Nothing, and I mean absolutely no-thing, can prepare you for what happens after college.
If you have your act at least somewhat together (which kudos to you, friend — you can stop reading now) hopefully you have some sort of income lined up for your post grad situation. If you REALLY have your act together, then you’ve scored that stellar first job or internship and you are charging hard right out of the blocks, and you can also stop reading this post right here (major kudos).
But if perchance you’re like most of us, which I’m thinking you are because you haven’t stopped reading, you probably don’t have that dream position lined up. Heck you might not have any employment lined up at all.
Well I’m here to tell you it’s going to be okay. Take a deep breath and recite after me, “I’m 20-something years old and I have a college degree—I’m going to be okay.” There. Feel better?
So if that worked, great. You also can stop reading here.
Ah so you’re still with me. Okay, I can tell you are going to need a little more convincing.
I want to talk about a little thing that I believe holds far more value and potential than any paycheck will offer you, and right now you are at the perfect time in your life to dive head first into this great thing called, wait for it, experience.
That last little word carries a lot of baggage. It comes in all shapes and sizes, big and small, bad and good.
It peaks its head out of your suitcase as it rolls up the conveyor belt into the belly of a 747 heading to Australia while you board a plane to Ireland, forced to spend the next two weeks of your Eurotrip wearing the same two T-shirts and few pair of undies you stuffed in your carry-on.
And oh does experience show itself in that post-grad job the first time you speak up in a staff meeting and immediately insert your own foot directly into your mouth. Yeah, that’s experience alright.
But experience isn’t just fumbling around and making mistakes waiting for the smoke to clear and then proclaiming, “Ah! I’ve learned something.”
No, it’s a little more complex than that. Experience is this wonderful little thing that allows you to take chances and risks while investing in yourself. It allows you to validate what might seem to others like a foolhardy decision, but to you it is a step toward fulfilling your dreams and accomplishing your goals.
Experience is ever changing — that’s what makes it so glorious. It’s not confined or restricted by any set parameters, but rather delicately tied together by a single, bonding, golden thread. Good or bad, grand or modest, that thread — the commonality of all experience — is the notion that it holds value only if you choose to extract the marrow from it, find the benefit or lesson learned, and then tuck it away in your memory bank so that later you can recall it and put it to work. In plain speak: learning from experience is about your perspective, and every situation has a silver lining if you look hard enough.
Take for instance my own circumstances. I decided I wanted to work for a specific ad agency in Indianapolis, so I worked furiously to prepare myself for the interview and hopefully for the offer.
The interviews came and went and I felt that I did well. After the final round I parted ways on good terms, reassured that I had made a solid final impression.
A week or so passed, and the agency got in touch with me.
They regretted to inform me that they had filled the position. I didn’t have enough experience.
But they had another offer for me. They had an internship opening up for the summer, and they thought I would be a perfect candidate for the role.
Well, at first I was pretty put off. In my eyes I was the perfect candidate for the full-time position for which I applied. Plus an internship meant I would be paid hourly, which wouldn’t be enough to pay rent on an apartment in Indy. I would have to commute two hours every day in my old beat up Jeep Wrangler.
My first thought was there’s no way I could say yes to that offer. There had to be other jobs out there for me.
I took a day and thought about it.
I came to the conclusion that hey, this agency is willing to take a chance on me and give me the opportunity not only to prove myself, but also to gain priceless experience in the process. Plus I had wanted so badly to work at this agency, to say no to any offer would be ludicrous at this point.
So I said yes.
Within the week I traded my Wrangler — which just so happened to be my dream car — for a Prius, and began to prepare myself mentally for the early morning drives, long days of work and late evening commutes home.
I am just over four weeks into my 10-week internship, and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t be happier. Every day is something new — whether it’s a fresh podcast on the drive up in the morning or a new task at work — nothing is ever stagnant.
Of course there are limits to what you can say yes to and what you must turn down, but I offer you this: those limits are not as restrictive as you might think. There is always a way to get what you want, and trust me, the experiences will be worth it.