You’ve spent countless hours and burned tens of thousands of dollars to get a college degree. Now, it’s time to get a job.
Not so fast.
The learning isn’t over when you get your degree in the mail. Numerous new skills stand between you and slightly less crushing student debt.
After college, you’ve still got to adapt a little to secure a steady paycheck — shocking, considering you’ve already spent the past few years “preparing to enter the workforce.”
When I exited college, I knew I was toast — mostly because I ejected myself early. Nine months into my freshman year, I quit by business program. I had no plan, no money, and no ideas. Yet somehow, I managed to secure a $40,000 salary mere months after dropping out.
I was 19, with no work experience or professional qualifications.
Believe me, it’s harder than it sounds…
The biggest problem with freshly-minted young workers is that they mostly have zero experience working with people in a professional environment. I’m not talking about picking up sorority girls, I’m talking about getting what you want from strangers who are paying you.
Most college graduates (and dropouts, for that matter) simply haven’t socialized enough to know how to pull the social strings needed to secure employment. We don’t know how to dress, what to say, or who to be. It’s these nuances that lead to opportunities, when played right.
The first time I met my future bosses, they took me out to lunch at a hipster vegan place. I arrived tired and late due to a 25-hour delay in one of my flights, so I really had no option but to be unabashedly myself.
They were screening me for an editorial job at a 3D printing media company, but we mostly talked about my personal relationships. I briefly summarized how I molded my life around the people who matter to me, primarily in the career sense. In addition, I even proudly explained that I dropped out of college because it was leading me to a lonely place I didn’t even need to be in.
I wasn’t trying to prove anything, I was just being myself, talking about what was at the forefront of my mind when it came to work. Perhaps my overwhelming concern for high-value relationships rubbed them the right way, but I truly couldn’t care less if it did. I was just being me.
After spending a week with me, my future bosses offered me a contract. They also paid for the entire trip.
Here are some trivial details I didn’t mention: I wore a three-piece tailored suit everywhere during that trip. I did nothing to restrain my natural sense of humor. I even showcased my clumsiness with the unfamiliar culture which made everyone curious about my Malaysian background.
In short, I created an authentic persona and played it. I always had it together although I was tired, scared, and totally out of my depth. And when people probed deeper, I stayed in my lane. I talked strictly about things I knew about and didn’t pretend to be someone I was not.
They don’t teach you all that in college.
Here’s my biggest takeaway from work life: Most workplaces operate on made-up systems.
The things that matter in the workplace are not real. The numbers and values that “matter” were made up because someone thought they would make a good compass for the company. More often than not, they don’t. This can make the transition to work life difficult.
For starters, the reward system isn’t intuitive. It’s hard to know how to appease your boss when you don’t understand what’s right and what’s wrong.
In my first few weeks working my new job, I realized that the entire business focused on metrics that only existed to justify an outdated, inaccurate business model. And in case you were wondering, this is a media company we’re talking about. Not so surprising, anymore, is it?
Most modern workplaces elevate arbitrary metrics that don’t reflect the fundamental goal of any business: To provide value to the consumer. This creates issues when you’re trying to find an in because it’s hard to see where these made-up lines are drawn.
But listen, buddy, I get you. You don’t want to hear excuses. You just graduated, and everyone wants you to get a job: Your mom who raised you, your dad you withdrew his insurance money to pay for your last semester, your uncle who bought you that Ford Festiva in your sophomore year, everyone.
The problem is that social pressure can often compel us to be someone we’re not.
So sometimes, you actually need to work on yourself before working for someone else. Slow down. Regroup. Rehabilitate. Restore the soul that was tormented by Organic Chemistry 201 that one year.
Personally, I quit my well-paying miracle of a job recently because I realized that relationships are my top priority, right now. I’ve always cared deeply about this in the back of my mind, and recently, several traumatic incidents brought the frailty of my loved ones to my attention.
So I looked a promising career dead in the eye and said, “Begone!”
The results have been outstanding. I’m happy, healthy, and surrounded by people I love. Life is as perfect as it can get for a “jobless” 20-year-old like me. In the mean time, I’m setting up multiple income streams that will allow me to invest in these quality relationships while earning a living with my future career.
Sure, it’ll take me years to work up to $40,000 a year, but I can literally live comfortably on 10% of that since it costs peanuts to live in Malaysia.
The truth is, external pressure can make you someone you’re not. And ignoring your own needs to start a career is a recipe for unhappiness.
So don’t worry about getting a high-flying job just yet, if you’re not ready for it. Pick something that’ll get you by, cut your spending, and figure out what you want, first.
After all, you’re not missing out on much. I once got an amazing job, even before graduation. And there were only two times I was happy with this hard-earned job: When I got it, and when I dumped it.