So you graduated this year and still aren't sure what to do
When I was 8, I wanted to be the youngest published novelist. It’s been over a decade since then and I still have no novel gracing the shelves of a bookstore near you. When I entered college I had a plan: graduate with a degree in Creative Writing, become a novelist, professor, or publishing agent, and study abroad in England for a semester. While I managed to snag that degree in Creative Writing, I don’t have any of those predetermined careers and I am yet go across the pond. The drive I had to be more successful than the popular kids from my high school (OK, I know it was petty, but I can’t be the only one) didn’t land me where I thought it would by the time I graduated. That’s totally cool.
While my plans of being an author, publishing agent, or college professor have all shifted, leaving my destined career path a bit fuzzy, my life after college now has room to explore every possible option. Though this is a little terrifying, it’s also freeing. After having spent years dedicated to sitting in classrooms scribbling notes into carefully labeled spiral notebooks, it’s liberating to not be pigeonholed into a set career. Here’s what I learned in the process of coping with an unsure, post-college life.
Avoid social media jealousy
If I can stress one thing, it is this: Don’t pay attention to everything everyone else is doing. So what, that one girl got a job in New York City and you’re stuck trying to figure out a career. Good for her! But good for you, too Sure, it’s natural to want to feel like you are on par with your peers, but everyone has their own pace, their own timeline. Maybe you weren’t meant to jump into your dream job right after college, as nice as that would be. (And by the way, almost no one gets a dream job directly from college anyway.) By constantly worrying about how everyone else is doing career wise, you put more stress on yourself. Let things happen naturally.
It’s OK to like, not love your current job
You know what’s great for financing those trips you never took or hobbies you love, but didn’t have time for before? A job. Just because you don’t have your dream job, doesn’t mean you can’t find one you like in the meantime. Life after college means being a real adult: bills, car payments, rent, student loan repayment, etc. All of those things require a paycheck, and it’s okay to find a job you’re not absolutely in love with. It’s not settling. You never know who you’ll meet or how they will influence your life, by taking a job, even if it’s not your dream one, you are exposing yourself to more opportunities and connections that may point you in the direction you want to be going. Think of it as a stepping stone to the life you want.
Set some real goals for yourself
While this may seem silly, someone recently asked me to jot down 100 dreams of mine, no matter if they were as small as learning to do a cartwheel (which I sadly don’t know how to do). The act of making a list will help you highlight the things you find important—those are the things you should be focusing on when you don’t know what you want to do with your life. More often than not, our dream jobs stem from these hobbies and passions we may often take for granted. Maybe you really love DIY craft projects and upcycling old furniture, so channel that passion into creating an Etsy account for your projects. Maybe you are passionate about animal welfare, so start volunteering at a shelter. By looking at a list of your passions you can start to decide what it is you want to do and make a plan.
One of the perks of no longer being in college is the fact you are no longer tied to one location. Traveling or moving to a new city can change the way you see your life and give you opportunities you didn’t have before. Packing up your life and moving away from a familiar place is terrifying, but it is much easier to do now, than when you are set on a career.
It’s hard realizing you’re floating in an ambiguous, uncertain future living a life you hadn’t planned. But everything will be OK. Right now you have choices; you don’t have to give one thing up for another. You can simply do what makes you happy. Whether it’s traveling, starting a job, or investing in the hobbies you put on the backburner, keeping yourself busy will help distract you from worrying about now knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life. The fact is you are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Taking a couple extra years to find out what you truly want to do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Promise.
Sydney Johnston is a 22 year old recent college graduate living in the Midwest. When not working as an alumni relations consultant, she spends her time stalking the IMDB homepage for new movie trailers, attempting Pinterest DIY crafts, and attending every concert she can afford. You can follow her on her blog http://unpopularculture.wix.com/unpopularculture.
[Image courtesy The Criterion Collection]