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As I see so many people graduating from high school + college, I remember how I felt when I last rocked a cap + gown. Closing one chapter of your life to head into the next is beyond exciting, yet if we were honest, going to college or entering the career world can also be pretty scary.
So for all you grads who are prepped or petrified about your next move, let’s chat about life after the diploma. I’ll even share my own story + the lessons I gained to hopefully make things easier for you as you navigate through the future. Here’s 3 things you probably won't hear at graduation.
1. Failure is always an option.
While graduation parties are meant to be fun, mine secretly gave me anxiety. I was always known to be sure of myself, completely confident in what I wanted + where I was headed. So naturally as the family's first college grad, the frequently asked question of the night was, "So, what's your plan? What's next?" But the truth was, this time, I had no clue.
My heart was set on becoming a Fashion Journalist at a top publication. I majored in Creative Writing + did everything I could to immerse myself in the industry: constantly scouring through magazines, juggling multiple internships, working retail, writing for the school newspaper + managing my own fashion blog--all the while maintaining a GPA a few points shy of a 4.0. With a resume like this, I was sure there was an entry-level position waiting for me.
During the last few months of my senior year, I went on a job-hunting spree. Confident + giddy with anticipation, I just knew my rolodex of references, lengthy list of skills + time spent paying my dues would be enough to nab my dream job.
Finals week came. Graduation went. I had no job + no idea of what I was going to do. The "American dream" that college plus a degree equals high-salary career wasn't my reality. I applied to over 30 different companies, reaching out directly to 100+ folks up + down the editorial ladder, only to receive 2 responses that merely referred me to someone else. It's one thing to receive the dreaded rejection letter, but I think it sucks even more to not get a response at all. My game plan had quickly turned into a fairy tale.
So to answer my curious family's questions about the future, I told them I was going to grad school in London for fashion journalism. That sounded far more honorable than the shame of being jobless + having to move back home. While I had researched this as a potential Plan B, I wasn't sure if gaining a Masters (+ more student loan debt) would be worth it all only to land in the same position. They say, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." But what do you do when your plan fails?
Though I was discouraged I didn't stop applying for jobs. 2 months after graduation, I was hired as a copywriter for an up-and-coming ecommerce site. In the moment, I felt I was very far from where I wanted to be. But now realize I was exactly where I needed to be. At times, it became boring + mundane. But in working for a company of no more than 50 employees, I got to see first-hand what it takes to run a small business. If I would have given up because it wasn't part of my plan, I wouldn't have that knowledge or wisdom to lean on now as an entrepreneur!
If you're a dreamer, a go-getter or a world-changer at heart, failure is inevitable...and it's okay.
No one ever achieved anything great without first falling flat on their face. It happens. Kick that straight + narrow thinkin' to the curb + embrace the twists, dead ends + u-turns on your adventure to chasing your dreams. Take advantage of the mundane. Embrace those in-between times. That's when you develop character + have the opportunity to discover your strengths, learn new things + overcome your weaknesses. Save yourself the panic attack; you don't need to have it all figured out.
2. It Ain't All about the Benjamins, baby.
A few months post-grad, I had a God-given revelation that changed everything: my life's ambitions were completely self-centered, superficial + money hungry. Whoa. The thought rocked my world in an incredible way, 'cause for the first time ever, I needed to answer the one essential question I never thought to ask: why?
I didn't care to inspire people. I wasn't concerned about how I could impact someone's life for the better. I just wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw, in the flesh. Living in a quaint yet luxe Manhattan apartment. Sitting front row with the bourgeois of the industry during fashion week. Having a closet that would be the envy of women everywhere. And of course, a shweeeet bank account. I was confident I could make my way to the top of the fashion mag pyramid, but then what? Was that really all I wanted my life + legacy to be about? Rather than focusing on how I could use my gifts, I craved the success of those I admired, eventually causing me to emulate who they were instead of honing in on what I was born to do.
When we pursue fame + wealth for the sake of our own pleasure or status, we end up lonely, empty + ironically, with an endless desire to have more.
But when we pursue our purpose + walk boldly in the calling we were created for, we'll find unshakable joy + fulfillment.
As you look at your goals + where you're headed, ask yourself, why? Like really, what's the point? Are you aiming to please your parents? Or perhaps, be just like someone you look up to? Do you want to enrich people's lives or just want to be rich?
I'm not saying making lots of money or wanting financial stability is wrong. But I do think sacrificing your calling for cash is. Contrary to popular belief, you absolutely can make a living by doing what you love! So if you want to start that non-profit, go for it! Wanna be a doctor, entrepreneur or an artist? Make it happen! You don't have to live large to live beautifully.
3. Go on a Purpose Pursuit.
Bob Goff--aka one of my favorite people on planet earth--once said, "Life is too short to not do something that matters." We've all been crafted with purpose, placed within this speck of time in eternity to do something great, something much bigger than ourselves. Our gifts, talents + wit weren't given to us to merely fatten our wallets, but to serve others + make this place a little better than we found it.
Your purpose in life isn't something you break out the bloodhounds to hunt for. It's already within you. It isn't something you find, it's something you uncover. Since childhood, I've had a knack for writing, so much so that my family often encouraged me to never forsake my pen + pad. During high school, my interest in fashion blossomed into a full-blown obsession for all things style. Throughout college, my fascination with the fashion world matured into a love for the arts, where I took up graphic design.
In those moments of doubt when I questioned the direction my life was headed, I wondered if I'd end up stuck in a job I hated, leaving all of my talents on the back burner. I couldn't bear the thought of doing something for a living that was contrary to the passions that were engrained within me.
When it comes to going after your dreams, I've heard it said best by Tony Gaskins, Jr.:
"If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs."
What are you good at that comes to you naturally? What's wrong in the world that you'd want to make right? What gets your blood boiling, makes you happy or grieves your heart? Perhaps your purpose is connected to what simply comes easy to you + what you're passionate about. When you tap into your gifts + utilize them, they will make room for you. And when you then gain the platform to be an influence, the profit will come.
Everyday I've been living in pursuit of my purpose. While I'm not currently making 6 figures, the reward of encouraging women to know their value, the personal challenge to live authentically + the freedom to create fashion that inspires is totally worth it.
So as you prep for the future + think about where you're headed, who you want to become + the mark you'd like to leave in this world, I hope these principles help you out along the way. Remember to give yourself grace for your mistakes, chase your dreams over the dollars + focus on living out the calling only you can fulfill.
How did this advice make you feel? Do you have any graduation experiences or tips yourself? Tell me your story in the comments below.