Words of wisdom/reassurance/intimidation needed for soon-to-be college graduate.

I’m sitting here writing the last of my papers as an undergraduate at my college. I have my last final exam ever tomorrow. Then I have two days to clean up my thesis. Then I pay off all the fines I have at the school, so they’ll let me graduate and get my greasy little hands on that piece of paper that declares me an official holder of a Bachelor’s Degree. May 5th is the big day, which frankly I am dreading right now. The fear that seizes me when I think about entering the real world is the most choking, paralyzing thing I have ever experienced (save for September 11th, but that kind of goes without saying). I’ve been blustering and blathering to everyone else about how I know I’ll make it, and I know I’ll be okay, and so much other B.S. But I’m really just not sure at all.

Someone, tell me that it’ll be okay. Tell me that you had no idea what you were doing when you left school, and everything worked out fine for you. Tell me it didn’t work out. If you’re in the same situation as I am, commiserate with me. Give me some tips. Anything at all. Right now I think the thing I need most is to be reminded that I’m hardly the first person to go through this, or the only one going through it now.

Meh. Stupid real world. :frowning:


It’ll be OK.

I graduated from uni just over a year ago and I was scared too. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do without the security of full time education. The first time you get a job doing what you trained for, you’ll be stoked. Then terrified when it hits you that you don’t know anything. But then amazed when it all seems to work out, and you’re doing things you never knew you had in you.

The real world is an amazing place. Sure, you hear a lot about the bad stuff that goes on, but mostly it’s ordinary, and sometimes it’s good. You may loose contact with some of the people you went to college with, but you’ll stay in touch with the ones that really matter. There’ll be new people that you will meet, and new things that you will do.

You’ve obviously got at least a couple of neurons that connect every now and then if you’ve made it to the end of college, this puts you ahead of a great many people.

It’ll be OK. Good luck.

Hey! Everything will be fine!

I was clueless when I got to college and clueless when I left. I don’t mean uneducated. I mean I had no direction, no idea what I was doing, and wasn’t very good at taking care of myself. I had a degree in a subject I didn’t wish to pursue.

Oddly, I found that my choices led me down the right path. It seems that as goofy as I was, and as little confidence as I had, I really DID know what to do when it came right down to it. And you do too, of course. Even if you struggle at the time to decide over one job or another, or whether you should move or not, you’ll most likely look back and say one of two things:

“I had to make that mistake to figure out that it was wrong for me.”


“That was a great decision, even though I was unsure at the time.”

The fact that you are aware that you might come up against struggles speaks volumes for your ability to thrive. Just don’t forget that doing what makes YOU happy will eventually make you more of a benefit to those around you.

B.S. Advertising, University of Illinois, 1992
Independent consultant, currently contracting to the Harvard Library.

I graduated 14 years ago (ulp!) and had NO IDEA what I wanted to do. I scared the bejesus out of me. I’d done all the fancy-pants interviews, but a very wise personnel director told me she sensed I did not have my heart in my job search, even though I was doing well with her firm. That was a wake-up call. I stopped interviewing.

About a week before graduation I got wind of a summer job on campus, which I snatched up. And at the end of the summer I heard about an admissions job, which I took. I worked there for a few years, realized I love higher ed (even if admissions was not my life’s work) and headed to grad school. Found the niche I wanted to work in, and now I am settled, or at least I am until the next thing comes along. I didn’t even know jobs like mine existed when I was in college. But things worked out to land me here, even if it wasn’t a trajectory I mapped out purposely.

I had friends who went out to Aspen to work as hotel maids (yes, hotel maids) for a year after graduation. They skiied and partied and had fun for a year, earning just enough to get by, then all found more career-oriented jobs. Nothing wrong with that.

The thing is, you don’t NEED to know what you want to do. Your first job, or even your first three jobs, do not have to be career-making positions. You are not a failure if you don’t leave college with a employment contract with a corporation you’ll work at for 44 years. The world doesn’t work like that (despite beliefs to the contrary) and you’ve got plenty of time.

