Road Map to Success: Advice for the Adventure After College

Today’s guest blogger is Raeanne Wright of CollegeAftermath.com. She is the first guest blogger for our series at IIDA called What’s Next? where we are addressing problems, questions and concerns interior design students have about their future of design. Be sure to read more of Raeanne’s posts on her blog by clicking here.

Our parents had it soooo easy. A four-year degree, a resume typed up on nice paper, and a firm handshake all but guaranteed a brief, exciting job search — one that would most likely end with a big fat paycheck. In fifth grade I remember my Home & Careers teacher telling us, (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Someday you’re going to graduate from college, go out into the world, and land an awesome job. And there’s nothing that compares to that feeling… when you finally get your first paycheck and realize, ‘Wow, I have money.’”

Oh, how things change.

Graduating from college today is, by far, one of the most challenging, winding paths we will walk in Western culture, fraught with profound self-realization and life-altering change. And as if that weren’t enough to swallow alone, the current state of the economy might make another four years of essays and all-nighters sound quite appealing.

But the fact of the matter is this: at some point, you’re going to have to cross that stage, accept your diploma, and step off of the education train into the vast, uncertain expanse of adulthood. And while the transition to a solid career may have evolved considerably since our parents made the great leap, there’s no need to dwell on the situation at hand. Instead, let this be your moment — embrace our generation and the challenges and opportunities being presented, and catapult yourself down that road, head held high and wind at your back.

Attitude Really is Everything

We’re all aware that job-hunting in this economy isn’t a day at the beach. Not only are you competing with every other nervous grad, but thousands of other job seekers of all ages and levels of experience. With money tight and budgets being slashed, jobs may seem scarce, but the need for smart, competent hard-working people has never been higher.

What does that mean if you’re fresh out of school? How you decide to approach your search today will set the tone for your success tomorrow. Get ready to work hard, keep smiling, and don’t give up. It’s the job applicants with stamina, a great attitude, willingness to adapt, and the ability to go the extra mile that are going to land (and keep) the great jobs. Not to mention, they’re also the ones that are going to, eventually, turn this economy around. So whatever you do, begin your job search with enthusiasm and don’t let anyone or anything smother it out.

Embrace the Opportunity

There are plenty of people standing around complaining about the state of the world. You can hear it coming from all directions, at all hours of the day — and frankly, it’s a little bit exhausting. You can’t fix what’s broken by yelling at it. We can all sit around playing “Hey, ain’t it awful?” or we can take a look around and realize that now, more than ever before in our lifetime, we have a real opportunity to shape ourselves, the lives we lead, and the world that we live in.

Our generation may have inherited a big mess to clean up, but it’s our choice how we want to proceed from here. Rather than be overwhelmed by the problems, we should be psyched that our efforts and voices are not only needed, but also instrumental in laying the groundwork for global change. Choose to see your first steps into the “real world” as a much-anticipated arrival in an era of possibility.

Be Open to Adventure

College graduation is the life equivalent of entering a roundabout in an unfamiliar town with vague directions and a quarter-tank of gas. At some point, you have to make a decision about which way to go. You can stick to your route, go back from where you came, or take a risk by flinging yourself into a completely new direction. Chances are, there won’t be too many more opportunities like this in your lifetime. Someday, you will be settled. You’ll have a home, a job, and a life that follows some sort of expected order. But right now, anything is possible.

Take charge of your key responsibilities, use your head, and follow your heart, and you may find yourself in a new town (maybe even a new state, or country) gaining “life experience” that will affect you personally and professionally forever. Be open to (even crazy) opportunities that strike you: volunteer, travel if you can, accept a job in an unrelated field if it moves you, explore entrepreneurial ideas… dedicate the next few years to figuring yourself out and satisfying your deepest aspirations. And if those aspirations seem completely out of reach, map out a plan to get there and start putting yourself in that direction. Think of it as an investment in your regret-free, thirty-something self.

Forget the Supposed-to’s

You may have noticed by now that there are a lot of people in your life that think they know what’s best for you. In fact, you may be exactly where you are today because you’ve listened to all of their advice and done everything they said you were supposed to do. Those people, and you, too, may have an idea in your head of what is supposed to happen next. But sometimes, having rigid expectations only sets us up for disappointment. Thank all of those people earnestly, but know now that you are the director of your own biography, and from this point on it’s your call.

Keep goals if the fire is in you, and absolutely set out achieve them — one step at a time. But let go of expectation and keep your eyes open and you may find a shortcut you may have otherwise missed, or a scenic detour that fills you up with newfound passion and a wiser perspective.

Get Involved

Wherever you end up after graduation, even if it’s back in your hometown, dig your heels in and get yourself out there. Talk to people. Volunteer your time. Join clubs or groups that are relevant and interest you. Keep in touch with friends and colleagues.

When everything changes all at once, which graduation often will do, it’s easy to feel like you’ve fallen off the face of the Earth, hole up, and seclude yourself from the world. But don’t do it. You could be walking your dog and run into a stranger who knows so-and-so who knows so-and-so’s uncle, and find yourself setting up an interview for the job of your dreams! It’s a stretch, sure, but you can never know what doors will be opened if you make a conscious effort to get outside your comfort zone and stay active in your community.

Relaxxxx

There are truck-loads of books and articles that will tell you exactly what you need to be doing during the first few weeks, months, and years after graduation. And sure, you’re going to have a lot on your plate. But the most important thing to remember throughout it all is to take a moment now and then to stop, breathe, and just relax.

When you’re sitting at the computer, scanning the bloated, exhausting list of job search engines — take a look out the window and notice the sun streaming in. When you’re waiting in line at the bank, prepared to sort out your loans and ready for damage control, remember your first night in the dorms and how far you’ve come since then. When you’re on your way to the big interview with a knot in your chest and butterflies in your stomach, crank up the volume on your radio/iPod and sing out the tension.

The point is: the next few years are going to cast the mold for the rest of your life. How you choose to respond to the challenges you’ll face is just as important, if not more so, than the decisions you’ll make along the way. Keep a positive attitude even when things are tough, embrace the good and the bad, remaining open to how it will shape you, and learn to let go and leave worry behind. If you keep these thoughts at the front of your mind, you’ll be pleasantly surprised not only at where life takes you, but at how much more fun it will be along the way.

Want more of Raeanne’s advice? Click here to check out CollegeAftermath.com

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3 responses to “Road Map to Success: Advice for the Adventure After College

  1. Pingback: Guest Blogger on IIDA Student’s Blog :: CollegeAftermath.com

  2. Diane Schuster

    Raeanne brought up some good points – I think the two that I thought were most important were getting involved with the community & not feeling pressure to do what you’re “supposed to do”. I think all almost-graduates feel really discouraged, including myself, but reminding everyone to still realize life is great and getting involved with the community will make us enjoy life more, despite the state of the world. We don’t have a book written for us of what we’re supposed to do after graduation – we can go any direction we want, how cool is that? It was refreshing to read Raeanne’s thoughts! Thanks 🙂

  3. Thanks Diane! I love Raeanne’s tone and the rest of her blog entries at College Aftermath are equally engaging! Stay hopeful and optimistic! We know the quality of IIDA Student Members, and so do potential employers

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