Your Degree Isn't A One-Way Ticket: How To Open Your Eyes To The Possibilities

by Jen Ruiz

Many of us were raised on the “plan” mentality. Basically, if you work hard and follow the plan, life will work out accordingly.

Unfortunately, things don't always go according to plan, no matter how hard you work toward a goal. This is a difficult concept for 20-somethings to grasp, and understandably so.

You earned a prestigious degree. You took all the right steps — unpaid internships, networking events — yet still, you're nowhere near where you want to be professionally.

You're probably wondering why. Well, in short, it's because life isn't fair and hard work doesn't always pay off.

I know it sounds a bit harsh, but instead of dwelling on what you haven't been able to accomplish, which you can't control or change, try to focus on what you can control, instead. Make a conscious effort to stay positive, build your network and be open to career alternatives.

I tell you this not to scare you, but to impress upon you the futility of stomping your feet and demanding that the world cater to you just because you have a degree. Your first job will not always be your dream job.

You may have to work to earn the career and status you really want, and it may take longer than you originally thought. In the meantime, take advantage of this lull in your 10-year plan to explore your options.

Your degree probably allows for various career alternatives — at the very least, higher education or research-related opportunities in your field.

If you haven't been able to find a placement yet or have been working in temporary positions, this could be a good way for you to get some stable income and relevant experience as a post-grad (or post-post-grad).

If you have a placement, but aren't 100 percent happy with your situation, you can start to develop what I like to call a "side hustle."

Your side hustle is ideally something you already love to do and just manage to find a way to make money from it. That way, you're not discouraged if your idea doesn't immediately generate income.

You can start a side hustle out of pretty much any hobby or skill. For instance, if you garden, you could sell your leftover crops at local farmers' markets.

If you're good at doing hair, makeup or taking photos, you could start a small business and offer your services at events.

If you're crafty and make cute jewelry or home décor, sell those online through several homemade market sites. Love animals? Start a pet-sitting, dog-walking or grooming business. Speak a foreign language or play an instrument? Teach others to do the same and market your services online.

Who knows, you could be the next viral YouTube how-to star. There's a way to make money from things you already do and enjoy; you just have to find it!

Your 20s are a time to explore, make mistakes and learn. It's scary to put yourself out there and risk failure or criticism, but now is the time to do so! Who knows?

You might accidentally stumble upon your true calling or run into a future business partner along the way.

Not to mention, you never know what skills you'll pick up while starting your new venture that could boost your résumé or impress the interviewer at your dream job when asked about your interests outside the office.

Some of you are probably thinking: I didn't work this hard and take on this much debt to work outside of my intended field or start a side hustle. I understand that completely. I used to think just like you.

But time spent in a situation where you feel like you're settling -- or worse, time spent unemployed -- can make you feel desperate, professionally useless and dull your skills.

The most successful people find satisfaction out of throwing themselves into their work every day and truly enjoy what they do for a living.

So try to keep an open mind. You never know; not landing that job you thought you'd have after grad school might actually be a blessing in disguise and lead you to a more fulfilling path.

Plus, it's generally a more productive mindset to employ over insisting that the world owes you and refusing to accept the fact that it may pay you back in ways you didn't expect.

In life, as the Rolling Stones once said, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It