Thanks, guys. This means a lot to me. I’m gonna be okay, honest!

Well. If I get my thesis done, that is. Blech.

So I got done with College and moved several thousand miles away from all family and friends, with no particular plan or job waiting for me.

I started at a temp agency, cause I needed to pay my rent. I also worked in a toy store to make ends meet. (Paying bills=good thing).

Then I got my first full-time job with benefits, at a small pre-press company where (of all things) my Macintosh skills were valued.

After 9 months I was thinking of looking for a new job when bam I got a call from a company to whom I had sent a cold resume when I first arrived. I took a somewhat horrible Customer Service job because it was a foot in the door.

After 9 months (the period required by my employer) I started applying to other positions in the company. One day we had a whole group staff meeting and the New Guy was introduced, and I knew I wanted to work for him. I wheedled my way into his group and made sure I was available for every and any odd task they needed someone for. Writing a column, QAing new pages, doing PR, being a liason, scheduling webcasts… these were just a few of the tasks I took on from time to time.

“What hasn’t HelloAgain done?” wondered our director in a meeting. When org changes came to my group I was in a secure position.

Now I have a really fun and interesting job, cool colleagues, and just enough money to support an expensive hobby.

RaCha’ar you’ll be fine. Heck, you’re too good to do anything but fine. What Cranky said about your first, second or even third job not being what you settle into is true. I majored in education in undergraduate school because I was sure I wanted to be a teacher. After a year and a half, I had had it with teaching elementary school. The kids were cool, but everything else was horrible! I started teaching adult education classes and was ask to come over and teach some basic literacy skills to a group of adults with development disabilities at a local vocational rehabilitation program, which I loved doing. They had a position open up for a program manager to assist people with finding jobs. I took the position and knew that’s what I wanted to do. Like Cranky, I never even knew such jobs existed when I was in college. I went on to get a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and 25 years later [sub] I am sooooo old[/sub], I am still working with adults with developmental disabilities and still loving it.

Point is, you’ll find what you want. You’ll be great at it too. I have no doubt there at all. Gooooooooooo RaCha’ar!!!

I graduated May 5th last year. Like you, I had no clue what the hell I was gonna do in the real world. I had a degree in international security, and no clue what to do with it.

The time between graduation, and finding a job is always the most excrutiating. It really sucks, dude. I had to move back home with my parents and most of my friend back home had already moved on and lived elsewhere. No direction, no girlfriend, no social life. Finally, I decided to get off my ass and find at least some type of job, so I would’nt be a burden on my parents. I became a bartender. It was an alright job, got the bills paid, but I still had that gaping emptiness in me, like my life was goin nowhere. Finally, one day, I decided to up and become a police officer and, here I am, one month until I hit the streets. Gotta say, now that my life has direction again, I feel alot better. I’m alot more content, but I would’nt say that I’m alot happier.

Sorry dude, I wish I had some balm to soothe you, but when you move to the real world, all the shitty things about college get replaced by even more shittier things in the real world. No more essays, instead you get reports. This time around, you gotta play to an audience. No more self expression, you gotta write what the boss wants to hear. Tired of uncaring professors? Try taking on apathetic supervisors who are less educated, and markedly stupider than you are.

Here’s the only advice I can give you:
To thine own self be true.

Yeah, it’s corny and trite, but it’s true. Always stick to your ideals and, dammit, no matter what people say, look for a career that you’ll like. Don’t worry about the salary. No amount of money is worth being in a state of perpetual living death where everyday you dread going to work, and your life is meaningless. Do something that makes you happy, and always stick to your ideals no matter how shitty life gets.

First, tell me what you’re getting your degree in. :slight_smile:

Nah. Doesn’t matter. You’ll be fine.

I graduated the first time in 1976. From there I built a 25-year career. When that field (travel) tubed in mid-2001, I was laid off (9/11 didn’t help at all). BUT–I had enough saved (and a pleasant severance package) with which to live on while I pursue my next field (radiology). I’ll be in the same boat as you in Sep '03.

