College Graduation Survival Guide
Five years ago, I put on my graduation cap and gown and accepted my dual degree in Sociology and Psychology. It was one of the most exciting and scary times of my life. I had finally graduated! I had finally achieved what every millennial was told we needed to achieve, and I even had a full-time job lined up. But the months leading up to graduation were filled with so many mixed emotions: fear, excitement, anxiety, concern, worry.
I knew I wanted to have a full-time position when I graduated, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I felt powerless and confused about what was to come in my future. I think every person that has graduated college understands how I felt in that moment. But five years later, I can look back and share some of the advice that was given to me and some of the advice I wish I had listened to sooner.
You don't have to have everything figured out!
Not everyone knows exactly what they want to do upon graduation, and that is ok! One big mistake with recent graduates is feeling the need to have it all figured out. Some of the best advice I ever received was from a career counselor at UGA my last semester. I was having a hard time figuring out exactly what I wanted to do, as I was interested in a lot of different fields. She told me, "You don't need to know what you want to do, you need to know what you DON'T want to do". My first position out of college, I worked in a full desk recruiting position where I was doing sales and recruitment. I quickly realized I did not enjoy cold calling and new business development but really enjoyed the recruiting side of the business. The next step in my career, I made a switch to a job where I was able to remove the portions of my last job I did not enjoy. I didn’t know exactly where I was going to end up, but I knew what I didn't want to do along the way.
Understand that your motivations and professional needs will change.
There are many people who graduate and have an exact plan of where they want to be in five years. But as someone now five years out of graduation, I can say I don't know many people with the same motivations and professional needs as they did coming out of school. While in my first position, cold calling and new business development was something I did not connect with, but after moving to a role where I was able to perfect my recruiting craft, those duties are now more appealing to me. Had you asked me five years ago, I would have said I never want to cold call again. As you grow and learn new things in and outside of work, things will change. And that is ok, too.
Don’t underestimate “weak ties”.
The advice from our parents that it’s “all about networking” is 100% accurate. It truly is all about networking. Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why your Twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now, speaks of the power of “weak ties”. How ultimately, those in our network that we are the least close to are the ones most likely to help us in our career. Make sure you’re aware that every connection counts, and more people than you know are willing to open the door for you. You’ll also find yourself opening doors for others professionally as well. Weak ties help push us forward and ensure we are building relationships with people that aren’t just like us and that can add diversity and a different perspective.
Never close the door on opportunity.
What I have learned about opportunity is that it is harder to find than you think. There are a lot of companies where you can work and do your daily tasks, but there’s not a lot of companies that have true opportunity: the ability to move up in your career, to advance into leadership, to learn new tools you’ve been wanting to learn, to be mentored by a fantastic leadership team. Unfortunately, many don’t experience those types of opportunity, and the first step is making sure you recognize it. This could be interviewing for a position that you don’t think is the right fit. If a company really likes you, they will move things around to see if they can accommodate you in a role that is better suited for you. There is no such thing as a “bad interview” unless you know with 100% certainty you are not interested. Learning about opportunity comes from interviewing, networking, and understanding what’s happening in the market. You never know what opportunity will come, but make sure you don’t close the door on it.
I hope this information helps instill those of you entering the workforce with a more powerful mindset. There are a lot of people that are going to tell you “no”. I can’t count how many people told me I wouldn’t get a job because I had two degrees in liberal arts. If you put in the work, know your worth, and make use of every resource you have, there is nothing stopping you from running the world, even if it’s right out of graduation!