Advice for recent grads

It’s been more than a week since my last post, and I apologize for that. Things have turned a complete 180º, suddenly leaving me with more work than time. Freelance, day job and night job now mean that instead of limitless time and unengaged energy, I’ve got no time and zero energy left at the end of the day. Certainly, this will catch up to me and I’ll have to engage in some rebalancing down the road. For now, though, I’m very grateful to have seven days of work every week.

I’ve had a lucky opportunity to meet and get to know a few recent college graduates and current college students through my new jobs. Sadly, all the recent grads have a poor outlook for their careers, and that’s a matter of conditioning and observation: they certainly haven’t been given any reason to have a bright and shiny disposition.

For some of them, there’s a seething resentment roiling just beneath the surface which reminds me of myself ten years ago. That causes me great concern, because I find it gruesome to contemplate a generation of young talent approaching their futures with the same kind of crippling chip on their shoulders that propelled me through a decade of wrong choices.

Decidedly, I feel duty-bound to guide these people towards long-term progress. No, I’m no expert, and if anything, my example is mostly an illustration of what not to do (at least until most recently), but if I can impart even a tiny bit of focus and perspective, I’ll feel that I’ve contributed something good to the future. When I was in their position ten years ago, the time I spent dwelling on feelings of futility developed into a sense of being forsaken. Eventually, I developed tunnel vision which shifted my entire gestalt towards one of universal disdain; an attitude that programmed me to consistently choose impulsively and almost universally poorly.

For other recent grads who are struggling through a harsh world, feeling lost and perhaps even forsaken, do everything within your power to keep this from happening to you. It does not do to focus on setbacks. Here’s a list of important things you need to know, and will do you well to keep in mind:

  1. Your twenties will be tough. No one tells you this in college, but you will struggle. Money will be tight, you’ll live paycheck to paycheck and have sleepless nights about how to pay the rent, utilities, phone, cable, insurance, student loans, all while trying to afford enough ramen to survive. This is, good, though, because you’ll learn invaluable coping skills. Whatever you do, don’t let the stress consume you. Try to remember that these are your first steps towards your dreams and it won’t always be this way, provided you stay focused and driven.
  2. Take risks and follow whimsies. As tough as it seems, and as hard as you’re struggling, now is the time to chase dreams. It will seem like you’re surrounded by fortress walls designed to break you, but those walls are much simpler to surmount than the mountains of resistance you’ll face once well down a career path ten years from now. Right now, you’ve got as close to nothing to lose as possible. The longer you wait, the more things will get in your way.
  3. Things are not as bad as you think they are. Tough job market? Living in your parents’ basement? Credit card and student loan debt? They may be enough to keep you up at night right now, but it’s all a matter of perspective. If you miss a credit card payment, are Somali pirates going to kidnap and mercilessly torture your parents until you’ve made things right? Will the University revoke your degree if you can’t pay your student loan? Of course not. At worst, they’ll go to your little sister’s school and start scandalous rumors about her, or maybe send you a nasty letter and call to harass you while you’re watching 30 Rock. Not that big a deal. Do everything you can not to let these things become your driving motivation. Stay focused on your goal, not dealing with immediate obstacles.
  4. Avoid resentment. Don’t get trapped by your feelings about the economy, the Baby Boomers, the 1%, any of the things you have no control over. Yes, there are very valid reasons to resent the hand you’ve been dealt, but that’s not productive in any way, shape or form. Allowing these feelings to consume you, to shape your world view, will do you no favors. No one wants to hear it, and it will ultimately blind you from your goals.

This all may seem a bit prosaic, like a list of platitudes, but there’s real value here. In some way or another, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. Whether or not you’re willing to listen and even ask a few questions for guidance is completely up to you. Good luck.

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