Dear College Graduates,
Congratulations! Many of you are celebrating being done with college, but really, you should be celebrating earning your way to the next phase of your life. Your twenties are going to be so much more amazing (albeit challenging) than you ever could have imagined.
I graduated from the University of Georgia four years ago (what?). Since then, I’ve had five jobs, a few apartments, lived with my parents, traveled the country, moved to a new place where I knew no one, and had a whole lot of good cries. The real world is fun and challenging and confusing. You are going to love it.
So, since it’s been four years since I’ve graduated, I think it’s safe to say I’ve earned my Bachelor’s degree in Real Life. My majors have been in Not Having a Clue, Making it Work, and Failing Up. That’s right, I am a triple major in the school of Life. And so, I wanted to take a second to share a few things I’ve learned that other people probably won’t tell you, because in the school of life, we keep things real.
You are going to get rejected (maybe a lot), and you can make it the best thing that ever happens to you. You are going to find a job opportunity that you know is totally perfect for you, you’re going to slave away on the cover letter, and then, you won’t hear back. Or you’ll interview and you’ll get passed over for someone who is more experienced. Or, you’ll apply for thirty jobs, not hear back from any of them, and then take a job waiting tables while you keep looking. This is life. Here’s the truth, though. With every rejection, you have the opportunity to choose to see the silver lining. This is challenging (and sometimes downright impossible), but figuring out how to frame everything negative as a positive will help you to go with the flow and learn from every experience. And, you will be ridiculously impressive (and memorable!) in an interview when you can communicate what you learned from rolling silverware or taking out the linens.
You matter. I don’t mean as a person (which, you do, but that’s another post entirely), I mean that what YOU want matters. It’s cliche as all get out, but it’s your life, and ultimately, you know what’s best for you. Over the next few years, one of the greatest skills you’ll be able to master is interpreting your intuition. Listening to your gut. Figuring out what is best for YOU, regardless of what other people say. One of the most challenging things about “real life” is that you have all these people in your corner (parents, siblings, friends, significant others) who want you to be happy and successful, but sometimes, you’re going to have to not listen. Having to go against advice is the curse of being loved. Sometimes, you’re gonna have to be your own counselor and life coach. You’ve got an entire lifetime of experience being YOU — your input counts, too.
It is okay if you have no idea what you want to do. I spent ten years thinking I was going to be a lawyer, and over the course of the last four years have considered nearly every career path possible. I’ve thought about getting a business degree, looked into becoming a flight attendant, and even competed to become Miss Virginia. You might have five jobs before you find a career that makes you excited to get up in the morning. That’s okay. Everyone’s path to happiness and/or success looks a little bit different, and it might take you a while to find that for yourself. In the meantime, look at every job as an opportunity to learn about yourself and your needs, and actually use what you learn to get closer to your perfect fit.
Nobody really has any idea what they’re doing. Even if they play it cool. Even if they’re giving life advice on social media (or in a blog, as it turns out). Everyone gets scared that they’re going to make a bad decision, worries they’ll choose the wrong opportunity, or regrets some things. Each of us is experiencing life for the very first time, and we all have a heck of a lot to learn. So, be kind when you’re giving feedback, and look at every success or failure as an opportunity to grow.
Welcome to the real world. We’re so excited to have you! And don’t believe anyone who says that the best years of your life are behind you… if that’s really the case, they’re doing it wrong.
Author’s note: The best graduation advice is from Baz Luhrman, and if you haven’t watched “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen,” don’t worry. I have it here for you: