You’re fresh-faced and wide-eyed. You’re no longer looking forward to the weekend to dress up in six-inch heels and take tequila shots because the idea of your bed and a Hulu marathon makes you salivate. Your nights are getting earlier, while your coffee cup gets taller.
You are an intellectual, a professional, a college grad-u-ate. It is easy to get ahead of yourself here; to want to run and hop into the competitive “real world” adults are always groaning about. I implore you to take a moment. Take a breath.
Everyone says the job market is thriving right now, but I have been sitting the last year twiddling my thumbs between my breaks of research to ask, “Then where are all the jobs?”
COVID has done a lot to us in the last year and a half, and I won’t begin to touch upon everything because I’m certain everyone is exhausted hearing about it. If you just graduated, recently started a job, got laid off, or are currently looking, you are facing trials that are even more oppressive than ever before.
Everyone claims they’re short-staffed, but no one is calling you back. Apartments, vehicles, and gas prices are soaring and making you want to stay in your home as if it’s quarantine all over again (mostly because you’re spending every penny to continue living in said home.) Everything seems hostile. While job hunting is an incredibly painful and tedious venture, it is an important process that we must endure to pay off that expensive degree we just sacrificed (at least) four years for. This is why it is crucial to put care and attention into the right things during the hunt.
You Just Graduated! Now What? The Life Advice All New College Grads Need
Figure Out What You Need
Look around you in the moments of joy, frustration, motivation, exhaustion. What is a part of your routine you must keep at all costs?
For me, it was exercise. I fall into incredible bouts of existential crisis and gluttony if I do not have a workout routine to keep me focused and energized. For me, I have to have a job that doesn’t drain all my personal resources and prevent me from getting my sweat on, or else I’ll resent the work, misuse my free time, and never want to leave my bed.
For you, it may be family time at night, a power hour of reading and yoga in the morning, or a hefty homemade lunch that makes you strong. Do you find yourself being more productive at home, surrounded by your belongings and freedom of time? Do you work better in a structured environment that encourages peer interaction?
What has worked for you in past jobs and what has not?
I have a long history in the service industry, and have always loved bartending because it keeps me active, interacting with people, and the time at work is so chaotic and busy that my shift is over before I know it.
Now that I’m in a professional job, I’m seeing the perks of having my own desk, working in an environment that is low stress and calm, waking up with the sun, and having less snarky comments and cussing thrown my way when I’m in the weeds. While both are well suited for me, I’m taking careful note of what both jobs do to me personally in the long term, and you should too.
Figure out the routine that is ideal for you and find the job that fits that vision, not the other way around. While you should not fear change or adaptation, you need to prioritize your personal needs.
Be Strategic With Your Sacrifices
Claims have been made that you need to sacrifice your twenties doing grunt work to rise and thrive for your thirties. While no young, wild, and free individual wants to listen to it, they do have wisdom and experience on their side.
No matter how smart, charming, hardworking you are, credentials matter in the big leagues. Employers base a lot of your potential on your resume and they often overlook your character in the process.
You’ve done this before with college applications. Everyone told you in high school that extracurriculars matter, and later in college with internships, and that will continue for the rest of your life. Therefore, you must sacrifice. You must choose wisely.
Be a grunt in the field you want or can envision yourself enjoying. You don’t want to be following a path that you see no future in because it’s going to be much harder to get out of down the road with a mortgage, children, pets, etc. Be selective while you are young and have nothing to lose, because, despite what they say, you do have time.
Even when the jobs you’re interviewing for are seemingly your only options, it’s rarely the case. Timing is everything and in a week you could miss the opportunity that would change your life for the better.
I almost accepted a job as a legal assistant, and during the entire office visit, all I could hear was them telling me how mundane the work would be and how there was no growth beyond becoming a paralegal or a lawyer, both of which I have never dreamed of doing.
A week later I got the offer for the job I truly wanted in higher education, which I have been manifesting for years now. I feel confident in my decision because even though I’m starting at the bottom, it’s the bottom of a place I desperately want to get to the top of. All that is to say, stay ambitious and looking forward. A sacrifice doesn’t have to have a negative connotation to it. Rather, see it as investing in your future (and actually getting paid for it this time).
Surround Yourself With An Environment That Inspires You
While I continue to rave about bartending and how much fun I had while doing it, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have me feeling some type of way on my low days. You want to see potential in your future with what you’re doing in real-time. It’s what makes your mundane daily routine worthwhile and purposeful.
