Growing up, everything looked so linear. Schooling progressed year after year until the time came to choose a college. There wasn’t really an option; college had become the new high school.
It was a necessary step because higher-paying companies wouldn’t hire someone without a degree, even if the job didn’t require one. So, with a complete willingness, some of us walked into student loan debt without blinking. It was just the next step.
The only difference is that in the real world, you make up your steps. No mass social stigma defines what’s appropriate for you as long as you have a job and you’re moving forward.
Fast-forward to graduation and you find graduates applying to entry-level positions everywhere in a massively competitive environment, where so many people my age are underemployed and a little lost.
We’re a generation berated for having entitlement issues, yet we were the children told to shoot for the stars. We could be anything we wanted to be, our parents fought hard to sustain a middle class lifestyle and make way for their kids to have it all.
All we had to do was work hard, graduate from high school and go to college. Then the economy collapsed, the supply and demand ratios were disoriented and every entry-level job required three years of experience with minimal pay.
There is no entry level unless you know a guy, and all that education didn’t prepare you to figure it out for yourself. So reality smacks you in the face and you remember that life isn’t fair.
We’re also a generation that lacks direction. We even have trouble ordering what we want to eat for dinner. The menu is so huge that even after you’ve ordered, you’re wondering if it’s the right choice.
A lack of direction equals commitment issues. This translates into immobilizing fear and an inability to move forward. So when the pieces may be in place, a constant questioning of what you're doing is holding you back.
Fake it ‘till you make it. Confidence is key. Presenting yourself like you know what you're doing makes other people think you do. I’ve been fooled.
My friend, Katie, and I were waiting in line at a coffee shop when she ran into an old coworker who was recently promoted to an executive position. In an age of underemployment, this is something people strive to attain.
When she said congratulations, he said, “I have no idea how this happened. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Katie immediately responded, “I have no idea what I’m doing, either.”
I just nodded along. My internal reaction was a little more like, “Wait, what?” These are two people at amazing companies in great positions admitting they’re still figuring “it” out. I thought they had it figured out.
I was pretty sure I was failing miserably at life and had done something wrong. Katie explained to me later that she’s always questioning her decisions and never knows if she should quit and start over again.
I was shocked, but I also felt less alone. I thought I was the only one making it up as I went along. Here I had proof that some of the people whom I thought had it together were a little lost, too.
I always assumed life was linear, and you follow a guideline to get to your goal. I realized when I graduated that isn’t how it works. We're all on different timelines, making our way to our goals in different ways.
The successful ones are the people taking chances and following those opportunities to higher ground. The thing about higher ground is that you can’t always see what's up there before you arrive.
You might find yourself somewhere wonderful even if it is somewhere you didn’t think you would be.