Advice to a Recent Grad, from a Recent Grad

When you’re a bit lost and don’t really know how to organize your life, Set Clear Goals, and follow them.

On the final day of my latest internship, I made my way around the office and shared a few friendly words and farewells with my officemates of the past 6 months–a bittersweet end to an amazing run.  But there was one moment, one interaction that particularly grabbed me.  Following an inquiry about my post-internship plans and me resounding with my uncertainty, the advice I received twofold.  Not particularly directed toward me with any specific intent, I felt like it was something my senior had come into from her own experiences.

  1. Set clear goals.
  2. When you’re first starting out, especially the first few years, you’ll do a lot of work that you’ll feel like you’re overqualified for, that you’ll feel like you didn’t need a college degree for.  Some people call it “paying your dues,” but that’s just part of it.  And it’s an important part because it teaches you why certain things are done and how.

In my springtime of youth, which sometimes feels more like a stalemate, I’ve found myself contemplating in this liminal space and trying to navigate the popular question of “what l am I trying to do in life?”  Somehow, in my 22 years of age, maybe I’m only looking in one corner of the ring, but I often feel like everyone around me is more “figured out” than I am.  That while I’m still on the fence about a number of things in my future, other people are making decisions and moving forward.  I don’t think many of us are ever going to be able to find an answer of what we want to do in life; we might not even be meant to (see my previous post: Who Do You Want to Be).  What I believe, however, is that in order to find or refine our sense of direction in life, we need to ask ourselves, in our most honest of hearts, what do we truly want to do and that would inspire us versus what is it that we think we ought to be doing.  While I fully respect that not everyone has the luxury to make this distinction so lightly, for me, I found value in asking myself these questions as a means to better understand myself.

This leads me to my own journey

Being a young twenty-something, I know that regardless of what job you may or may not have, what you studied in college, your personality-type, personal or career goals, whether you have a clear vision of where you want to be in 10 years and have a detailed plan to get there, or at home still working on it, we are going to get stuck on this question of “What am I trying to do?”, and we will all confront it in our own ways.  You may or may not be like me and find that it’s easy to get lost or swept away by all of this, that you have no idea what you want to do, are afraid of going down or “getting stuck” on a path that the 5-year old you would be horrified by, or are afraid to lose yourself in whatever it is that you do.  Either way, as post-grads we’re just like luminous stardust beings with self-awareness with the whole world and universe lying in the palms of our hands for the taking if we really want it!

On that note, even though I haven’t yet decided where I want to be or what I’ll do career-wise, I DO know what I want to learn about and improve on personally, and I can make actionable choices regarding those now.  In a time when the majority of things in my life lie in ambiguity, rather than be overwhelmed, I can choose to set clear goals for the things I do know about and go from there.  And that in itself, gives me some structure in an otherwise hectic place.


Image: Lord Jim via Flickr.

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