College is finally over, and you have been involuntarily tossed into the unemployment pool.
Unless you were one of the lucky few to land the "ultimate job" right after graduation, the market will welcome you with CLOSED arms, and those structured, albeit crucial, three to four years spent in exam, lecture and dorm rooms will be a dream long forgotten.
While this reality seems daunting at first glance, it will be one of the most rewarding and decisive periods of your life. Here is some advice from one fresh graduate to another on how to survive and make the most of the post-college blues.
1. Take baby steps.
To understand success comes to those who strive, is to realize it doesn't come overnight. This also means acknowledging the school-college-job-marriage-kid(s) roadmap is not only simplistic and outdated, but impractical for this generation.
The bumpy roads, stop signs and detours have only increased for Millennials, as they enter an increasingly competitive job market, where entry-level jobs are limited, graduate unemployment is on the rise and a degree simply does not cut it.
This slap-in-the-face reality should not, however, wear you down. You are clearly not in this alone. At this stage, it's necessary to take a step back and dedicate time to carving out your own personalized plan of action, which appreciates every small step achieved and recognizes every mishap as additional experience.
2. Remember YOU are the only one on the racecourse.
Life will seem to be running faster than you can catch up, but you have to remember no one is chasing or beating you on your path to success. The one person you will be challenging is yourself, and it's only you who will be controlling the timer.
It may seem like all your friends are going somewhere while you are stuck in the same place, but that's their journey, not yours. Inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant once said,
Don't lose yourself in other people's stories. This is a critical phase, which requires you to truly discover your own needs and wants.
3. Know social media is not a yardstick.
Be it Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, social media platforms can be one of the most intimidating and disheartening places to go when feeling down. It's key not to get caught up in the at-times fabricated and controlled social media lives of your friends.
Yes, he just posted a picture of his first day at work, and yes, she looks remarkably flawless in that wedding gown, but you don't know the rest of the story. While your friends may mean well when they share their seemingly eventful lives post-after-post and picture-after-picture, they are also disguising the perhaps tedious and laborious realities.
Be happy for your friends, but take what their cyber-selves present with a grain of salt. Besides, deep down, my devious side is hoping he got scorned by his supervisor for dropping coffee on the new printer, and her honeymoon was full of vomiting, sea lice and sunburns. Just kidding (not really).
4. Embrace the unpredictability.
The value of planning cannot be underestimated, but today's unpredictable economy and ever-changing world demands more improvisation. If you're in your early-mid 20s, you're supposed to get lost and be confused, and you shouldn't really have your whole life planned out.
This is the time to make mistakes, experiment and get out of your comfort zone. This may sound counter-productive, but it may be necessary during these first few years to set yourself up for disappointment. Many doors will be closed in your face, and you'll need not only to pick yourself up, but learn to move on.
Believe it or not, it's more exciting acting on spontaneous opportunities than following an imprisoning timetable. And you may not even find your true calling in the next 10 to 20 years. You might even be a late bloomer; take for instance, fashion icon Vera Wang, who only entered the industry after age 40, or KFC founder Harland Sanders, who caught his big break at 62.
5. Accept that fear is good.
If you are scared of what lies ahead, that's a good sign. It means you care, and as long as you care, there is will and determination. Just don't let fear control you. I found myself consumed by anxiety months after I had finished university.
Even though I was a full-time employee for most of my college days, I suddenly lost purpose and focus. And to add insult to injury, I also lost my job because of my company's budget cuts, and like any other fresh graduate, I became jobless.
How I overcame it? Well, I stopped comparing myself to anyone else, realized some things were out of my control, took a deep breath and started questioning what I really wanted out of life.
I'm not telling you to stay seated until luck gracefully comes knocking at your door. No. Make the effort, do your homework and be open to new opportunities, which aren't necessarily in your playbook.