
Don’t worry about figuring it all out, live your life and the answers will come. (At least that is how it seems to be working out for me.)