Milestones—work anniversaries, birthdays, and the like—tend to bring about a period of reflection, as you look back on the time that has elapsed and realize everything you have been able or been unable to accomplish within that period.
As of this writing, I have just recently reached my first anniversary in my first every job after college. In looking back on the past year and where I am right now, I realize what a scary, confusing time in my life it was before I started on my first job—fresh out of college, unemployed, uncertain of what’s to come next, but regardless, still somewhat hopeful.
The uncertainty of figuring out what’s next turned into anxiety as the doors I long thought awaited me as I step out of the university closed before my eyes (or weren’t really open in the first place), and any hope I had of turning my dreams into reality diminished as I swallowed the bitter pill of reality. I’m not gonna lie: this brought me to a pretty low point, as I began to doubt my own capabilities, my capacity to fulfill the dreams I have set for myself, and if I had anything to offer the world to begin with.
As another academic year comes to a close, a new batch of graduates will step out of their universities and be putting on the shoes I had on this time one year ago, and at this time, I felt it apt to share the lessons I’ve learned since then.
1. You’re good, but you’ve got a lot to learn.
Graduating from a top university with a long list of co-curricular credentials and several internships under my belt definitely made me feel like I was ready to step out and even thinking that finding a job would be a piece of cake. After all, that’s the formula to prepare for the future we were taught, right? Several instances of not hearing back from potential employers later—whether after sending in my application or after a couple of interviews—safe to say, I was humbled real quick.
While I definitely do not find it helpful to doubt your own talent or potential for growth, my first set of experiences in looking for a job quickly taught me that just like everyone else, I was a rookie entering a new playing field with a higher level of difficulty and more competition. This mindset definitely helped me go a lot easier on myself during this time. My job hunt turned into a learning experience, and the free time it provided me with became time for me to look for ways to better myself, because no matter what they tell you, your classes in college won’t give you all the skills you’ll need once you go out. Some of them you’ll have to pick up yourself in other ways, and even after college, it’s never too late to learn new things. When the rest of the world is already tough, you should be more patient with yourself for your progress.
On a similar note…
2. Don’t expect to get it right the first time around, and maybe not even the first 10 times.
I didn’t get the first job I applied for, and I didn’t accept the first job offer I received. Even until now, one year into my first job, I’m still unsure if this is the career path I really want for myself. At the end of everything, though, I want to be glad to say that I still went for it regardless of the outcome. The world has a lot to offer and not all of them will be meant for you, but the only sure way to know is by trying. If it turns out it isn’t, you’ll realize you didn’t lose as much as you feared, and then you can get ready to try again— towards a different goal and in a different way.
The point is: go for it. Go for the interviews for jobs you’re unsure about. Worst case scenario is it isn’t the job you want, but it could also be what you’ve been looking for all this time. Either way, it did help brush up your interview skills and help in narrowing down what you do want. More than job applications, always be open to new experiences—business ventures, graduate studies, your family business—and to the possibility of it not working out in the way you thought it would. Rest assured, you will still learn from them.
3. A great support system goes a long way.
At this point in my life, my friends and I were all on the same, seemingly sinking boat of unemployed fresh grads. Having them with me throughout this time helped—not just because I had people who were in the same situation as I was, but because we built each other up. We gave each other advice, we asked about how each others’ interviews went, and we helped guide one another as we made important decisions.
During this time, you are as good as the people you surround yourself with, so you will need friends who have something better to offer than gossip about your batchmates or lovelife problems. You will need people who are in it for the hustle as much as you are, and want to see all of you succeed together. This is a time of undeniable growth and you will need those who are looking to grow with you.
In the same way, support your friends because you of all people should know that what they’re going through isn’t easy, either.
4. Contrary to what the world tells you, your success doesn’t have a deadline.
And even if there is one, it’s a long time from now.
When you stop and think about it, much of your anxiety stems from the fact that you feel like you have to accomplish everything you want to achieve now, or within the next 5 years. Seriously, what timer are you on? When you realize just how early on in life you are, you’ll start to wonder why you’re even rushing.
Take everything in and take what every experience has to offer. You might not be able to move out of your parents’ house within your first year of working, you won’t be able to travel and shop to your heart’s content with your first paycheck (hell, you won’t even be able to shop without checking the pricetag even at your 10th paycheck), but most times no one’s rushing you to do any of those things but you. Like I said, be patient with your progress.
5. Your growth is your responsibility.
When you’re unemployed, you’ll have so much free time you won’t even know what to do with it. Even when you do get a job, the reality is it’s not always going to give you the fulfillment you seek, and it will take up so much of your time you’ll end up using that as an excuse as to why you can’t pursue anything else. Know that either excuse is absolute bullsh*t.
Not everyone will make a living out of what they love to do, and even if you do find a job based on something you love, you might end up hating what you thought was your passion because you started milking it out. Have side projects. Practice in your free-time (on that note, make free time). At the end of the day, the primary purpose of having a career will be to provide financial stability, and anything beyond that will be a bonus or something you’ll have to find elsewhere.
There are many, many more things I could share about what I’ve learned during my (f)unemployment days and within my first year of working, but these are things I wish I knew more than a year ago. These would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights wondering where I’d end up, or have given me the reasons to push myself to do something more with my time.
To all the recent graduates, congratulations. Your life is just beginning, and despite the initial setbacks you might encounter and whatever doubts that will begin to grow at the back of your minds—the world awaits.