As I neared my last year of college I thought I had all my goals in place. I spent more time in the library than my apartment (and the bar). I was a member of various academic clubs and co-curricular activities, and I participated in countless professional development events. I had professional internship experience, and was consistently networking with employees. The goal was to graduate a semester early with honors, get any mind-numbing corporate job that would allow me to pay off my bills, and save up enough money over the next few years to travel and pursue something in the writing field. Yeah, the writing field. Clearly, I didn’t have my life as figured out as I should have. As soon as I graduated, I moved back in with my parents, continued my corporate internship, and constantly thought about all the things I was doing wrong.
I lived in a constant state of regret, dwelling over all of the things I should have done to better prepare myself for the “real world.” Even though I was going to work every day and applying for jobs, I felt like I had lost my purpose. The only thing I focused on was getting through the daily grind, and I know a lot of twenty-somethings can relate to the hopeless feelings that plagued me. If you feel like your post-grad life is devoid of meaning, you’re not alone (not by a long shot). But the thing is, you can change your thinking, you can change your actions, and you can get your sense of purpose back, no classroom required.
Identify goals you are passionate about. The key here is to get excited about your future. When I decided that I wanted to find a career in the writing field, I went into my job search completely clueless. I had no idea what to do with my English degree, so I applied for dozens of uninteresting technical writing jobs and administrative positions. I began to dread the application process because I simply wasn’t interested in anything I was pursuing. It’s easy to get discouraged on the job hunt, especially with prospective employers constantly churning out rejection letters. Instead of blindly applying for every open position you are eligible for, take a good hard look at your passions. Once you identify your goals, you can begin to identify what experiences you’d like to pursue to help build your resume. I still haven’t landed my dream job, but knowing what I’m looking for makes the application process a lot less daunting.
Do something for yourself every day. Whether you’re working 50 hours a week, or applying for jobs 24/7, find time to do something meaningful and productive for yourself every single day. I’m not talking about meeting a work goal or doing your laundry before you run out of socks (although you should absolutely do those things). I’m talking about working toward your passions, your dream job, whatever outlandish-wonderful-dream goal you created for yourself. Set some time aside every day to work on your personal website, take photographs, or write a sonnet. Even if your day job seems to lack personal meaning, you can rest easy every night knowing that you did something impactful for yourself.
Find something to look forward to. After college, I’ve had a tendency to wake up every morning instantly wanting the day to be over. Never let yourself get so caught up in the repetition of daily living that you forget to enjoy yourself. Enjoy the present moment, but also find something to strive towards. I’ve been planning a month-long trip out west for this summer, and I find solace knowing that every day when I go into work, I’m allowing myself to get closer to my goal of traveling.
Scope out local learning opportunities. In college, there are countless opportunities to learn, both inside the classroom and out. Just because you’ve traded your cap and gown for dress slacks, it doesn’t mean that learning has to come to a halt. Seek out interesting opportunities in your area. Universities typically allow the public to attend events and panel discussions for free. Check to see if your city has a local Young Professionals’ Group. Maybe the New Age store around the corner has free yoga classes every week. If you take some time to research local libraries, schools, and other establishments, you may be surprised by the amount of learning opportunities in your area.
Once college is over, it can be easy to lose focus. Whether you’re working full time, or just wish you were, remember to identify your goals and work every single day to achieve them. My situation hasn’t changed since I graduated, but my outlook and actions have been altered drastically. Your life is beautiful and rare. Never let yourself think otherwise.