Con-grad-ulations. The good news is, life gets better after that poor attempt of a pun.
And especially so for all you freshly minted graduates — you’re in a good place right now. You’ll find that there’s a weightlessness that accompanies graduation. Initially, setting course on your own path is exciting. Free of academic shackles or required coursework, you can spend your time tackling the issues you choose rather than on the papers you’re assigned.
But, as most slippery slopes go, that freedom of choice can quickly become overwhelming. Rather than feeling like you’re on the precipice of an exhilarating life decision, you tip over the edge of the rabbit hole.
So what changes? While I may not be the most qualified to give advice (I’m two degrees in and still beset with the same questions and doubts), I’ve had my experiences enduring bad break-ups with school. So, let’s transform you from a free falling Alice in Wonderland into a fully metamorphosed Mr. Caterpillar.
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Pulling a leaf from Alice’s book, take a gander through the looking glass at yourself. On this journey after graduation, you’ll often need to deeply examine your interests, realistically appraise your potential, and reevaluate your expectations. For a period of delusion, I genuinely believed that my master’s degree entitled me to a six-figure salary. Instead, uni has landed me with that six-figure debt, and it’s taken me some time to find where my degree actually qualifies me as a candidate.
So, embrace your time in the rabbit hole; it’s great for reflecting on the interests that repeatedly seem to pop-up in your life. What activities do you gravitate toward with your free time, or urge to do when you’re restless? Unfortunately, there may not always be a clear intersection between those interests and what you’d get paid for. Instead, doing an Ikigai activity (finding your reason for being) can clarify how your strengths, interests, and the what the world needs, can transform into, dare I say it, a fulfilling career.
Grow that Social Network
You’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy to go from having hundreds of friends to share meals with, to being on self-administered house arrest after university. But neglecting your social self can have crippling consequences on your daily motivation. Though it’ll require more effort than when you lived in residence, your social life cannot go uncared for. Whether it’s via FaceTime or cheap activities (let GroupOn join the friend group), stay in contact with the people enduring the same challenges and frustrations as you. Particularly those that inspire you to do better, since it’s been said that our successes are the sum of our closest friends.
Don’t shy away from millennial tendencies toward online socialization either, these ‘wastes-of-time’ are actually valuable connectors in their own right! Facebook’s (FB) recommended events have helped me curate a list of job fairs, networking nights, and skill-builders in Toronto — you just gotta let FB know you’re interested. And let your FB friends know as well, because attending together can save you from running straight to the washroom for refuge when networking. Though if you are going to, at least grab some snacks along the way.
Even Instagram has its value beyond being a convenient means through which to avoid eye-contact while at said networkers. Follow the people that are in the positions you aspire to have, or even @ your firms of interest, that’s how I came across my current internship. Though LinkedIn may be a more appropriate platform for sliding into the DMs, Insta has its mentorship merits by giving you an inside peek into what a professional’s life entails.
Just Do It
The reality is that we often put off our dreams into a safer and more attainable space in the future. So, how can we hold ourselves accountable to our future selves? Put aside some time to envision every detail of your ideal future self. Then work backwards to set yourself 10 year, 5 year, one year, and one month goals to create your personalized GPS for life.
On the contrary, as much as you should start on your goals now, try not to let the anxiety of this post-grad limbo frame your choices as being the one and last chance at everything. In the moment, it can feel like our choices are commitments for life. And that can be a paralyzing thought, one that breeds stagnancy. But you’ll also find that life is a lot more flexible than your institution’s Registrar’s Office, so welcome the fact that we are a generation of job-hoppers, and just start doing things with an open mind.
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Now, as the real queen of hearts (Oprah Winfrey, of course) once told a graduating class, “sometimes you find out what you are supposed to be doing by doing the things you are not supposed to do.” So, ride the wave of freedom that accompanies graduation and embrace being on the precipice of any number of paths. Don’t wait for the inertia to pull you into the rabbit hole, figure out what excites you in life, meet the people that can make that happen, and get to doing you.
Along the way, you’ll meet people at all different points of their journey. But remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Use their success to inspire, rather than to berate or degrade yourself. You’ll find that there are so many versions of greatness and success in life. Realize that this is just chapter one (you haven’t even met the Mad Hatter yet), there’s lots that life has in store for you. Take one last look at your degree, recall all the good times and get ready for chapter two. Congra-2-lations (trust me, the puns don’t stop).