“Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.” — Nora Ephron
Congratulations! You’ve earned your diploma or degree and you’re on your way! Everyone is asking, “What will you be doing now? Where are going? Do you have a job?” The questions are well-meaning but relentless. The pressure feels immense.
You smile, nod and try to answer. Perhaps you’re stepping forward with confidence and conviction, goals outlined and a plan of action in place. But what if you’re not? What if you’re wavering, uncertain, concerned you’ll never know what you ‘should’ be doing?
First of all, that’s okay.
Most of us have felt that way, even those who don’t dare admit it. And guess what? Many of us don’t end up where we’d thought we be. That’s okay too — and actually often better than we imagined.
Trust that everything will work out.
If I could go back and chat with my younger self as I set out after high school and university, I would share that reassurance, along with these words of advice:
- You aren’t required to have all the answers now. A specific life goal isn’t necessary — you simply need a path to follow. Sometimes that starts with knowing what you don’t want.
- As you head down your path, know it’s okay to veer off and change direction. Be determined but flexible.
- Every stage of education is a stepping stone, a building block, leading you where you’re meant to be. It is all worthwhile.
- Ignore the pressure and expectations you feel from peers, teachers, parents and society. Do what you love. Know that may change over time.
- Believe in your abilities — to learn, to grow, to find your way. Don’t compare your journey to that of others’. This is yours. Own it.
- Value and nurture the friendships you make along the way. Surround yourself with positive people — those who lift you up and encourage you — especially when you fall. Keep your circle strong.
- Always do your best, give 100% — not only in the things you love, but in those tasks or jobs which are bridges to your goals.
- Be respectful and kind — even when those courtesies are not extended to you.
- Trust when someone sees potential in you that you don’t even know exists. Take the chance when pushed outside your comfort zone. You’ll find out you’re far more capable than you knew.
- Be open to new opportunities. Ask, “If I don’t do this now, will I regret it?” Let your inner voice guide you — it will not let you down.
- Don’t be afraid to ask — questions, for help, for clarification — even for a raise or a promotion.
- Never stop learning — personally or professionally.
- Get involved with your community, no matter where you’re living. Give back in whatever way you can. It is as good for you as for those you’re helping.
- Take a break and recharge your batteries when needed. Enjoy the journey. Take the detours. The greatest rewards are often from the unplanned events in our lives.
- ‘Success’ does not depend on the opinion of others. Let your values and convictions guide you to your own definition of success.
So dear graduate aside set any fears and anxieties. Enjoy the celebrations. Graciously accept all the congratulations. Answer questions the best way you can, knowing you don’t have to give the ‘final answer’.
Take a deep breath, start down your path and simply put one foot in front of the other. Go after those new opportunities.
And remember, even when it feels like it isn’t working out, eventually it will. In time, you will get to where you are meant to be.