Photo by Andrew Koo Photography.
Last week I attended the commencement for the university I work for, and it was admittedly bittersweet. It hit me that it’s been over a year since my own college graduation. I am no longer a “recent graduate” (although I will continue to insist I am for the next few years because RECENT IS A RELATIVE TERM!).
So much has changed in the span of a year. Some important observations and lessons I’ve learned:
Things that do not dictate your career path: your major. Things that do: your drive.
For a long time, I believed that I would only be able to find jobs that corresponded with my major. It wasn’t until my friend, Cat, reassured me that I could absolutely deviate from this and pursue something new, that I decided to take on social media and marketing. For me, it was difficult to get my foot in the door but it was entirely possible — and it happened!
It’s okay to not know. There is no set timeline for when you need to accomplish things. You should absolutely take the time you need.
It’s only been a year and I’ve gone through quite a few career path changes. As time goes on, I’ve been getting new ideas and adapting my plan accordingly. It took me a while to embrace this feeling of uncertainty — I’m the sort of person who prefers to have everything figured out (organized and color coded) yesterday. For a long time, I compared myself to my successful friends in medical and graduate school, and felt like I was lagging behind. There is no timeline. You have the right to go at your own pace!
This is an excellent time to explore beyond the bounds of your comfort zone — especially when it comes to making friends and networking.
After graduation, I moved back home to the small town I’d lived in my entire life. All of my friends also moved back to their respective homes… around the world. The friends I’d spent the last four years with were suddenly long distance friendships, and I was suddenly surrounded by high school peers I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. It was jarring, to say the least. Suddenly I had to make new friends all over again. I’m lucky to have met so many lovely people through Instagram (maybe a post about Instagram friendships & networking coming soon?). I’ve also met some amazing people through my job and reconnected with some old high school friends too.
The great thing about working is that once 5 o’clock hits, you’re free to do what you want. Most of the time, there are no deadlines looming over my head past normal working hours. In college, there was this general sense of anxiety that you when you weren’t in class or working, there was always something additional you could be doing — more studying, more preparation, extra credit, thesis brainstorming, and more. With a job, you have time to yourself to explore new hobbies (and pick up old ones) and rest.
Learning what you don’t want to do is a necessary step towards figuring out what you do want to do.
In the end, some jobs and internships weren’t careers I wanted to continue to pursue. Even so, I am incredibly thankful for the lessons they taught me. I was able to narrow down my options, move on and find something else I wanted to do.
I really miss college. But I’ll be okay.
Do I miss midterm season? Fire alarms? College parties? Mediocre boba? No. I don’t. What I do miss: my community. My final year of college, I lived in a suite with six of my best friends. I’d say hi to dozens of friends on my way to and from classes, listen to lectures about intersectional feminism from inspiring professors, and head off to work with some of my favorite people at the campus coffeehouse. I really, really miss my college community. And while I don’t have that anymore, they’re with me forever in some of my most cherished memories.
If you’re a recent graduate, I’d love to know:
How did you adjust to postgrad life?