So here you are. You did it. And as you teeter on the precipice that is college graduation, you're likely facing some iteration of the classic question: what next?
Prudently timed, a report released this month by McKinsey & Company offers a sobering bit of news to you, graduate: the transition from campus to office isn’t going to be easy. At this juncture, you have two options: wallow in the clichés of glass-half-empty pessimism. Or try something else: trust yourself. Here are four tips to help on the journey into the messy — albeit thrilling — thing called real life.
1. Don’t always do the "next" thing.
College is very good at teaching us how to follow pathways. Your major, your class schedules. We become expert at staying inside the lines. Now that you’ve graduated, you’ve earned the right to step outside. Pursue what you want — not necessarily what the script says. Have a degree in business but interested in community development? Take a pay cut and serve as an AmeriCorps member. Have a degree in English and want to learn more about medicine? Offer to be an intern at a pharmaceutical company. Move as far away from your campus as you can. Connect the dots and make sense of things when you’re older.
2. Ask questions. Take notes.
This is big. We’re young and inexperienced. You don’t have the answers. Until you truly feel otherwise, consider your primary position as a millennial as this: to learn. Carry around a notebook and write down the smart things people say, the prose that sticks with you, the books you want to devour. Find the people that interest you. Ask them to lunch. Read the biographies of people you find inspiring. Send them off a note, seek advice. No one will fault you for being curious; they’ll only fault you for being a charlatan.
3. Do be smart. Don’t be cheap.
Chances are, you need a lot less money than you think you do. Don’t be dissuaded about a potential opportunity based on the salary alone. If it’s a position in which you’ll learn something, if it’s something that’s pushing you in the direction you want to go, accept what you need to sustain financially and take the job. What you should be pursuing is a position that makes you tick. If you need, sublet for the summer. Crash on someone’s couch. Don’t expect a doorman and a dream job right after graduation.
With that, once you have what you need, don’t talk about money. Live within your limits, but don’t let it consume you. Don’t be the person who mumbles about how expensive things are. You’ll stop getting invitations.
4. Remember, one more thing: ignore wisely.
Millennials are inundated with sound bites, with commencement speeches, with ThoughtCatalog pieces that string together dollops of supposed wisdom. Listen to any of them and you’ll be doubting the efficacy of your degree in the first place or wishing you studied something else. This piece is self-consciously in the loaded canon of Recent Graduate Advice, too. Remember: mass-produced wisdom is for the masses. It’s not all going to be applicable for you. Use what you want and dismiss the rest.
What gives you a competitive advantage are your convictions. Hold onto those. Trust yourself. And ignore the clichés — fill your glass however you want to fill it.