You hear your name called, and the pit of your stomach falls so hard that as you stand, you check to make sure it isn’t sitting on your chair, having jumped ship altogether. Each step towards the podium brings a flash of one of the thousands of moments that brought you to this moment…
The time freshman year you ate two helpings of dining hall bean salad and spent the next few days recovering in bed binge watching The Walking Dead on Netflix; junior year when you slept through your alarm and went to class looking like an extra from The Walking Dead; last semester when you watched the new episode of The Walking Dead without your partner, and how that led to your first fight.
And so, as the chords of “Pomp and Circumstance” crackle through the speakers, the final epic theme to this last chapter of your university journey, the realization that your “hakuna matata” days are over; that, like Simba, it’s time to ascend the Pride Rock of the dais and take responsibility for the rest of your life, smacks you upside the mortarboard.
You take the furtive steps up to the podium, hand outstretched, your best ¾ smile oozing a confident calm that masks your nervousness, when suddenly a scream tears through the crowd. The zombies have started gorging themselves on the bio majors, and then, within a moment, you hear nervous giggles from the art majors. What?! You’re naked, too. Charming.
Waking from this recurring nightmare a few months before graduating, you realize two things: 1) You may be more nervous about graduating than you thought, and 2) That your obsession with The Walking Dead might require some professional help.
Well, fear not, soon-to-be grads, for here are some tips to help you through this monumental transition (I can’t do much about The Walking Dead thing—sorry).
1) One Day Your Career Will Come: There is nothing shameful about starting in the mailroom, or about interning/volunteering within your industry while you work a side job at the local outlet mall or froyo joint. You have to start somewhere, and chances are more likely than not, you aren’t going to be willed a multi-million dollar anything right after graduation. Working in the lower ranks of your industry is an intensely valuable networking opportunity that will put you in the same building as the very big shots you’ve been trying to impress for years. Plus, it puts you in contact with the people who will be the big shots one day down the line. According to life coach Christine Hassler, you should also take this (relative) down time to start a blog and post content that highlights yourself and your knowledge of the industry. Be productive, just because you have the degree, doesn’t mean you’re done working.
2) Their, There, They’re—All Different, Folks: According to a Brandwatch study, though various forms of social media are vital to life in today’s professional world, spelling errors can end up costing people and companies millions of dollars. The days of the stilted text jargon, “ur” and the ilk, are over, and the more you let them bleed into your everyday life, the more you forget that “your” indicates possession and “you’re” is the contracted form of “you are”. Becoming conscious of your spelling will serve you well as it will boost your credibility and make you look more professional than compatriots whose resumes and media presence read like a Picasso alphabet macaroni art project.
3) Mistakes Can Make the (Wo)Man: Look—you are going to slip up now and then, and it is going to happen until the day you die. Stop trying to strive for perfection, it’s unattainable and will give you prematurely grey hair and stress wrinkles. Who needs that? Instead, you should use these unforeseen moments to discover new avenues for yourself; as J.K. Rowling said, “Failure can be the foundation of success.”
4) Be Like Ahab, or the T-1000: The obsessed Captain had it right, sort of. You can read the book for yourself to judge, but generally speaking, the pursuit of your career should be an efficiently planned hunt. Do not haphazardly search and apply for jobs like some sort of hopped-up squirrel. It’s better to have a timeslot dedicated every day to searching, applying, following up, and networking for jobs both via cold calls and any and all avenues from LinkedIn to job fairs. You have to be ruthlessly tenacious and you can’t settle or get discouraged. There are plenty of opportunities out there in many different fields, but no one, no one is going to come and hand you one—that just isn’t how life works. You have to put the work in to get the reward out, and as long as you stick with it, and trust in yourself, what you’ve accomplished and in the elevator pitch you should have mastered by now, you will be golden.
5) The Plague Comes in the Form of Pretty Things: There’s no denying that you need things in order to function competitively today. What that doesn’t mean, however, is that you should run out and spend the million-dollar salary you do not have yet on a host of personal upgrades. I know it pains you to see your savings account give you one penny in interest every, like, 900 years, but it would be a massive mistake for you to fall into the trap of spending it under the delusion that you’re doing yourself a favor. Wardrobe-wise, you do need a solid professional outfit, you’ll need a functioning phone, and of course a roof and some food. Much beyond that, though, not much else. Keep it simple, and wait to spend until you’ve really earned. That Burberry trench will feel much more impressive for it.
Really, there isn’t much you need to worry about. You’ve worked hard and soon you’ll have the diploma that, regardless of your profession, will earn you dividends beyond your wildest dreams. If you play it right, keep your wits about you, then there is absolutely no reason why the four or five years spent at university should be “the best years of your life.”
The world is ready for the next big dreamer, the next gamechanger. So whether that means that you’re going to head up the next big Fortune 500 Company, or leverage that obsession of yours and pen the next great AMC primetime drama, know that graduation is but the next step in your legacy, not the dramatic end to all that is fun and happy. Throw the cap and remember to look and march ever-forward (this will also help you in case the zombies actually do come), and—if you can—remember this blog entry and how it inspired you, and throw me a nod or a thank you when Forbes or Vanity Fair does their cover story on you, yeah? That would be nice.
Seniors: make sure you check out the NSCS Store, www.nscs.org/store, for our Regalia sale from 3/25 to 2/26 at to get 20% all graduation regalia when you use the code GRAD2014