If you decide to read past this blog post (and I strongly suggest that you do!), you might find that the majority of my upcoming topics will center around change, motivation, inspiration and planning. These topics are close to my heart at this moment and very close to Conni’s (and Zafira Apparel’s). A recent conversation between Conni and I inspired this blog post, as we discussed at length our next step in life, personally and professionally.. As a small business owner, you will often find yourself at a cross roads. This is also true of a recent university grad - and yet, here I am, trying to make a little sense out of the gigantic chasm that comes from a cross road and the imminent threat of change.
If you happen to be one of those people who burst out the womb knowing exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up, I applaud you. If day 1 had you like ‘I’m going to be a doctor’, or ‘I’m going to be a cardiovascular surgeon’ – this article will be useless to you.
However, this blog post may be of value to you if you get sweaty and start hyperventilating when anyone asks you the inevitable post grad question that is the source of all nightmares after 3rd year - ‘what are you going to do after you graduate?’ We will hash out how we come to be these directionless souls, how to beat the quarter life crisis blues and what we should be really looking for when we make life-changing decisions.
How did we get ourselves into this mess?
In this age of ‘the world is your oyster’ and other such cliché lines, we grow up with the impression that we can be anything and do anything we put our minds to. Yet the majority of us live in this paradox where we are seemingly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options out there for us to experiment with. If you can dream it – it’s probably already been done. A 22 year old Australian man just made $85,000 on a business that ships and spits glitter at your enemies – the business had launched it’s website a wee 14 days earlier. I would caution you to reach higher – but this is actually pretty good.
This is just one example of how you can literally make money doing anything these days. But the endless possibilities in this age also make for a lackluster, laissez faire generation with too many options. Others, like myself, were born with an average ability to do many things well – which means that we can do many different jobs to a mediocre degree of success. Once you finally graduate and life stretches out in front of you – you realize that now you’ve got to carve out your path in the world.
How are we supposed to find out if this is something that will make us happy, never mind just paying the bills? Ugh, palms start sweating, head starts aching; I see visions of everyone over 35 asking me when I’m going to get a ‘Real Job’, and here comes that suffocating wave of panic.
Okay. Get ahold of yourself.How to beat the ‘post grad blues’
Take a first step:
Chances are you’ve gone through some sort of education and have a vague idea of where you want to go. Get a whiteboard and a marker and start mapping out the criteria for ‘your perfect job’ (let’s reach high people):
- Does it involve something creative, logical, research based, people based? Do you want to work with your hands, with people, with computers?
- Do you want to work with people or solo?
- Do you want to work in an office? What kind of office? Conservative, creative, lab based, etc.
- Do you want to work for a big company or are you a smaller company kind of person?
- Do you want to start your own business?
- How much do you want to be making at entry level?
- What kinds of growth opportunities are there in the industry?
Do. Your. Research.
It’s so easy to stop learning after getting out of university, but think of yourself as a continuously evolving organism – if you stop learning your brain will dry up and no one will want to hire you anyway.
- Start taking classes on your down time at your local community colleges, art colleges. Research local groups or volunteer opportunities.
- Read as much as possible. Start subscribing to blogs, magazines, online newspapers, forums, etc. etc.
Immerse Yourself Completely
- Networking is scary but a necessary (and awkward) evil of our generation. You’ll be amazed at how many people in successful positions have been in your shoes – you’re just allowing them to pay it forward. In reality you’re doing them a favor.
- Start talking to prominent industry professionals in your area. Think you want to do graphic design? Soak up as much as possible about the subject, set up informational interviews (don’t know what it is? Look it up). The more you talk to people, the more likely they will set you up with other people and you’ll learn whether this area is for you.
- Create opportunities for yourself. Do you know what you want to do but you can’t get hired because you have no experience? Ah, the inevitable post grad conundrum. Create the experience for yourself. This is how I began working with Conni Zafiris and Zafira Apparel (Hi Conni!). I met Conni at a pop up shop last May. She needed marketing help, and I needed experience. Voila! A beautiful answer to my experience dilemma. Conni was my first client (aka guinea pig) whom I worked with trading my experience in marketing - I give her what she needs and I get to pump up my resume with whatever kind of experience I want to work on - strategy, social media, business management, blog writing, references and testimonials, etc.etc. and I get paid ‘creatively’ for this - aka in clothing. A perfect trade, in my opinion. It only took one off chance meeting to allow a small seed to be planted - and I now have 5 clients in 5 different industries and getting more interest everyday.
Lastly, please remember - This whole thing is one big adventure. After graduation, don’t be afraid to take some time off, take a trip, do some soul searching and relax. Everyone is different and there is no fool-proof solution to the post grad blues, but remember that your entire life has been planned and mapped out to this point – this is the first time you actually have the ability to say ‘Okay. What next?’ and that IS SO FREAKING EXCITING (and scary) BUT MOSTLY EXCITING!
The Secret to the Universe
Lastly, when you’re making these decisions there is one thing to keep in mind.
Don’t go picking your life’s work based on how much money you will make or how you’ll get the corner office or that great promotion. In the long run, you’ll just freak out and need to be hospitalized, it’s going to be a real drain on our health system. Ok?
Just take one for the team and work with what makes you happy.
If this is a trade, wood carving, hedge funds or designing women’s clothing – just make sure you’re coming home at the end of the night knowing that you enjoy your work. This is the secret of the universe post grad. The second I decided to do something that made me happy, something I was passionate about; I felt fulfilled, full of direction and actually enjoy getting up before 10 am for that strategy meeting. That’s a pretty good sign that there is no need to freak out. So, remember: deep breaths. As long as you don’t end up in jail, I will be proud of you.