Advice to the Class of 2012: Chill Out and Don’t Worry
Graduation is just weeks away for the college class of 2012. For many of those who will opt to enter the workforce rather than enter graduate school, this is a time of excitement, tinged with sadness and varying levels of anxiety.
For those who don’t have a clear picture of what lies beyond commencement, they may be expressing themselves like this: “I’m psyched that I’ll be finishing school after these many years, but I’m going to miss the many friends I made. And as for a job? Well, I’ve been looking and networking, but it’s hard to nail something and make that transition.”
I’ve been there. My final semester in college was a gradual buildup of anxiety from February to early May. I was ready to break out on my own and begin a new life. The big questions were “Where?” and “In what kind of job?”
I didn’t have to wait that long. I got a phone call exactly eight hours after my last final exam. I was interviewed the next week, got the job, and moved 125 miles away a month later to begin life after college.
At the time, the U.S. economy was slogging through a rough stretch. Today, things are slightly better, but there are positive signs if you’re about to graduate, or you know someone who is. A report in yesterday’s Boston Globe cited a rise in job openings for this year’s graduating class, especially for engineering and communications majors. I focused on communications because that’s my profession of choice, and I know someone who’s graduating with a communications degree but who can’t seem to settle on what kind of job to pursue.
I’ll extend the advice I gave to anyone who’s about to graduate and doesn’t have a clear idea of what kind of job they want: Don’t try to pigeonhole yourself into one type of role or one specific industry. Assuming you’re in your early 20s, this is the time to experiment with different roles, so that by the time you hit 30, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you want. Studies have found that workers in their 20s and 30s will have several employers in the first 10 years after they graduate from college, so as long as you don’t mind change (and you shouldn’t), take each job opportunity as a stepping stone toward the next opportunity, and the one after that.
Why? In your early-to-mid 20s, your chief goal should be building your work experience so that you accumulate the basic skills and show an employer you’re reliable, diligent in your work and willing to do what it takes to get the job done for the benefit of the organization. That alone can help advance you to the next step, which is something more specific that’s either your dream job or something that can help you take that next step toward it.
And don’t forget to have fun and learn while you’re working.
Sounds a bit like college, doesn’t it?