Life After Graduation Is Scary
Entering the real-world and facing life after graduation is a lot like being parachuted onto a desert island wearing your interview suit and pointy shoes.
No matter how high you throw that hat, no one’s going to rescue you.
You have no idea where you are, where you want to be, and you quickly realise that the piece of paper you studied for isn’t going to help put food on the table (or indeed construct said table, unless you studied engineering or carpentry).
If anyone was scared about graduating, it was me. Like many of my peers, I must have missed the lecture about finding your true calling. I didn’t know whether to turn left or right out of the graduation hall. For the first time in 16 years, there was no predetermined path I could stumble along, only trying to stay out in front.
I wasn’t exactly lost with nowhere to go. You don’t reach a dead-end but a cross-road. The problem was choosing the right exit. At 21 years old, you have a lot of options. More than you realise. And I’m a famously indecisive human-being.
Not everyone does, but I dreaded leaving university. It had lived up to all expectations. I had made more friends than I ever imagined and wasn’t ready to relegate them yet to the status of “Facebook friends”.
It really didn’t help that I was good at studying. Essays were my comfort zone and I had heard distressing rumours that office-life didn’t require secondary reading…
The greatest anxiety hanging over me at 21? The fear of not fulfilling the so-called “potential” that the education system had labelled me with. Doing well in school can be great for your confidence. You are encouraged to shoot high and promised a rosey future for all your hard-work. But this can be a burden too.
Thriving in an environment that has no resemblance to the real-world can be problematic. You can easily find the skills you have come to rely on redundant.
Above all else, life after graduation is about adaptation.
Constantly Reinventing Yourself
At school, you are sold a certain vision of success. The end goal seems to be graduating with a 2:1 and securing a “graduate job”, whatever that is.
Along the way, you are regularly assessed with essays and exams, handed marks and feedback so you know if you are on track, how you compare to peers.
When you leave this structured environment, it becomes immediately apparent that there are no hoops to jump through. Performing well in a role is the expectation. There are no pats on the back for doing so. No one to hold your hand either.
It’s easy to feel uncomfortable with this newfound independence. The realisation that no one gives a shit about the dissertation you spent 3 months writing can be disheartening to say the least. But a new start is liberating too.
Life after graduation is about setting your own goals, choosing your priorities and chasing your own version of success.
A lot of people go to university to reinvent themselves. In the process, they often end up conforming to the same stereotypes and clichés. If anything, graduation is the real opportunity. This is where your friend group sprouts out in different directions.
Looking back, I have probably changed more in the past 18 months since graduating than in the 3 years I spent studying. I might even be at my happiest.
The First I got in my degree was followed by far more significant “firsts”:
- first proper relationship
- my first full-time job
- finding my first mentor
- passing my driving test
- getting my first car
- my first freelance project
In the last week alone, I’ve joined a gym for the first time, something I never thought I’d do, and made my first investments in the stock market.
My priorities, passions and personal goals are constantly evolving. Yours are too.
It’s never too late to change direction or try something new. There’s a good chance that the things you think about daily and spend all your energy on now, will be completely different in a year’s time. That’s perspective.
The Greatest Five Year Window Of Your Life
Today I turned 23 years old. I used to think that 18 was old but now I truly feel like I’m only just getting started. The real learning starts now.
The very month I graduated, I came across Gary Vaynerchuk for the first time on Facebook in the following video. It was the piece of content I needed right then and it’s something I have returned to over and over, showing friends.
If you are graduating university or leaving school this year and are worried about the future, check it out. Look back and treasure the memories you’ve made but don’t dwell too long. Attack the 3, 5, 10 years you have ahead of you. I am.
You might also like The Curse of Being Future Orientated.