Since it’s toga season, I just wanted to share some of the things I learned in that 1st year out of college that I wish I knew then:
1) It’s quite sad, to be honest.
You strain under new expectations in the workplace. You lose touch with your old college friends and struggle to find new ones. You’re primarily alone in learning the ropes, adjusting to new rules, and making decisions, and it can get sad, but that’s normal.
2) You’re not sure about what you’re doing, and that’s okay.
Choosing your first job is a very important decision, but – the truth is – you will most likely never be 100% happy with any choice you make. Inevitably, all choices have pros and cons, but you have to trust yourself. Trust in the process, trust that you are learning now, trust your gut, trust your feelings, trust in your long-term goals. Trust that, someday, if the need arises, you can make the right decision to stay or to move on.
3) Wow, things are expensive.
I sincerely believe that accumulating wealth doesn’t depend on how much you actually earn but more so on how you manage your money. In this domain, it’s useful to read up on personal finance, personal accounting, and investments (something they should honestly teach everyone in college).
4) The world is so big and the university is so small.
It’s easy to excel in the petri dish of college because the competition numbers merely in the hundreds or thousands. But, in this crazy, globalized marketplace, we enter a world where we virtually compete with millions and billions. It can feel overwhelming, but it’s also a compelling force to help us push ourselves.
5) Ultimately, It doesn’t matter what school you come from or what degree you carry.
The world awards grit, perseverance, and the willingness to learn more than anything. Excellence isn’t a goal that you achieve by graduating from your dream school or winning awards or getting your first promotion; it’s a continuous process that begs consistency and dedication.
6) Don’t be boxed by the market.
The world is changing fast, and maybe the most important jobs to prepare us for an uncertain future don’t even have job titles yet. Don’t be afraid to unclasp yourself from the “herd” and create your own direction. Whether that means launching a start-up, working freelance, or trading on the stock market, the possibilities are practically endless.
7) Graduation isn’t as big a deal as society holds it up to be.
Graduation is an important milestone, but the truth is – it’s just a small stepping stone in the larger journey of learning. At today’s speed of change, many of what we learned in college are obsolete – or will be obsolete soon. At the same time, what we learned in college is probably only 0.0001% of the plethora of human knowledge. The bigger challenge now is how to keep learning after graduation.
8) “College is the most fun you’ll ever have” is false.
After graduating, I was afraid that I’d descend into the perfunctory, predictable, and draining everyday routine of a working person’s life. So I made a decision. I told myself, “Every year is going to be my best year yet.” I told myself I’m going to make the conscious effort to work hard and push myself but also leave time for fun, novelty, spontaneity, and silliness.
So far, 2017 is my best year yet, but I know 2018 will be even better… and so on…In all honesty, long-term goals and career-building and aiming for excellence are admirable and necessary facets to a purposeful life. But, the truth is, we can all die tomorrow.
In 22 years, I’ve fought hard to come to the conclusion that happiness is – more than anything – a personal, everyday choice.I wish I could tell you that it will be easier but honestly it’s going to get harder. I wish I could tell you you’ll have all the answers but honestly you won’t. I wish I could tell you you’re all set after graduation but honestly you’re not.
After graduation, life is harder, more confusing, and more complex, but that’s okay. With the right attitude and bearing, you can get better, smarter, stronger, and happier to match those new realities.
One more thing: don’t ever forget to enjoy the ride.
(Originally written: May 28, 2017)