With graduation sweeping the nation, a monstrous wave of 20-somethings will struggle to find their identity post college. For the past two decades, the 'student' label has defined who they are and overnight, that will change.
At 26-years-old, I'm far from having it figured out but I can say I've been there and point you to advice that is worth listening to.
Here's what you need to know:
- Your degree is a member card. Your degree basically means that you have met the minimum requirements to be considered for a position. You are not owed anything. On paper, you look like everyone else. You'll only land a job if there is something you offer that no one else does. This happens by doing more than the bare minimum.
- Twenty is not the new 30. You do not have all the time in the world to figure out what you want to do. Your 20s are not a magical period of life that gives you permission to wander aimlessly with no direction. You will not magically have it 'figured out' on your 30th birthday. If you wait that long to start moving, you'll have missed out on the chance to create memorable milestones in your life that you are proud of. Read Meg Jay's The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now or just listen/watch to her TED talk which is essentially a 15-minute pared down version of her book.
- Pursue your interests. You don't need to know where you're ending up, but you need to get moving. This isn't Girls. This is real life. You can't just sit around thinking about all the great things you're capable of and then doing nothing. You know what that's called? Wasted talent. Katie J.M. Baker does a great job of proving this point for Jezebel with 'Recent Grads: Here's what you should know. Love, a recent(ish) grad. Spoiler alert-no one has it figured out, but you don't uncover your strengths and weaknesses sitting around doing nothing.
- Hire yourself. Yes, you're graduating into a difficult economy, this is a challenge, not an excuse to do nothing. DePaul law school grads Katie Kizer and Amanda Graham did just that when they couldn't find work after receiving their law degree. Instead of sitting around bitching, they started their own business and now have a steady stream of clients thanks to referrals from their professor. Remember, people help people who help themselves. The duo even caught the eye of Crain's Chicago Business and were included in their 20 in their 20s list.
After taking control of your life and getting to the point you envisioned, you may realize your 'dream career/boyfriend/friends' isn't what you expected.
That's ok as long as you made a healthy, conscious decision and didn't just slide into i.e. you're going to be in a relationship with the guy who likes you because your lonely and he's around versus you see potential for a life partner. You made the choice to head down a certain path and you either continue down it, or head in a different direction. It's as a simple as that.
The power in your decisions and commitments lies in realizing what works for you, what doesn't and the ability to auto-correct as soon as possible, not years down the road. It's a lot easier to put in the time now than getting to 30/40/50 and having to hustle twice as hard to get where you want to be.