Advice for Graduates

If I could turn back time...

flowers and notepad on desk

Since I don’t think many high school seniors are reading my site, I’m speaking to college seniors in this case but I’m sure the information could apply to high school seniors (and a lot of people) for that matter.

It almost seems unfair to ask a 17-year-old to pick the education they want to get for their job. Being 17 or 18 is SO YOUNG. Some people just always know what they want to do with their life. It seems like many doctors and vets have just always known that’s what they wanted to do. That’s great for anyone who has it figured out early on. But not everyone does, and while that can be good & bad, trying to figure it out is a lot of pressure.

For those of you who aren’t sure what to do — I feel you. Personally, I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but I wasn’t sure what exactly. Also with the advent of computers, the Internet, websites, social media, etc. I couldn’t have even dreamt up what I’m doing now as a child. The technology didn’t exist.

Growing up I thought I wanted to be an artist, a lawyer for a hot second, work abroad in international business, or work at a fashion magazine or in fashion in some capacity. In high school the electives I took were all art or Spanish. Then I graduated high school a semester early and moved to Mexico for 6 months to immerse myself in Spanish.

My senior year in high school I thought I wanted to go to a fashion school in California (I didn’t even think about Parsons or anything of the sort). I wanted to be in the warm weather, near the beach, studying fashion. Having no idea how to make that happen, it just didn’t.

I was too scared to even attempt getting into an art school (RISD, SCAD, Ringling) because I just thought that everyone would be better than me, and also at the time I didn’t really think you could be an artist for a living. I thought I’d have to end up being a teacher or working at a museum if I got an art degree. Plus those schools were expensive and out of state and I thought I had no chance of scholarships.

I ended up going to MIZZOU (large state college in Missouri where both of my parents went). It was a good school, I got in-state tuition, and I had your typical big college experience. Luckily, I ended up getting a degree that was really helpful for what I do now — journalism. I didn’t pick my major until my junior year. I took fashion classes, art classes, Spanish, even a political science class (which I killed but didn’t love) — but I ended up applying to the journalism school for two reasons. First because it is the best journalism school in the US so I figured I was already there, might as well go to a school that is the best of something, and also it went in line with my magazine career ambitions.

Back when I was looking for jobs, you couldn’t really do it easily on the Internet. You really had to meet people. For me to have gotten a job at a magazine in New York I would have had to have either had some sick connection (that I didn’t have), move there and do odd jobs until I could get a job at a magazine, or fly there and do a bunch of “informational interviews” for a few days, lie that I already lived there, and hope for the best. None of that happened.

The job I ended up getting right out of college I got in the strangest way. During my actual college graduation ceremony I was sitting next to a friend of mine from high school. We were quietly chatting during the entire graduation (we were in the back row). She told me she just turned down a job in Sarasota, Florida, because she wanted to stay in Missouri, but that I should call the woman and try to get the job. At the time I had a cell phone, but none of us carried it with us during things like graduation. So I memorized the woman’s email address, and when I got home after graduation, I emailed her.

I had a phone interview a few days later. When she found out we were in the same sorority (in addition to getting my degree at MU, where she also got her journalism degree and hired almost exclusively from MU) she offered me the job. She literally said, “So when are you coming?” I was getting married a few days after this conversation, then we went on our honeymoon, then my husband and I moved to Florida the first week in June right after we both graduated college and got married. That was a lot of change in two weeks but it was a fun and welcome adventure.

I must say, I really hadn’t the slightest idea what I was going to actually do until that job came along. I was sending my resume to the magazines in NYC without hearing a peep, but I was also just trying to finish college and get married. The stress of it all was weighing on me. I couldn’t do it all, I honestly just got lucky to get a job right then.

So I’m not a great example of how I got a job right out of college. But having been in the workforce now for 12 years, I know a thing or two that can help if you are trying to figure out what the heck to do with your life.

 

ADVICE FOR GRADUATES

 

+ Your first job won’t be your dream job. First of all, the odds that you are going to love your first job, or your first five jobs, is low. Don’t build it up in your head. You need to get experience and learn a lot of things. You might not get your dream job for 10 years! That’s OK! That’s actually normal. For every one celebrity, YouTube sensation, famous blogger, insert young successful person you want to be here, out there living the life — there are MILLIONS of people out there just doing a normal job, working their way up, getting experience. And that is TOTALLY OK and more normal anyway.

I actually think it’s really beneficial for people to have real-world experience with an actual job for several years before going out on their own. Then you understand how a big company works, you know how to work with people, you understand corporate structures, and why things happen a certain way (not that it’s good, but at least you can empathize with people). I had 6 years of real job experience before going out on my own, and I can tell you, getting a regular paycheck every other week is reeeeeally nice. Being an entrepreneur means you have to create your own paycheck, and it isn’t always as reliable!

+ Be persistent but not annoying. There’s a fine line. Be good about following up, but always let everything breathe for a while. Do NOT follow up on a job interview three days in a row. If you go on an interview, you can follow up that day or the day after. If you don’t hear back, wait a week, if you don’t hear back, wait a few more weeks. And then that’s it. When you follow up be quick and easy, don’t take too much of their time.

+ Don’t job hop too quickly. Then no one will want to hire you if you change jobs every few months. No one wants to spend their time training someone for them to just leave a few months after being fully trained. And sometimes training alone can take a few months. Give your first few jobs a year. That is a respectable amount of time to really give that job and that company a shot to see if it’s a fit.

+ Be proactive and eager to learn. Yes, you might have a ton of ideas, maybe even a few good ones here and there, but take the time to understand your job, your company, and the people working there before you come in thinking you know better than them. Learn why they do things, how they do them, etc. Then, once you understand the layers of everything, you can alter your advice and ideas to be better suited for the company.

+ Have a good attitude. Things are NOT going to go well for you if you have a bad attitude. I don’t care what’s going on, put on a smile when you go to work. You’re an adult now, handling your shit is part of the gig. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the project you were given, or you think the people you work with or for are idiots, do your best to have a good attitude and go into it with a curious mindset. See what they can teach you — everyone probably has some nugget you can learn from them.

+ Try things to figure out what you don’t enjoy. This will happen regardless in your first few jobs. Also internships can help you figure out the things you don’t like before you enter the workforce, but if you didn’t do internships and you are graduating, then your first few jobs will do that for you.

+ Follow through. If there’s one thing you take from this post, it’s just to do the things you say you are going to do. FOLLOW THROUGH. Honestly, soooooo many people don’t do this, you are way ahead of the game if you do. Then if you can do it in a timely manner, well even better.

 

Do you have any great tips for graduates? Share them in the comments!

Are you graduating and have questions — ask away in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

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Photo by Emma Weiss