If you're a new grad, or about to graduate I don't have to tell you that the excitement of graduation is often paired with anxiety. You're probably psyched to be done school, but maybe also feeling unprepared for what's next.
Maybe you even have post-graduation paralysis -- that panicky overwhelm that keeps so many new grads from stepping through the threshold of their careers. Too many options, not enough options, not enough experience, can't get experience, crushing fear and doubt and uncertainty.
Sound familiar? If so you're not alone. Also, you'll totally get through this. Here are three secrets every new grad should know (but nobody tells you):
1. You're not supposed to know what you're doing
Life is pretty much a prescribed path up until your twenties -- elementary school, high school, college. But when you graduate you're suddenly without a prescribed path. Often for the first time in your life, which feels pretty damn scary.
So, naturally, you look with envy to the adults in your life. They seem to have everything figured out. Secret: we don't. We're all just winging it. It's like this secret of adulthood that nobody talks about.
There are a couple of reasons why we don't talk about it. First, we don't want you to freak out. This is why you've never heard your mother say, "Well, it's pretty much a crapshoot until you die." We want you to feel safe and loved and like everything will be just fine. (It will, by the way, but more of a just roll with it kind of fine than a plan your life out in exacting detail fine.)
Second, nobody talks about it because it's also scary as hell for us -- us being the supposedly with it, totally together adults in your life. We're all slightly in denial and trying really hard to seem like we know what we're doing...just for the sake of our own sanity. But we all have doubts and fears and questions and uncertainty. (By the way, that never goes away. You just get used to moving forward despite it.)
So if you feel like a loser because you don't know what you're doing, all I can say is welcome to the club. There is nothing wrong with you. You're not supposed to have it all figured out. You can't. Especially when you've just graduated.
2. You don't have to work in the field you studied
This comes as a huge shock and relief to so many people. Most of us just assume we have to work in the field we went to school for. Nope!
Okay, if you want to be a doctor you have to study science and make your way to medical school. Lawyers go to law school. Accountants get their proper designations. But...science grads can become television writers. Law grads can become photographers. Accountants can become entrepreneurs. These are not far-fetched hypotheticals, by the way. I've seen people I know make these transitions.
Over the past few years in school you may have realized that what you chose to study isn't a very good fit. Maybe it's something you were excited about once, but you're not actually all that excited about that field of work now. (Or maybe you were never excited about it, but your parents were.) If that's the case, may I gently suggest you don't spend the rest of your life on that path?
Take some time to figure out what you want before you sign up for a life that isn't right for you. You'll hate feeling lost and you'll resent having to spend some time figuring things out (I know I did when I was in your shoes), but trust me, it's worth it.
I didn't work in the area I went to school for and I'm just fine. I got a journalism degree, but by graduation I knew I didn't want to do that for my career. So I kept my crappy retail job for a couple of months until I figured things out. My first real grown-up job was in marketing and recruitment -- something I had no training in and never expected to do. And I LOVED it. Until I outgrew it and wanted to do something else. Which brings me to my next point...
3. What you want to do for work will probably change over time
Wouldn't it be awesome if you could have your whole life planned out with absolute certainty?! My inner control freak would definitely be cool with that. Yours probably would too. So would your parents. And pretty much everybody. We all want a fail proof master plan that will keep us safe and secure forever. But that's not how life works.
It's straight up impossible to plan out your whole life in your twenties (or at any age, really). Or rather what I should say is that you can plan, but it's almost certain that your plans will change over time. Here's why: you're human. You are going to change and evolve and grow, and your interests are going to change and evolve and grow too. When I was in my twenties I had no idea I'd be doing the work I'm doing now. And there's no way of knowing with certainty what I'll be doing ten years from now. That's true for everybody, whether they want to admit it or not. A career is an organic, evolving thing.
So try and enjoy this moment, kid. Congratulations on making it through school and for getting this far. And welcome to the world of winging it. You've got this.