8 Things No One Tells College Graduates
Earning a degree is a lot of work. After four or five years of your nose to the grindstone, you finally find yourself donning the cap and gown, ready to take on the world. If you’ve been lucky enough to line up a job right after graduation, welcome to the workforce! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you take your next step in to adult life.
1. You May Feel Lost and Overwhelmed at First
All of your life up to this point has been working towards reaching a goal. You got potty trained, went to Kindergarten, then grade school, then middle school, then high school, then college. The next step was always clearly laid out for you and life was like walking a treadmill, without much thought to where you were going. When you find yourself in your first job, it suddenly hits you that there is no longer a preordained goal for you to reach. Every day runs from 9-5, Monday through Friday, week after week. You get locked in to a routine that you realize isn’t actually moving towards a destination. There is no graduation day in 4 years. Re-adjusting your mindset to your new normal may take some time and a re-evaluation about what you want out of your working life.
2. Work is Not Like College
This is an obvious point, but still may come as a shock when you’re living it. It’s easy to skip a class to catch up on sleep or ask a Professor for an extension on an assignment, but in the workplace consistently missing work and project deadlines will get you fired quicker than you can say, “unemployed.” There is much less grace and ability to let things slide once you are an employed professional. You are an adult with responsibilities and your employer and colleagues will expect you to behave as one.
3. There is no Syllabus
Nothing is mapped out. For the first time in your life there will not be an instruction manual or anyone to make you do something you don’t feel like doing. This can feel tremendously liberating, but after a short time it becomes incredibly terrifying. You are now solely responsible for everything you do and every decision you make
4. The First Job is Probably Not the Dream Job
Research shows that people switch careers between 3 and 7 times throughout their working lives. The Millennial generation specifically is less willing to settle, preferring to have more satisfaction and fulfillment in their workplace instead of a bigger paycheck. This may result in a little bit of job hoping in your 20s before you find what you truly love. That’s okay. Your first job and even your first 3 jobs may not be what you end up doing and loving as a career. Just keep looking.
5. Your Dream Job Might Not Be Your Dream Job After All
If you are lucky enough to land exactly the job you wanted straight out of college, you may find it isn’t what you wanted after all. A job in theory is very different from a job in practice, and when you are doing it day after day after day, it may become clear to you that you don’t actually like what you’re doing. It’s okay if this happens. The fact that you found what you don’t want early on means you’ve saved yourself a lifetime of being unfulfilled in your job. In spite of what family or society may tell you, there is no magic age by which you’re supposed to have it all figured out. Everyone in the world is piecing it together as they go. Don’t be afraid to try again.
6. You May End Up Back in School
In the event that you find that what you thought was your dream job isn’t actually the right fit, or you discover that what you studied in undergrad didn’t actually prepare you for what you want to do, grad school may be just around the corner for you. Graduate school may still be school, but it’s a very different experience from studying as an undergraduate. Many graduate level degrees in the humanities offer fellowships and stipends to help make your upper level degree affordable. Additionally, graduate school focuses on your discipline of choice and does not include the many required credit hours of electives and common core that undergraduate programs do, enabling you to really dig in and focus on your career goals.
7. Learning is Never Over
It can sound pretty overwhelming to hear this right now, since you just finished years upon years of schooling, but expanding your knowledge and skill set is just beginning for you. You will learn many new skills in your career, sometimes of your own initiative and sometimes as required by your employer. Professional seminars, certifications, and classes are all part of the professional world and your knowledge base will continue to expand long after you’ve received your diploma.
8. Your Definition of Success Will Change
The only constant in life is change. You will grow and evolve and so will the things you value and want to achieve. What you imagined success to be at 22 will not be the same when you are 32, 45, or 60. Allow yourself to grow and change, seeking and building new things. Our lives consist of what we do along the way, not in reaching an elusive milestone.