I’ve Graduated – Now What?!

The time has come. The moment that once seemed so far off – that particular time in which you thought you would have all of your goals and priorities laid out and would know the exact direction to pursue for the rest of your life. College graduation. You’ve finished at least seventeen years of primary to post-secondary schooling and are about to enter the wild abyss known as “the adult life”. But, what is the adult life?

It can be difficult comparing yourself to older generations, such as your parents, and how their young adult life played out. When I asked some of my older mentors about what life was like when they were in their early 20’s, they said that the economy was more socially restricting. The situation for our grandparents was different – it was rare to go to college, especially for girls. Anyone with a degree would be guaranteed a job and comfort for the rest of their days.

However, our society today is rapidly evolving, so who best to look to than those closest to you in age— your older siblings or peers? There’s a good chance that some of them are well on their path to the career of their dreams – maybe they’re in medical or law school, or they’ve been working since high school graduation and are making decent money. It’s even possible to know people who are engaged, married or already have kids! The way others live their lives can provide a path to aspire to. It can be an affirmation of the life you would like to have for yourself, in the near or distant future.

Many of us, at this milestone, are lost. And that’s completely okay! It’s okay to not know what you want to do after graduation. You are still young. You have the entire world at your fingertips! Whichever path you decide to take now does not necessarily define the rest of your life. In fact, the average number of career changes in a lifetime ranges from five to seven. And that’s only the average—there are people with many more occupational changes, and others with fewer.

The reality of 2017 is that the economy is in constant flux. Almost nothing is guaranteed and college graduates must be fluid and malleable in their skill sets. This may sound like a challenge to our generation, but why not turn it into an advantage? The ten highest paying jobs in America did not exist ten to fifteen years ago. This gives anyone complete power to create whatever they believe will be successful. No one said it would be easy but then again, if it was, everyone would be doing it, right?

Evan Spiegel, the co-founder and CEO of Snap Inc. (formerly known as Snapchat Inc.) founded the popular image messaging application in 2011, at the age of 21. Today, his net worth is estimated at $4 billion and growing, and he is happily married to model Miranda Kerr.

That being said, the key point here is to avoid comparing yourself to your peers and celebrity “success stories”. Comparing where you are at now to somebody else’s fixed point may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. Instead, use their stories and experiences to guide and inspire you to work towards your own goals! Our world is forever changing with the development of new, faster-paced technology, which opens our doors to more possibilities to utilize and enhance our experience.

Twenty years ago, these products did not even exist. Anyone pitching the idea of a smartphone back then might have been laughed at or been shut down by the sheer ambition of it. Yet in 2017, more people in Canada and America own smartphones than those who do not. Don’t deny yourself an opportunity because it feels unrealistic at the moment. Anything is possible!

If you feel completely lost and ungrounded, consider the following to get a sense of what you might want to do:

1) Figure out what your immediate priority is.

It may be money (student loans), health (physical, mental), family, or something completely different! Your priorities are completely valid and not everyone has the same list– if you can’t satisfy your top priority, it’ll be hard to focus on your long-term goal.

2) Determine what your long-term goal is.

What are you passionate about? Is that what you ultimately want to pursue? It is important to know what you’re working towards or where you ultimately want to end up. This will give you a sense of direction. And don’t be afraid to dream! Others may turn down your ideas or goals, but don’t let your belief in yourself waver. You will never know what you are capable of until you try!

3) What are your opportunities?

Know what’s available to you. A common misconception many post-graduates have is that they must stay within their field of study. This is false! You are not constricted to the paradigm of whatever you received your degree in. Expand! Be imaginative and creative! Do not allow the opinions of others to hinder your aspirations. Explore opportunities, ask around, network, volunteer. Gain new experiences that could expose you to things you never knew you were interested in.

4) Get inspired!

Have role models, who will help motivate you when you are feeling low. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that you have fallen into a rhythm, a pace that is almost too comfortable and you are not being challenged enough. Do not be afraid to break out of this rhythm if you are not happy in it! You could travel. This is a great time to travel because you have the freedom to get up and go without the burden of responsibilities such as paying off a mortgage and caring for a family. Or it could mean getting a new job- perhaps something that is a step towards your long-term goal.

Once you have figured out your goals, know that if you want to do more school – a master’s, a postgraduate or another undergrad degree in a completely different field or faculty—it’s never too late!

There is nothing wrong with making a change if you are not satisfied with how you are currently living your life. Do not be afraid to make that switch. Even if you are unsure of what you want, or what the next step is, just get out there! Branch out and try something different from what you are comfortable with – you never know what you might discover.

There is no formula to follow or guidebook to read on how to “adult”.

Everyone has a different path to follow and it’s okay to not know what you are doing all the time! Some professors have told me that being an adult is about “winging it” and sometimes even faking it until you make it! Even after 40 or 50 years, they’re still coming across new challenges, learning, and feeling as if they’re not really adults.

As long as you are putting yourself out there and are trying, YOU are moving forward.

Image Credit: LA Johnson/NPR

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