10 Years Post College - What I've Learned and Some Advice for New Grads
I graduated from college 10 years ago last month. The time absolutely flew by, and I have learned a lot in this decade of post-college adventure. I've made mistakes in both my career and personal life, and I've recovered from those mistakes and made some great decisions too. I am proud of my accomplishments, and I wanted to share some things I've learned over the years that may help those who are graduating now. Here's to the next 10 years!
1. It's OK to Feel Anxious. Graduating from college is a scary time. You're going from everything you've known for the past 16 years (school) out into the real world, where no one is taking attendance or giving you a grade. When I graduated I definitely felt like I didn't know what I was doing - plus my closest friends were a year behind me so they were still involved with college. I got a full time job right away but I missed being in school and getting constant feedback from teachers. My advice to college grads would be to take some time to get adjusted to working a 9-5. It's completely different than college, and that's OK. You may feel like you don't know what you're doing, and that's OK too. Just do your absolute best, observe your workplace to learn appropriate behavior, and ask questions. Working is a whole new way of learning.
2. Create a Loose Plan. Make a list of the things you want to accomplish—from small everyday task to big milestones. Think about how you'd like to develop your career. Reach out to those in your industry and ask them how they got to where they are. Read workplace advice blogs to help with unique situations—I like Ask a Manager. And remind yourself that everything will happen with time. I know when I graduated I wished I didn't have to start out at entry-level—but I had to, just like everyone else. You need to pay your dues. And from there I was able to work my way up in my industry. I still have a list of things I want to accomplish in the coming years, starting from where I am now.
3. Practice Skills You Need as an Adult. One of the most important skills you need as a working adult is interview skills. These come with time and experience, but the better you interview, the more likely you are to land a job. Study common interview questions, do mock interviews with a trusted friend, learn everything you can about the company you're interviewing with, and always ask more questions at the end of the interview. Show that you are smart, capable and willing to learn. At the same time, you are interviewing them as well—try to figure out if this job and workplace is the right fit for you. Sometimes it's not. And if it isn't, thank them for their time and look for something else that's a better match. Go on as many interviews as you can to familiarize yourself with different interview styles. And ensure your resume is top notch—ask someone with writing and interviewing skills to look it over and give advice on how it can be strengthened.
4. Admit Your Mistakes. You will make mistakes. I still do. The most important thing it to admit when you're wrong and to learn from them. If you are defensive and refuse to see the other side of the equation, you will look pretty bad to an employer. Even if you don't agree with something, it may be how the company does it. Try to adhere to policy and when you make a mistake, own up to it, learn from it, and move on.
5. You Will Get Knocked Down - So Get Up. I was laid off 10 years into my career. At first I was absolutely devastated. My job is everything to me. I know that it's just a business decision, and it happens to the majority of people at some point, but I felt really discouraged and lost. So I decided that while I look for new full time employment I would be my own boss and work on my career in other ways. Fortunately for me I was able to keep my job on a freelance basis, plus I acquired some more freelance work, so I essentially was working while not working. Point is, I was knocked down, and decided to come back from it, and you will too. You will encounter situations that are difficult, but keep moving forward and you will rise again.
6. Never Stop Learning. Try to start new projects at work—and if you can't, do them on the side. Whether it's a new hobby or online class or simply researching a topic that interests you, never stop growing your knowledge. Learning something new will make you feel reinvigorated and purposeful. Try writing down your goals and ideas in a journal; it's useful to have all of your thoughts in one place.
I hope some of the things I have learned are useful to others. It took awhile to get here but I am proud of my career path and my personal life is pretty great as well. I designed this life, and you can design your own as well. So do the best you can, make goals, meet them, and move forward into your future.