Every now and again I get a heartfelt ‘Dear Alison’ email from a recent grad or young professional detailing their struggles and asking for advice. I usually try to send out a helpful perspective or resource in response.
I know many of you are past this early phase in your career, but I thought you might find my responses interesting and possibly relevant to something you’re going through. Enjoy! (And be sure to check out the end of the post where I ask what advice you most needed when you were a recent graduate. I’d love to hear your thoughts.)
Recent Graduate (RG): Wanting it all right now (high pay, high security, high satisfaction).
Alison (A): That’s a tall order. Pick which of these three items means the most to you and use that as your search criteria. Many of the areas of interest that you listed may be lower in initial pay/ security, but have the potential to grow into sustainable careers if you put time and effort toward them. Holding out for a miracle job that matches all your priorities up front is going to keep you stuck. You’ll likely need to compromise on some of you want (at least initially) to move forward.
RG: Feeling betrayed by college investment and the contrast between messaging they’ve heard about work (Follow your passion! You’re going to do amazing things!) and the reality of the work they’re encountering.
A: Watch the entitlement. Yes, you can love a job and build a great situation for yourself that excites you most days. The operative word there is build. Amazing careers take time and effort and boldness and attention to creating connections to helpful people. Nobody owes you your career or will hand it to you on a silver platter. Work to figure out what you want (this will evolve over time) and get to work on getting it.
RG: Making a transition to a new career field.
A: It’s always intimidating entering a new career path, but you likely have a ton of transferable skills that will help you make the transition. Also, realize that it’s often easier to take a few small leaps rather than one enormous one. You might get a job that feels closer to what you eventually want, though it’s still not perfect. Or you might work a ‘pay the bills’ job while building a second career on the side. Then your next move will get you a little closer.
RG: Parents who aren’t supportive of career choices.
A: I wasn’t clear on whether or not you were currently living with your parents. If they are very un-supportive or have a strong agenda for what you ought to be doing it will likely be hard to go for what you want under their roof. My opinion is that if you choose to walk a different path from what they want for you then it’s up to you to be an adult and support yourself in this matter, rather than waiting around for them to get on board. This may mean moving out, taking more ownership financially and/or building a support network for yourself outside of your family to help you get where you want to go.
RG: Help! I have big ambitions and don’t know how to bring them to life.
A: Talk to successful people in the fields you are considering. Ask them what it took to get to where they are. Consider if you are willing to put in that effort. Ask them for advice on getting started. This will help you get a clearer picture of what you’re getting into, and it will hopefully build your support network as well.
I really can’t stress enough the idea of building connections to helpful people. I think a common misconception of youth is that an individual can change the world with the fervor and might of their own two hands. The world’s a bigger and more complicated place than that, and the further I get in my own career the more I realize that collaboration and connections are mission critical to success.
What were your biggest concerns when you were a recent grad? What advice did you most need to hear? Leave a comment below!