In the months leading up to graduation, I was so stoked. Eager for all the opportunities ahead. I felt like I had set myself up for total success – working 4 internships/jobs at a time and they all were what I was interested in. I made the right connections, had the right track record, and passion for what I wanted to do. The offers were going to start pouring in! Except, they didn’t.
I knew the company I wanted to work for, but I just couldn’t make it happen at the time. I ended up taking the first (and only) offer I received out of college. I was under-paid, miserable, and spending so much time somewhere I knew I wasn’t growing.
This was so not what I had pictured – but it doesn’t mean I give up on it, right? I fell so short of my post-grad dreams, but I was determined to get myself there. During my first year out of college and amidst the working world, I couldn’t help but question my situation. “This can’t be it, right? This isn’t what all the education, life experiences, and hype was about, right? I don’t want my entire life to be funneled into a job. There is so much more the world has to offer.”
This is when the gears started to turn.
If I could give my best “how-to” finding your way back to your dreams post-graduation, I’d put it into three actionable steps.
Step One: Actively Pursue Your Passions
I spent 50+ hours a week pouring myself into a job that I didn’t enjoy. I came home exhausted, yet wanting more. I lost a little bit of myself because I didn’t put as much effort into the things, people, or experiences I loved as I did into my job. Whether your passions are in your work itself, in a side-hobby, or in the things you just enjoy doing – take the time and make the effort to pursue them whole-heartedly. Seriously, it will rock your world investing more in yourself.
For me, my passions included traveling, slurping all the craft beer and wine my city had to offer, and starting little side projects. They kept my mind busy and my heart happy because I was finally chest deep into the things I loved. And it made me more aware of what I really wanted in my life, my work, and myself. These pursuits gave me something to channel my inner desires to. They directed my focus on a better idea of where I wanted to be.
Obviously, you’ll always need some form of income, but you can have both. You can have the job while pursuing things outside of it. Do the work, but invest in you while doing it. Your passions will open doors to other opportunities you may have missed focusing on something else.
Step Two: Be Selfish and Create Your Own Path
For some, college is a guided, linear program setting them up for a career specifically suited to what they studied. But for the majority, it’s supposed to be an authentic tool, unique to each individual. Your path outside of college isn’t going to be a clear-cut, straight path. It will be twisty, curvy, and all over the place – but it’s entirely your own.
It is so easy to play into the societal norms of what others suggest you should be doing with your relationships, career, self, whatever at this point in your life. Screw that. Everyone has an opinion, but so long as you are not bringing any harm to anyone, all your decisions only directly affect you. You don’t owe anyone, but yourself, anything.
You are not the same person you were when you started your first semester as a freshman or even the same person you were a year ago. And that’s okay! Embrace the change. You have the right to be interested in multiple careers or life experiences, and to change your mind about what you want when you want.
Do not exhaust yourself following a measurement of success that is not your own. Plan out your finances and quit the job you hate (even if you’ve only been there for a year or less). Do something outside of your college degree. Take the trip to your #5 bucket list destination. Work three jobs that excite you, but maybe aren’t a part of Forbes 100. Do what makes you happy. You deserve to be selfish.
Step Three: Be Persistent, Never Settle
Always have a goal in mind. Whether this is a personal goal, career goal, or life goal, always be aware of it. And never settle for anything less than that goal you made for yourself.
I had my sights set on my dream company, and I was determined to make it there. I applied to 6+ different jobs with just this company, and got rejected more times than I’d like to admit. But I knew it’s where I wanted to be. This could’ve gone in one of two ways. The hiring managers would find my resume for the millionth time and immediately throw it out because they figured I just wanted whatever job they’d give me. OR they would find my resume for the millionth time and think, “wow, this person is really serious about working with us. Let’s give her a shot.” And that’s what they did. 11 months after graduation, 11 months working some place I didn’t want to, and 10 months of learning how to live for myself, I finally got that call for my dream job.
However, I am not finished. This was just one (very significant) little dot on my timeline.
There is SO much life to live and dots to put on your timeline in whatever way you see fit. So, make those dots count (the good and bad)! Put all your effort into the things you cannot stop thinking about, and into the things that are worth it to you. Nothing less. Your goals deserve to be at the forefront of your life – don’t stop until you turn them into a reality.
Jennifer Lee says it best, “be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” And THAT, you should.
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