This may not apply to everyone, or even anyone at all. It does, however, very much apply to me. Still, I hope someone who’s in a similar situation can find this one day and receive some sort of help from it.
Now for a little introduction: I started community college in fall 2007. I received my BA in December 2013. Yeah, it took me that long. After that, I walked the stage at commencement in May 2014. I had two part time jobs and a couple short internships throughout the duration of my college experience. I even attempted grad school. However, over the 2 months or so in my graduate studies (which is now over a year ago) I learned it wasn’t for me. And over the last 3 1/2 months of a full time job, I’ve learned some other things aren’t for me either. Needless to say, I feel prompted to compile this list of, well, what I’ve learned thus far. So here it is.
What I learned after undergrad:
1. Don’t overestimate your abilities.
This might not apply to any other areas of study other than those in the Liberal Arts arena, so I’ll stick within those parameters. When I was looking for writing jobs, I saw so many I wanted and thought, “Hey, I have my degree, I can do that. Hey, I can do that too! Sign me up.” I wish I would’ve put on the brakes and really thought about my capabilities. Just because I studied English, doesn’t necessarily mean I can do anything and everything English.(Little side note here, I suck at grammar and I have more dislike than like for Shakespeare). As I applied for jobs, I should’ve really thought about all the things I thought I was good at. I was editor for my school’s newspaper 5 years ago, can I really say I’m still good at Quark? I’ve never done any technical writing at all, should I really apply for a tech writing job like I know what I’m doing? Just because I have a degree does not make me super woman. Things take experience, which leads me to my next point.
2. Intern,intern,intern. Or at least GET EXPERIENCE.
If you know what you want to do while in school, START WORKING AT IT. I can’t stress that enough. I wish I would’ve started looking for internships the moment I knew what I wanted to study and do. If you’re in college right now, start some practice in your field. Look for ways to hone the skill you’re studying to do. School won’t always teach you what you will face in the real world. Practice and experience will help you when you graduate and start looking for jobs. Getting experience early will help you decide if that area really is what you want to do as your career, or not. The earlier you know, the better.
3. Likeability doesn’t overshadow capability.
I’m sure there are exceptions to this point, but I learned just because your superiors like you, doesn’t mean they’ll keep you around. If you’re not doing the job they expect of you, they will find a replacement. Before applying, figure out as best you can if you can do that job 100% or more. In an interview, ask what a typical day is like in the office, or wherever it is you’ll be. Ask who you’ll be working with. Ask what they expect of you. ASK, ASK, ASK.
4. Don’t take a job just because it’s there.
It is entirely tempting to apply for a job right as it pops up, but making rash decisions has never been good, at least not for me. I let pressures of society and the success of peers steer my direction. DON’T DO IT. Take a step back and think about it for a day or two. Make sure this is what you want. Ask yourself why you want it, and keep point #1 in mind.
5. Don’t continue your education if you don’t have direction.
I started grad school right away because I thought it was the thing to do. Finish high school, get your bachelor’s degree, go to grad school and beyond. Duh.
Except I hated grad school. I loved my professor( I had the same one for all my classes), but I was struggling. Every day I thought, why am I doing this? It took being on academic probation for me to go talk to my advisor and figure out what the heck I was doing there. I told her exactly how I felt and before even looking up my file, she turned to me, folded her hands and asked: “Why did you decide to go to grad school?”
To which I replied: “I really don’t know.” She smiled and said, ‘Well then, I think you know your answer. If you change your mind, grad school will always be here.”
And that was bye-bye grad school for me. I didn’t have a reason to be there other than that it felt like the next natural thing to do.
6. Be realistic.
Can you really pull off that editor position that requires you to be proficient in InDesign when you only know a little bit? Can you really spend all day researching and writing about a topic you don’t care about? I don’t know if “just deal” ing with circumstances is the best advice to give. I tried, and failed. Don’t let the shiny job title be the only thing that reels you in. Think about all the tasks you’ll be required to do and be real with yourself.
7. Be honest.
Is sitting at that desk for 8 hours 5 days a week writing about a topic you know nothing, or care nothing, about really where you want to be? Sure it’s a starting point, but the way you feel about your work will most likely show in your work. I know there are people who are good at faking it. I’m not one of those people. I thought I could work through it, but honestly I think my lack of drive was too obvious to ignore.
Alright, so there it is. Seven things I learned after undergrad. Now how do I deal with these tips? How do I deal with doubt? How can I avoid letting fear and discouragement make my decisions for me?
If any of this stuff has taught me anything, it’s to be realistic and reasonable. There will be doubts. I handle my doubts by being prayerful. I know God has a plan for me. Even through pressures and disappointments, I have to remember that.
Also, don’t let doubt cloud your actions. If you really feel capable of pulling something off, then go for it. Just don’t let the idea of being educated lead you to think you can rule the world, because you can’t. Be honest. Be real. Be prepared.