Without some planning, it’s easy for you to walk straight off the stage and right into an existential crisis.
By Devin Ross, Middle Tennessee State University
So, you’ve just graduated from college.
If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a little bit lost. Maybe not quite naked and afraid in the wilderness lost, but perhaps just a little blurry. That’s okay. In fact, it’s completely normal. It would be strange if you weren’t feeling that way.
Even if you have a mountain of student loans, or are faced with the impending threat of having to move back in with your parents so that your mother can wake you up with her “tickle monster alarm clock,” don’t worry. Just remember that this is only a phase, and you will find your path in due time. The world is just one big delicious piece of fruit, and it’s ripe for the picking. Therefore, while you’re waiting for your “adult” life to kick off, here are a few things you shouldn’t do.
1. Have an Existential Crisis
While it’s wise to be questioning things at this stage in your life, be careful not to overanalyze the big weighty questions and risk falling into the existential void. Who am I? Where am I going? What is my life purpose? All perfectly reasonable questions, but just remember that you don’t need to answer them overnight.
In fact, by stressing too much, you may be depriving yourself of getting on with your life and finding the true answers to these questions. Give yourself some time to reflect on what you want your life to be, who you want to be and how you’re going to get there. Anchor yourself in these thoughts, and the rest is just clockwork. The world is your oyster, now get out there and shuck it.
2. Go on a Bender
Assuming that you’re not immediately starting grad school, the months following graduation can feel like an excuse to expel any of the residual “party animal” left over from your college days. You’re not locked into the rigid class/work schedule anymore, and you haven’t yet started your “adult” job. It can feel like a quickly closing window to all the adolescent freedoms you once enjoyed.
There’s nothing wrong with staying out a couple nights in a row or having an herbal breakfast now and then. Just don’t overdo it. Your parents have invested so much in you, and blowing half of your rent money on MDMA is something even college-freshman you wouldn’t do. Right?
3. Become Complacent
So maybe you’re working an odd summer job as a landscaper or as a barista, or maybe you’ve had the good fortune to lock down an honest-to-goodness “professional” job.
Whatever the case may be, I’d like to implore you not to become complacent in your current position. You’re a hot young commodity. Why shouldn’t you be looking for the next best thing? We all have bills to pay, and if you’re lucky enough to have a steady source of income coming in, by all means hold onto to it.
Just remember to always have your eyes on the next step. Put some feelers out there. Talk to people and network. You never know what dream opportunity you may stumble upon. Remember, it’s your life, and you get to decide what you want to do with it.
4. Compare Yourself to Others
When you see friends and former classmates landing great jobs and launching successful careers right out of college, it can be all too easy to compare yourself to them. You can start to feel like you’re not stacking up and begin to question your worth. While a little competition can be healthy and help to light a fire under you, I’d like to dissuade you from dwelling too much on what others are doing.
We are all unique individuals and are called upon to have our own unique journey. All the time and energy you spend comparing yourself to others could have gone into doing something productive for yourself. If you are feeling a bit jealous, focus that energy inward and use it to improve your circumstances. Remember, peace comes from within.
5. Pigeonhole Yourself
Even if you graduated with a double major, it can be a common pitfall to think of your degree as some kind of binding contract that says, “Here’s what I am capable of, and this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life.” In reality, this probably won’t be the case. While a degree can help get a foot in the door and lead you into a particular field, the prevalence of professionals working the same job for their entire adult life is diminishing.
We are now living in the gig economy, where many people are freelancing with four-to-five different jobs. It’s important to stay adaptable and flexible. I always like to joke that searching for a job is a full-time job in itself, but maybe it’s more accurate to think of it as an ongoing gig. If you keep an open mind and are willing to try new things, the possibilities are infinite. Just stay in the game, stay on your toes and without a doubt, you will find exciting opportunities beckoning you to seize them.
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