Most graduates have rehearsed a response to “What are you going to do next?” that comes with a convincing smile, but deep down inside they’re not sure. I can assure you of this because I launched one of those four years ago.
It’s graduation week in our part of the world. You’d think it’s a great time to talk about purpose with all of the brilliant minds being unleashed on the world. What you might not realize when you ask a graduate, “What are your plans for the rest of your life?” is that so many of them don’t know. Take my advice and soften your approach at grad parties this week. Consider this story.
My eldest daughter had rehearsed her response to these questions about what she was going to study, but really she wasn’t certain what she would do with a psychology degree. She didn’t know whether she’d go into clinical work or applied psych. It caused her no small amount of stress even into her freshman year, as she tried out business courses to test her resolve in sticking with the psych program. She’s glad she did because now that she has graduated from college and scored a job in consumer behavior research, she knows for a fact that psychology is marketable and you can get a real job with that degree.
Here are the five strategies that helped my senior stay on track and come out on top.
- Stick with your passion. If you love something so much that you read about it on the weekends, chances are that’s something you are passionate about. Have you ever heard Mary Oliver ask, “What will you do with your wild and precious life?” Surely there is one thing that you want to be different in the world. You don’t have to know how to change it now, just that you intend to contribute.
- Be open minded. You can declare a major without declaring a life sentence. You don’t know what new jobs will be available in four to six years so take classes that interest you to build the capabilities you need. When the right opportunities come, you will know it.
- Make new friends on purpose. Yes you will make friends at school, but be deliberate about making friends who are doing things you are interested in so you can learn from them. They say you become the five people you hang with most. Choose carefully.
- Make friends with faculty. It’s not rocket science … the kids who spend time getting to know their instructors get more out of class and have better grades. News flash: they don’t get better grades because the teacher likes them better, they get better grades because they ask for help. Those instructors later become references when you apply for jobs.
- Play. I realize some college students don’t need to be reminded to play, but there are many who live at the library who could stand to take a spontaneous trip to the park for a pickup volleyball game. Even if it’s just for a walk…your brain needs a break.
If you were drawn to this article, maybe it’s because you have a graduate in your life or YOU are embarking on a new venture. Congratulations, either way, on seeking strategies to cultivate a life that counts for something bigger than ego. Imagine a world where everyone lives their passions every day.