When I graduated college I was terrified of falling into the 9-5 misery of the corporate world, so I impulsively flew to the gorgeous Gulf side of Florida to bartend and live out my dream of being a beach baby. I genuinely loved it after I was hired at a glamorous fine dining restaurant that allowed me to rise to the top quickly. But there were days I would slow down, typically around the time I had to pay my student loans (cringe), and I would ask myself who I aspired to be like around me.
The answer was always, “the blissful person sitting at my bar with a drink in hand on vacation.” Despite adoring my coworkers and respecting my bosses, it was never their title and it started to affect my motivation. The next step from bartending was managing and I simply could not see that for myself. Bartending was enough for me, but the novelty would wear off. It already was.
You want your environment to invigorate, stimulate, and embolden you to grow into who you want to be.
Maybe not every day, but most of the days. You don’t want to see the end of the road right in front of you, especially so young (in regards to spirit or age). It will make you shrug your shoulders and say, “Okay, I got here, I guess that’s success and I’ll just sit here until lightning strikes or whatever is supposed to happen.” You’re better than that.
Find a new goal, a next goal. Find something, whether it be a job title, an avenue, a silver lining, anything that keeps you moving forward. If you want to like your job (because loving anything that is “work” is hard and usually a lie) you have to feel you’re there for a bigger purpose.
You have to see potential in the sacrifice, or else you’re just wasting precious life. I urge you to find a mentor in the process. Someone for guidance, growth opportunities, and/or potential references in the future. They weren’t kidding when they told you networking is everything. And if you admire the person doing it, more power to you.
Be Patient With Yourself
I was out of work for longer than I’d like to admit due to COVID, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of my lack of professional experience, because employers don’t truly know what “entry-level” means, or because I was competing with other people who were laid off with 5-10 years experience and prepared to settle for anything if it gets food on their table. It was disheartening, and it is draining, and you need to give yourself a break.
It’s a truly terrible process, there is no sugar-coating it. It’s like looking for a used car. After two days of doing it, every vehicle looks the same, all of them have minor issues that make you sneer, and for whatever reason, every salesperson’s smile does not touch their eyes.
Be choosy, be patient, and stay light. Set boundaries for yourself to prevent fatigue and total despair. Apply to three jobs a day to not exhaust yourself and give each job posting proper attention and care.
Hiring managers can tell in your cover letter when you just “insert job title and company here.” Find keywords in the job posting and mirror that in your cover letter without overtly being a brownnoser. Look beyond the “easy apply” on LinkedIn. Seek out companies you feel in some way identify with your values and needs. Find their website, do your research, listen to what others have to say. You need them for work and money, but truly, they need you to exist at all. Remind yourself that you are worthy and have the ability to be selective, so behave like it. Don’t force a shoe that doesn’t fit or else you’ll be walking with a limp the whole time.
Listen To Your Gut
So many people want to do nothing but critique your life choices. It can get so loud it’s hard to distinguish what you’re telling yourself and what you are being told. Find your truth in the fog. No one knows your needs, dreams, and values as you do.
I discovered so many unwarranted opinions in the last year. I listened to every single one and it made me positively miserable. It made me small in a period of my life where I was already feeling anguish and the situation I was in wasn’t even my fault. I was simply one of many.
At the end of the day, you need to feel good.
More often than not the outside opinions you receive are not based on facts, even if they are coming from a good place. No one sees your feet kicking hard under the surface to stay afloat. Honestly, times have changed. In the last ten years to the last year and a half. We are different from our parents, our peers, even ourselves from our memory.
Set boundaries if the voices get so loud you lose touch with your own. The pressure you apply to yourself is plenty. Don’t allow additional stress in a trying time to bring you further down. Things will work out, especially if you are feeding your own joy and personal needs.
I believe in the Law of Attraction. Positivity, fortitude, and discipline will get you through the rough. Tell yourself every day you will find what you need.
Say no to anything that does not satisfy at least a majority of your checklist. Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to a job you hate or don’t see a future that excites you. I mean it.
The time to be brave is now because it’s only going to get more challenging. As long as you don’t give up, it will come. Maintain your courage and grit. You make your opportunities by hunting, networking, and fighting for yourself when no one else will. Take breaks when you need to, be gentle with yourself as much as you can, and never fear to set boundaries with others and yourself.
Follow the path that gives you warm fuzzy feelings when envisioning where it could lead. Follow the path that gives you a single jolt. Continue to do it once you get the job. Never lose sight of your goals, and set new ones as you need because they will change as you go along your merry way in life. Check-in with yourself and honor your feelings. Life only goes up from here.