Reader Question: Currently trudging through my senior year of college. Any tips for the workforce transition and how to find balance between work, school and finding your own passion outside of it all?
If you're anything like I was... I was itching by the end of my last year in college to get to "the real world" - I think it was more of the unknown of what laid ahead that had me itching, than actually wanting to be out of college. I wanted to "just know" what was going to happen post-college life.
So first of all, enjoy this time!!! Your life will never be the same after college. My fiance and I constantly talk about how easy life was back in school. There are many other perks to post-college life, but it's very different.
5 Tips for Finding Your Passion While Transitioning Into the Workforce / Real World
1. Internships. If you haven't already, get an internship, like YESTERDAY! Seriously, I hated working for free, but because of my undergraduate internships, it led to me making some serious coin during my graduate degree (like double than what my classmates were making).
Always be strategic about your internships though. I had two really defining internships: one was at a law office, the other as a counselor in a mental health and substance abuse treatment center. I was deciding between the two vastly different career paths, and without going through that experience and my internships, I probably wouldn't realize bigger passions of mine (like being an entrepreneur) as quickly as I did. I constantly am contacted by people who are older than me, still in the 9-5 grind, wishing they could quit and follow their passion. I whole heartedly believe that internships are a major key in discovering your passion and boosting your earning potential.
Internship PRO tip: Make it clear from the start that you are seeking employment. This can go at the end of your elevator pitch when they ask you to tell them about yourself and sound something like:
"I discovered my passion for X while doing Y. I realized it was an innate gift of mine when teachers kept putting me in leadership positions surrounding this skill. Currently I am seeking an internship with (insert something specific/unique about the company) that will lead to employment opportunities at it's conclusion."
2. Say "YES". Even if you have no idea what your doing, say yes during this time in your life. Say yes to work, friends, whatever.
Two big points here: work and friends.
At work, say "yes" - for a lot of us, myself included, when we are afraid our knee jerk reaction is to say "no" because we don't want to look dumb or mess something up. Get in the habit of saying yes and figuring it out later at work. You're young and expected to make mistakes at this point so learn with a vengeance and always fail forward!
With friends: People forget that your friends and acquaintances in college and post-college are going to be a big part of your career in ways that you could never guess.
Seriously this guy will probably come back around and help you network your way into that killer big city job!
... Okay maybe it won't be Zac Efron, but I'll leave this here...
Friends can use their network to help you get that promotion, refer you business, or even become a business partner! There is something magical about relationships formed in college and during your first job(s)... a lot of times these are the friendships that are going to carry you through your third decade, if not further.
So next time you are tempted to say "no" because you have too much work to do or something, remember that balance and friendships are still investing in your future and should be prioritized and scheduled, just like revamping your resume and Linkedin.
3. Resume. I am sure if you are reading this, you have a resume. However, I can't stress this enough, it probably sucks. Maybe it's because of poor grammar and spelling, or you lack work experience, who knows. The reality is your resume is probably ish right now.
How do I know? Two reasons: 1) Mine was crap when I was 20 and 2) I receive countless resumes from college students wanting internships, and I would say out of 10 only 1 is good. I have hired interns with crap resumes, but usually regretted it. So get with a career coach (shameless plug here ---> that's me! www.rachelritlop.com) or start studying the craft of a resume and cold email.
4. Step up your e-mail etiquette. One of the toughest things for most twenty somethings to get right when transitioning into the workforce is e-mail etiquette. Check out this article for some helpful tips and if you have a question, don't hesitate to ask.
5. Be prepared to be a little depressed. After college, you are probably either going to be really excited or a little depressed. Whether it's because of change, leaving your friends behind, having to move back in with your parents, or you just experienced rejection for the first time from that job you had really high hopes for... most of us drop into a bit of a funk after college... Especially as the Instagram posts and Snaps start coming in from friends that seem to have magically mastered the transition.
Give yourself permission to work through those feelings, but then set a deadline for yourself to get back to life and things you enjoyed. For instance, think about what gets you really excited and energized now? Write those down. Don't forget those. the real world is going to want to rip those things away from you and fog your head with what you "should" be doing.
ALSO: My friend Kayla, also wrote a fantastic resource for transitioning twenty somethings, called the Corporate Survival Guide for Your Twenties: A Guide to Help You Navigate the Business World* (Amazon Affiliate link, but I really love this book and can't sing it's praise enough!).