Graduation season is behind us, which means the parties, speeches, and frantic search for first jobs have mostly ended. For recent grads now begins the the hard work of actually learning how to make your way in the world as a young professional.
You've no doubt already noticed that can be terrifying and confusing (if also exciting). Why? Because while college no doubt taught you how to write a term paper, calculate problem sets, and polish a resume, there are a ton of essential life and career skills that school just can't teach you.
The good news is that everyone is in the same boat as you (even if they're better at faking confidence). And the even better news is that there are a whole lot of resources out there that can get you up to speed on these skills quickly and with a minimum of stress and embarrassment. Here's what the experts suggest you focus on.
1. Statistical literacy
The world is full of people making claims with fancy sounding numbers. In fact, some of the most coveted professionals are those who excel at persuading others with statistics. The trouble is that often those numbers are BS. And unless you majored in a few very specific, quantitative subjects in college, you probably don't have the tools to separate the genuinely compelling claims from the cynically manipulative.
"Our world is shaped by widespread statistical illiteracy. We fear things that probably won't kill us (terrorist attacks) and ignore things that probably will (texting while driving). We buy lottery tickets. We fall prey to misleading gut instincts," cautions Wired. "The effects play out in the grocery store, the office, and the voting booth (not to mention the bedroom: People who are more risk-averse are less successful in love)."
A little reading is all you need to start inoculating yourself against con men (and women) armed with numbers, however. The article recommends How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff, Calculated Bets by Steven Skiena, and Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
2. How to (ethically) steal ideas
The Wired article also points out another essential skill that you definitely didn't learn in freshman composition: how to steal ideas. "The creative act is no longer about building something out of nothing but rather building something new out of cultural products that already exist," insists the magazine, calling this "remix culture."
Steve Jobs knew this when he repeated an aphorism usually attributed to Pablo Picasso: "Good artists copy; great artists steal."
Unfortunately, learning how to find inspiration and building blocks in the great creations of the past isn't something you can pick up just by reading a few books. But Wired suggests a few exercises that can help build up your remix muscles, and plenty of artistic geniuses have offered wisdom on the subject.
3. Networking in the real world
College is an ideal environment to meet new people -- you bump into potential friends again and again thanks to class projects, menacing midterms, and random parties. Out in the real world, getting to know interesting folks and maintaining these relationships takes a whole new skill set.
"What you didn't learn in college is that once you've graduated, you and your friends are no longer congregated in the circumference of a school campus. Most of your fellow employees at your job probably aren't going to be in the same age group as you, either. Life, at least at first, is probably going to become a bit lonelier," notes Matt Okeefe.
This is one area where practice definitely makes perfect. But there are tons of articles out there to help you get better at making and maintaining connections. Or, if you're looking for a short cut, Business Insider recommends a seven-course series called Verbal Aikido for Ultimate Networking Success, which it claims "teaches you the fundamentals of influence, persuasion, and positive communication."
4. How to find fulfilling work
You probably came out of school with at least a vague sense of what career you wanted to pursue, but for all but a small, lucky minority, those ideas quickly smack up against the realities of a tough job market and dull day-to-day reality. The first step to figuring out what to do next is accepting this sort of quarter-life crisis is entirely normal.
The second is to stop idly pondering what your passion might be, and start asking smarter questions and conducting small experiments. No one has ever found their dream job by sitting on the couch stressing out! This short TEDEd video might also help.
5. How you brain works (and fails to work)
You probably spent your college years thinking about weighty topics like postcolonial literature or macroeconomic theory. You probably spent less time thinking about how your brain grapples with these subjects (unless you were a philosophy or neuroscience major). But learning and intelligence are often as much about how you think as what you think about. And the mental habits we pick up in school are often far from ideal.
Getting up to speed on the basic biases that can mess with your decision-making, how emotions affect thought, how others can exploit these quirks of psychology, and what science has discovered about how to learn effectively will radically improve the power and efficiency of your thinking.