Everyone has a picture in their head of what life will look like after college. For many, this picture includes a shiny, full-time job, a house and a nice car or two.
When I was approaching graduation, all I really cared about was getting my first full-time job; it was something I had been working towards ever since I got my first job at Steak N Shake as a waitress when I was 16-years-old.
During my time at Steak N Shake, I quickly realized that if I didn’t want to be bussing tables and cleaning bathrooms for the rest of my life, I was going to have to work—hard.
Despite graduating high school early and having multiple internships in college, getting my first full-time job was anything but a straightforward journey. However, it was only during that journey that I became a real-life, professional adult.
Here are a few notes I would share with my pre-graduate self about leaving college, navigating adulthood and entering the professional world:
Just Because You Plan for It, Doesn’t Mean It’ll Happen
I was so positive I was going to land a full-time job after graduation that I completely lost focus of where I was going or what I was doing. At the time, I thought the simple act of completing an internship would get my foot in the door.
While putting in the hours is an important component of getting noticed, you can’t lose sight of what’s currently happening while you’re working to create a name for yourself.
Before you start forming concrete plans in your mind, think about the things you’re doing now and how they can help you make those plans come to fruition. At the end of the day, none of those plans matter if you’re not living each day as if your career depends on it. It’s important to remember that small, tedious tasks are often the foundation from which larger, more client-facing projects grow.
Suffering is Inevitable, Self-Pity is Not
It’s human instinct to avoid suffering whenever possible. However, this instinct often works against us because while pain, disappointment and rejection are uncomfortable and unpleasant experiences, they are necessary if we want to grow and succeed in our careers.
I have been rejected, belittled and down-right offended so many times that I rarely even react anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still go through my normal process of over-analyzing, dwelling and questioning my every action to recover from these experiences, but I no longer let them define me or my value in the world.
The people who do not understand my worth do not affect whether or not I achieve the things I have set out to achieve; they are simply reminders that I deserve more than what I currently have.
Progress, Not Matter How Slow, Is Still Progress
I often get into the bad habit of placing a value on my steps towards success as if they have a dollar amount on them. But the truth is, you can’t put a number on the amount of blood, sweat and tears you dedicate day in and day out to get to your dream destination.
Whether you’re sending an email, updating your portfolio or simply adding a new connection on LinkedIn, the seemingly small and insignificant tasks you do now to build a life you can be proud of later add up, oftentimes before you even recognize the crucial role they have played in your overall progress towards your desired life, and career.