I’ll be fine, too. :slight_smile:

well, i spent most of my last semester absolutely sure that i wouldnt have any friends anymore and i would be homeless.

didnt happen, either one.

also, i did not even begin the process of becoming an adult until i left college. (stiil a work in progress)

i guess my point is is that its normal to be scared, unsure, the whole nine yards. but you’ll be fine, really you will.

try this:

“Work on becoming who, what, and where you wish to be.”

try this:

graduate school

Be very careful about what you do temporarily, just to get by. Twenty years from now, you’ll find yourself doing the same thing.

Don’t live off your credit cards. Turn off the cable, turn off the Internet service, sell your damn car if you have to. Never ever ever have a higher credit card balance than your savings account. Have one card only for emergencies, and leave it at home.

Don’t count on raises or promotions or anything else your boss tells you is in the bag. You don’t have the raise until the higher paycheck is in your account.

An okay apartment in a good neighborhood is better than a neato apartment in a bad one. Check the neighborhood at the following times: 3:30 (kids out of school), 5:30 (adults home from work), and 7:30 (dinner’s done, people are doing what they’re gonna do all night).

Before you pick an apartment, find the nearest grocery store, laundromat, movie theater, mall, Chinese food buffet place and gas station. These are the places you’ll end up going just because they’re close, so make sure they’re good enough. Oh, and make sure you know the very quickest way to the closest emrgency room.

If you find yourself with an extra forty bucks, buy a coil of stamps (that’s 100 stamps). You’d be amazed how handy it is having a load of stamps around.

Buy a decent set of cheap silverware, plates and cups. Also, have band-aids and a flashlight. Everything else, you can get when you need it.

Have at least three good ties (note: a “good” tie and a “cool” tie are almost never the same thing) and one set of good shoes.

And the best advice my father ever gave me:
Keep twenty bucks in your glove compartment.

When I was a senior in college only 2 years ago, I had no idea where I’d be a year later. My parents were starting to hint that I needed to move out, and I suddenly wasn’t thrilled with the major I’d been working so hard at for four years and three summer sessions.

If I could time-travel and give my past self some advice, I’d tell him…

…no matter how scary the world looks…
…no matter how upset you are with your life’s decisions…
…no matter how many of your friends seem to be racing ahead…
…no matter how gloomy the future appears…

…there’s always graduate school to delay those major life decisions for a few more years! :smiley:

Well, my story is a little different, because I did know what I was doing, and I kind of wish I hadn’t. I went straight into grad school, partly because I liked the field but mostly because I knew I didn’t want a nine-to-five office job and didn’t know what else to do. And it’s good, I like school and teaching and everything, but at the same time I wish I had taken some time off and tried something else. I didn’t know, for instance, that recent graduates are eligible for temporary work visas in several countries, and for that matter I didn’t have the nerve to go off to another country on my own. When I did work up the courage several years later, I had a lease and an employment contract, and staying for more than a couple of months just wasn’t an option. The nice thing about being a graduate is that it’s the one time you can make a new start without having to cut too many ties. Yeah, the world is big and it’s scary, but that also means you’ve got plenty of choices. Think about where you’d live and what kind of job you’d have in a perfect world, and find some way to make it work, or at least do something reasonably similar.

There’s no rule that you need to know what you want to do the minute you graduate. In my case, I had no idea, and it wasn’t until eight years later, when I first saw a PC, that I began to get an inkling. It wasn’t until the Internet was invented (15 years after I graduated) that I understood where I wanted to be.

I’m doing fine right now. The one bit of advice I’d give is that you should do what you always dreamed of doing. Forget about the degree – follow your dream. You do that and you’ll never be disappointed.

Of course, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what your dream is. However, the one thing to remember is not to worry that you can’t do it. Go for it. You may not get exactly what you wanted, but you will get something close enough to it, or you’ll discover something related to it that you never considered.

In my case, my dream was to be a science fiction writer. For years, I thought that was an impossible reach. Then, one day, I decided I’d go for it. Now I’m a published author and my only regret was that I didn’t make that decision a few years earlier.

You guys are great. Thank you so much.