Graduated college….now what?

imgresI spent a lot of time talking to recent graduates.  I am struck by a group of people who have been pushed for years to build out those resumes from being on sports teams to doing internships, to do well in school, score well on their SATs/ACTS, get to the right college and then once they graduate seem lost.

Not everyone is lost but certainly many are.  Many know what interests them and where they see themselves going but not everyone.  They end up unsure of what job to take with fear that the job is boring, not challenging, not up to par and so they are paralyzed.  Others take a job and look around and then think “is this what life after college is all about”?

The great thing about the world today is there are so many opportunities.  There are a slew of different companies out there with many new and unique jobs that did not exist 10 years ago.  It is almost overwhelming.

The key is just starting somewhere.  Take a job in a vertical that you like be it food, architecture, commerce, etc and get your foot in the door but more to the point get your foot in the work world. Nothing is permanent these days.  If it doesn’t work out then think about what you liked and didn’t like about that job to narrow your focus for the next job.  Take a class or two in something that might be of interest like web design to help you guide your path.

These days your 20’s are for exploring and finding yourself.  When I meet someone in their late 20’s who has had a variety of jobs and experiences I applaud that.  Seeing someone who just spent 10 years in the same company actually makes me take pause unless of course it was at a large company like Google where they got to wear several hats.

The real world is far different from college which is why in college it is also good to have those internships to see if you actually like a field.  I know many in my class that had an entire semester working in a job (it was part of my college’s curriculum) and they came back to school thinking that was the best or that was the worst.

The college graduates of today might live to be 100.  That’s a lot of time to figure out what you like.  Do not be in a hurry and don’t worry if the first job isn’t what you wanted.  Just take a job and start on the path of figuring it out.  One step in front of the other.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jenna Abdou

    Great post, Joanne. Thank you!

  2. Susan Rubinsky

    Life is for exploring and learning. It doesn’t end the day you get your degree. Love this post!

  3. Rohan

    100% agree – Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” is a great read too. Start somewhere, get really good and you’ll get career capital to do the next thing.

    1. Erin

      Career capital- I like that term.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I forgot about this article. Yes. It was really good

  4. Sofia Papastamelos

    You always have a lot of good thoughts on this! Internships are so important -I am amazed at students who go to universities who have co-op programs. These students are getting all of the competitive opportunities and making themselves marketable, working full time like they are real employee during college.I also think it’s so important to pick a place that really suits your interests and has opportunities in a particular field(s). I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t build up a network in Boston. Find somewhere where you feel like you have a lot of options and a community around you, whether that’s in a city or more rural place.

  5. panterosa,

    On a field trip with my daughter’s 8th grade class I was paired with the math teacher, who also teaches coding at the school. The discussion led down an interesting path – why more kids take calculus simply to have it on their transcript, and statistics interest lowering (even when more applicable to data analysis), students trying to show colleges they are well rounded by taking one of everything, rather than doubling in history, math or science. This leads to cookie cutter applications (how then do colleges even filter out the unique parts of a student?).This hopefully then reverses in college by having a major, but is a sad comment on how expectations are standardizing how kids present themselves in high school artificially.Try things yes, many things – your curiosity and passion should lead you to places of interest. I have worked in so many tangential fields as to get to know how they all relate, and luckily, where I’m best suited to do good work. In retrospect, all the moves made perfect sense. When I was midstream it looked disorganized and aimless. There simply wasn’t enough information to see the themes developing as a bigger picture.We should trust our gut more, and trust our kids guts to let them explore. I’m glad you are giving this advice out to these young people.

    1. Gotham Gal

      We have a gut…trust it. Totally agree.

  6. pointsnfigures

    if you went to a very selective school, you won the first 1/4 of your life. now the real work starts.