<image via uonottingham on flickr>
It’s been three years since I graduated. This leads me to my first lesson…
You gotta be consciously and constantly making an effort to shape your life. Otherwise it’s likely to meander down some random – not necessarily unpleasant – path that isn’t quite what you want, resulting in a nasty awakening/quarterlife crisis further down the track.
It’s all too easy to drift aimlessly after graduation – what with the frantic hustle to secure employment to pay the bills and validate your degree, kick ass at that job, to find or maintain a relationship, to find a place to live that’s tolerable, to basically put together all the puzzle pieces of adult life. Get hobbies. Set goals. Run a marathon. Learn to bake. Set up a side hustle.
Find, or rediscover, what you love. Make time for it. Work is not life.
Which leads me to…
Life’s too short to do work you hate. But equally, too short to starve for passion’s sake
You owe it to yourself to find the best way to make it work. That might look wildly different for you than it does for me. Some of us fall more toward the passion side of the spectrum than others.
For me, financial stability is important. I value autonomy, regular hours, a fairly casual environment. But I did enjoy some of the flexibility associated with being part of a larger team with more resources. For me, passion, skill and career have come together in a lovely braid, but at the same time, I’ve never had a job I truly hated: I’ve always found some degree of enjoyment in even my more menial jobs as a student. I think that’s just the kind of person I am – I revel in a job well done.
(SJ of Life, Etc was kind enough to write and tell me how useful she found some of my career posts. So if you’re interested, here’s me on lessons you won’t learn at university, finding meaning at work, on independence and self-employment, planning for a family and conducive careers, work-life balance, journalism lessons for all of us and the myth of the job that you wake up excited to go to [YMMV].)
Look after yourself
Sleep. Eat well, and eat more veggies. Drink more water and less booze. Stretch, exert and work your body. Even the skinniest of us find poor habits catch up with us to some degree.
It’s okay to be you
10 years ago (good god) I agonised over every aspect of my existence. I was too ugly, too gawky, too nerdy, too pimply, too pale, too flat-chested, too shy, too awkward.
Today I am unabashedly myself (though I still regularly beat myself up after social outings – you don’t want to be around me as I decompress after social events). I don’t care that coworkers in their 30s with kids are more up with the local nightlife scene than I am. I’m not embarrassed about being a hardcore homebody. Nor do I feel the need to apologise.
And people are more accepting. Things like age and background don’t matter as much once you’re out of high school. Looks don’t matter as much (though there is a beauty premium, let’s face it – as in all aspects of life, it pays to be easy on the eye). I’m not saying there isn’t discrimination in the workplace, but I am saying that I’ve found the working world, in some ways, a friendlier one than the school one. YMMV by industry and company.
How little school actually prepares you for the business world
Because let’s face it, we’re all in business. We need people to give us work – a job, a contract. We need to negotiate for ourselves – flexible hours, to get on a certain project. We need schooling in the art of getting what we want – and what our company wants, too – supplier discounts, advertising partnerships, a killer interview with that person who never gives interviews. None of this is taught to us.
That common sense is hard to come by
I swear, every single business conference I go to is largely a yawnfest. Is this how corporates have been operating for the last century? Blimey. You’d think listening to customers and treating employees well would be a no-brainer. And in talking to T (and discussing skills he’s learned at his current job), all he can ever espouse is the fact that it’s all common sense that anyone could pick up. On a related note, it often seems companies either don’t want to implement common sense-changes, or that things simply get stuck in the pipeline and go nowhere as there’s nobody with the time to actually push them through.
Life is all about power imbalances
I’d never really thought about it, but everything is about power play to some degree. With your parents. Then your teachers. Then your employer. With others you deal with – suppliers, clients, landlords. It’s rare that there’s a perfect equilibrium in any given relationship. There will be people who are a priority for you but you are not one for them, and in turn, further down the power chain, you will be of utmost importance for someone who barely registers on your radar.
Talent is NOT everything
Success = a cocktail of guts, determination, stubbornness, perseverance, timing, skill and sometimes luck. You could be like the girl in my class who struggled to pass everything, yet landed a plum job straight after graduation. Or like one very green intern (the kind who’s almost more trouble than help) who went on to write for major publications and get some impressive clips through simply putting herself out there and seizing on every opportunity and every crack of a door.
Finally, always put yourself first
Because nobody else is going to do it for you. Your parents aren’t going to take care of things for you any more. Your employers aren’t going to put your best interests first. Everyone is a selfish bastard, quite frankly, so you need to be, too.