Not Prepared for ‘the Real World’

Throughout middle school “they” tell us, “You need to get ready for high school.” In high school, we’re constantly reminded that we need to prepare for college. Along the way, all this talk of preparing for the next stage seems to convey an unspoken promise that when we finally make it through college, we will magically be ready for “the real world” of employment and adulthood. 

I wasn’t. 

I don’t think most new college graduates are. 

And it ends up feeling like a sick joke. To go to college, choose a major, complete a degree and receive your diploma, but still have no clue of what you’re supposed to do next seems like the ultimate bait-and-switch. Like, “Wait. Wasn’t there supposed to be a road map included with my cap and gown?” Uh, nope.

Fifteen years after that rude awakening (three of which were spent supervising college interns who were totally obsessed with figuring out the perfect next step after college), I’d like to offer some practical suggestions for making the leap from college to your first job.

1) If you’re feeling lost, start with the most practical question: “How will I pay the bills?”

2) Don’t expect to like every aspect of your first job.

3) And don’t expect to get rich at it. 

4) Take action. Evaluate. Then take action again. Even if you don’t know what to do, do something. You will not have a clear picture of how your gifting and education fit together until you work them out in the marketplace for a while. 

5) It really isn’t what you know, but who you know. 

Over the next five weeks, I’ll unpack each of these ideas in its own post. But first, if you’re coming up on — or are in the midst of — the college to career transition, how prepared do you feel? What resources have been helpful? What feels the most bewildering?