As a recent, unemployed college graduate, I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect on the past year. These 12 months have led to more anxiety, stress, and self-discovery than any other year of my life. I’ve gone from desperately wanting a job, to not wanting a job at all, to wanting to travel all over, and then back to wanting a job. It’s been a confusing and strange ride, to say the least.
The future seems a dark, mysterious entity as I transition from university to full-frontal adulthood. As I try to get a grasp on what I want my future to look like, I’ve learned quite a few things along the way.
1. Nobody knows what they’re doing.
Almost everyone I’ve spoken to, whether they have a job or not, is just as confused as I am about their future. No one can be certain they’ll love their job, be good at their job, or stick with their job. And those of us who don’t have a job are even more confused, as there are no next steps laid out for us. I’ve been going to school since I was 3 years old– now what? What do you mean there are no more tests to study for, books to read, or group projects to labor through? It’s a scary thought to be thrown into the abyss and have to take responsibility for your own future and lay out a path for yourself. I suppose there is some truth to the wise words of Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility. [Cringe.]
2. The job hunt is a cruel, cruel demon of a being in the underbelly of the world.
Why did no one mention how much this would suck? Well, maybe they did, but I certainly didn’t listen or take it seriously. I’ve probably applied to over two dozen jobs, only to be rejected by all of them. I don’t think I realized how tenacious I can be until now. I’ve never been rejected so consistently and so frequently in a short period of time, and I can’t say I’m used to it yet. Everytime it happens, a little bit of me cracks on the inside. It takes a lot of internal pep-talking and positivity to put the broken pieces inside of me back together, keep my chin up, and continue applying. Will anyone ever believe I’m qualified enough to hire me? Will I ever be a ‘right fit’ for a company? Oy. The struggle goes on. All I can do is remind myself of the positives of this experience as it teaches me acceptance, perseverance, and the ability to learn from my mistakes.
3. It’s really important to be decisive.
People, particularly employers, don’t like indecisive people. It’s extremely important to be as specific as possible about what you want or like. This may seem obvious, but you can’t just go into an interview without knowing the value you bring to the team. If you aren’t specific about what you want, employers will assume you just want any job you can get and haven’t thought about how you fit into the role. Not only will being specific help you land a job, but it will help you narrow down your job search and only go for those you truly believe in. As someone with a wide array of interests, I understand how difficult this is. However, I’ve learned to identify a few key areas that I’m truly passionate about (writing, food/fitness, helping others, and event/project management) and find jobs that focus on at least one of those.
4. My part-time job taught me just as much as any of my internships.
My senior year I worked as a server at a local restaurant. Going into it, I thought it would just be an easy way to make money. However, it gave me so much more than just cash– it taught me customer service, stress management, and problem-solving skills that I will be able to apply for the rest of my life. It took me outside of my comfort zone as I had to act happy and friendly to everyone who sat at my tables, no matter what was going on behind the scenes (like having a paper due at midnight when you have to work until 10 p.m.). Every week of my second semester I tried to minimize the stress that comes with balancing work life, school life, and social life by meticulously planning out accomplishments for each day. And when something went wrong at the restaurant (like spilling an entire tray of cups of water onto a group of customers), I had to learn to react quickly to solve the problem, recover, and move on. A lot of people put emphasis on internship experiences as the best thing you can do in college, and while I don’t disagree that they are extremely valuable and important, I think getting a part-time job can also be very beneficial.
5. It’s silly to compare yourself to others.
It’s tempting to look at peers and compare yourself, thinking they have it so much better (or maybe worse) than you. Don’t do it. Everyone is on a different path, has a different set of experiences, and a different set of skills than you. You have a long life ahead of you, and eventually everything will straighten out and you will figure out what it takes to be happy. Don’t set your standards based on others’, and don’t put yourself down just because you think someone else’s life is so much better than yours. Chances are, just like you, they are struggling with something that most people aren’t aware of. It’s easy to be egotistical and think how much your life sucks compares to others. It’s much harder to look beyond the visions of your own world and be compassionate and learn from those around you.