by Sarah Morgan
http://www.flickr.com/photos/18425359@N03/ / CC BY 2.0
One of the What’s Next, Gen Y? bloggers, Thomas Madrecki, recently posted about trying to figure out what to do upon graduation.
Few things are more obnoxious than hearing from someone older that you’re mistaken because of your youth, so it’s with misgivings that I set out to do exactly that, especially because it’s obvious that Thomas is both intelligent and successful and I don’t want to take issue with him in particular. But what struck me in his post was this:
“The idea, of course, is that work-place competition and increased selectivity in turn engenders more successful paid hires in a tightly budgeted and relatively small industry. All of that is well and good, but even for the most confident of applicants, the idea of heading to a new city with no guarantee of long-term growth or a permanent job is a potentially worrisome hurdle to overcome.”
This started the wheels turning for me. Yes, competition and selectivity IS well and good. And “worrisome” is, often, a fact of life. The thing is, the system is not set up to care about the feelings of new entrants to it.
What bothers me is that frequently, undergrads are called out for having unrealistic expectations or for being entitled — and nobody fixes it. There are increasingly job-specific undergrad offerings, but still, no Reality 101. Sometimes parents or internships explain what you’ll need to wrap your head around, but many times, graduating seniors are in for a woeful shock.
So here I am to shock you. You don’t have to like what I’m going to say. I didn’t. But please believe that the sooner you accept it, the sooner you get through it.
You will be lonely at first. Your career so far has been education, in the company of a peer group that was growing together. You won’t have that company in the same way again, and it’ll be a jarring difference in life.
- You will be the butt of jokes about your youth. These include, but are not limited to, references about musical acts, fashion trends, and which president was in office when you were born.
- You will make friends with whom you have far less in common than your friends to this point. The work force makes college — yes, every college — look like a military school of conformity.
- You will not understand where your coworkers are coming from.
You will have to do what your elders will refer to as paying your dues. This will be maddening. You’ll have a thousand very good reasons why it’s nonsense. It will happen anyway.
- You will lose out on something due to office politics, outside relationships or tenure.
- You will have to work later than your boss.
- You will have to do stuff that is boring.
- You will not get paid as much as you want.
You won’t know anything. Yes, despite all that you just went through to learn all that.
- You will only use about 15% of your degree. The rest of what you find yourself doing will come from your experience with clubs, roommates, activities and internships.
- You will want to use the theory that you learned. Nobody has the money or the support to work on those theories.
- You will do things because that’s how your boss wants them, even when you have a better idea.
You will have to fight to be taken seriously.
- You will get the same reaction as a precocious child at the grown-ups’ table when you first begin to try to contribute. Keep doing it anyway.
- You will learn to get to the point faster. There aren’t any more assignments where you have to hit a maximum. Cut everything you want to explain in half.
- You will, in five years’ time, either laugh or cringe about 90% of what is upsets you right now (just think about five years ago). Keep this in mind before unburdening yourself on your coworkers. They’ll be understanding, but you want to be taken seriously, not just understood.
Please don’t despair. I’m only telling you the bad parts on purpose. You’ll see them coming and they won’t sting as much. And you can enjoy the rest of it that much more. The good parts are fun and surprising and there’s no need to prepare for them. Congratulations and have fun!
Sarah Morgan has a decade of experience working in and with the top pharmaceutical companies in the world. She educates corporations, organizations, universities and media about social media; blogs at sarah-morgan.com; Twitters at twitter.com/sarahmorgan; appears professionally at linkedin.com/sarahmorgan, informally at facebook.com/profile.php?id=10908629, and in real life in the glorious state of New Jersey. (Yes, New Jersey.)