The post-grad world is much less forgiving.
By Jasmin Suknanan, Stony Brook University
For some, graduation is just a week of midterms, a spring break and two additional months of hard work away.
For those who are still getting used to the bane of existence known as finals week though, graduation may feel so distant it’s unfathomable. Either way, by the end of your journey, most students are sad to leave behind the friends, the campus and, yes, even some of the professors they’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the course of their college career.
Their too-tiny dorm room and too-large lecture halls have become a home away from home, and it’s hard to imagine leaving behind late-night giggles in the residence halls, school apparel and face paint at homecoming and celebrating with extra sleep every time your campus gets hit with a foot of snow and classes get cancelled.
Still, college sure as hell wasn’t all good times and jolly laughs. I didn’t come into university expecting a perfect experience, but I also didn’t come in expecting to have as many less-than-desirable experiences as I did. College is full of harrowing challenges that make you feel like you’re being punished for having goals, taking you on a rollercoaster ride of semi-high highs and really low lows.
The same holds true for fears. You aren’t the first person to be afraid of going out to your first college party, and you’re also not the first person to have second thoughts about getting on a plane to begin your study-abroad journey.
While some fears keep you safe, others hold you back from life-changing moments and opportunities waiting for you to open the door. Part of the growth that you experience in college comes from learning to conquer those fears, so it’s critical that you acknowledge them and making overcoming them an intentional goal of yours.
Here are the ten fears you should try and graduate from before you walk across the stage in tassels.
1. Staying Where You Are Because It’s Comfortable
Even if you’re tired of doing the same old thing, you’re probably going to stick to it because you’re afraid of venturing out of your comfort zone. It’s much easier to stick to what you’re used to than to sink your teeth into something you’ve never tried before.
Up until this past January, I had never traveled to another state, let alone another country. I was determined to finally do something other than study at home this winter, so I jumped at the chance to apply for study abroad.
Despite all the unfamiliar and scary work that went into planning the trip, I flew to Ireland on New Year’s Day and returned to New York without a single regret.
2. Not Looking at All Your Options
Don’t accept your fate as it is unless you’re sure you’ve visited every option available to you. Some people are afraid to keep looking because they’re afraid that more rejection awaits them.
It’s much easier to throw your hands in the air and say, “Nothing’s going to work.” Digging deep requires a lot of energy, but more often than not, there’s a route you didn’t even know you could take. Even if “secret” options sound tedious, chances are they’re well worth the effort.
3. Saying “No” Too Quickly
What is it about the word “no” that makes saying it so easy? Is it because it contains one less letter than the word “yes?” Or perhaps it’s because it means that you can walk away with clean hands and move on with your life.
Rejecting everything that comes your way out of fear is an essential ingredient for holding yourself back. Here’s something I started telling myself this year: “If I’m not saying ‘no’ because I can’t afford it or I DEFINITELY don’t have time for it, I’m holding myself back.”
4. Practicing Time Management
This is a common and simple fear to succumb to. Time management requires planning ahead and dedication, sometimes more than the amount students are willing to expend energy on.
Your first job after graduation will likely force you to manage several tasks at once, and you probably won’t have the convenience of a bulky-but-cute planner in your backpack to help you out. You may have to make the best of a stack of sticky notes or your memory.
It’s difficult to master time management, and you’re likely to encounter some forgetful spills along the way, but it’s worth an attempt before you head out into the real world.
5. Worrying About Popularity
You probably have high school popularity contests for class president to thank for this.
I know I’m not the only one who’s ever refused to run for a position because I thought I didn’t know enough people who’d back me. There’s no guarantee that wanting something enough will get it for you, but there is a guarantee to knowing you actually tried.
Chances are, when you graduate and begin the next step of your life, you may not know anyone around you.
Relying on the endorsement of others is a toxic flaw in itself, but such a dependence can leave you motiveless when there is no one there to back you. Do what you want, work hard at it and if you fail, you fail. There is no shame in trying and coming up short, but when you’re the one holding yourself back, that’s when you run into serious problems.
6. Thinking You’re Not Good Enough
You’ve probably read stories online about people who achieved their dream job or internship with “no experience.”
If you haven’t read those stories, they usually go something like this: “It’s been my dream to work at (insert name of company here) since I was ten-years-old. I applied for a job there with no relevant experience to my name. All I had was passion for the company and hope that my passion would help me stand out. It’s been two years that I have been with the company. Moral of the story: If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”
I know, I sound like an asshole for the way I phrased all that, but I actually do like reading those type of success stories. While I think that society is trending toward industries where simply having passion isn’t going to be good enough, students can still find a lesson on encouragement by putting themselves out there from stories like these. You never know until you try.
Plus, more and more, companies are looking for employees who can think laterally, which means having experience in multiple fields is a huge boon. Even if you only last for a few days in a job, or only pursue a hobby for a month, you’re better for having that experience. Exerting even the tiniest amount of effort will always benefit you more than never trying in the first place.
7. Thinking You Can’t Handle the Job
You’re bound to fuck up. You’re definitely going to fuck up. You better quit while you’re ahead to avoid embarrassing yourself, but if you quit, how will you learn?
You may feel a great deal of pressure to be perfect at what you do, and thinking that you won’t be perfect is a scary thought. The wisest piece of advice you’ll ever receive, when it comes to making mistakes, is that you should always own up to them and use them to do better next time.
Employers don’t hire new graduates expecting them to be perfect at their job, or really even trained for their position. Companies want enthusiastic employees who can learn quickly and have an optimistic disposition; your attitude is oftentimes far more important than your aptitude.
8. Sending an Email
Believe it or not, some people fear hitting “send” on a meticulously thought-out message to someone they’ve never met face-to-face.
For some reason, none of the words seem to fit together. The message seems too short or too long. There’s a better way they could’ve re-phrased half the message.
Did they put commas in all the right places? How many times should they re-read the message in their heads before they’ve read it enough times?
It’s perfectly rational to want to convey your competence with a single email, but remember that you won’t always have time to worry about the same message for half an hour. Get comfortable with sending emails.
9. Being Noticed
This is sometimes a fear that I struggle with. Everyone has so much to offer, but some people put that on display more than others. Sitting back and letting someone else shine can hurt you if you allow it to happen too often.
There were times when I actually regretted not coming forward with a skill or ability that I could showcase. That could be me up there impressing people, but instead, I chose to sit on my hands.
Especially in the workplace, you’ll benefit immensely from volunteering for projects, whether or not you can handle them. An outward sign of commitment goes a long way in company culture, so put yourself out there and be confident in your ability.
10. Having to Put in Extra Work
Ever have one of those experiences where you spontaneously decide to take on something new, realize that it requires more than you thought it would and then you ask yourself, “What the hell did I just get myself into?” Yeah, that’s me about 50 percent of the time.
I guess the fear here has more to do with concern over whether you’ve just bitten off more than you can chew, rather than having less time to lounge around. This is where you can exercise time-management. Some days are more action-packed than others, but just taking things one step, or task, at a time can make a big difference.