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5 questions I wish I had asked before graduating from college

Vangile | February 22, 2011

Alice's DepartureI sent the link to my last blog post to my younger sister on Facebook and this was her response: “So relevant, so true! Went for an interview Friday- got the job before end of day, had to call to say I couldn’t take it on Saturday- Gen Y wants opportunity not ‘a job’”

Of course, both of us will never share this story with my mother who has already given up on her daughters ever holding down a job or settling down. You would think that my sister, who lives in South Africa, has an Advertising degree and is doing the starving fashion designer thing, would do make a practical decision and take the job. And yet she turned it down and in my circle of friends, she is not unique.

After reading my sister’s response I got to thinking about opportunity and what it looks like for each person. What are the questions I wish I could have asked someone or a poll of people to put my mind at ease before graduation?

1) How do I know that I am doing the right thing?

Technically I know that no one can answer this question for me or tell me if I am making a bad decision, but I still wish I could have asked this question and gotten a few answers from people. The truth is, we spend a great amount of time (about 14 years if you count kindergarten and pre K) in school where we are told what to do and then we are let out to make our own decisions on our future which was too confusing for me. On most days I am still not sure what the right thing is and would have been nice to have someone tell me that no one knows this either and give me some clues on how to know that this was right.

2) Is it normal to feel as though I have no clue what I am doing?

After college, I spent a lot of time feeling lost. I had no clue what was next, and that’s when I decided to go traveling and work on a cruise ship until I knew what I wanted. A few years back a friend of mine graduated from undergrad and called to tell me that she was feeling this way, and wanted to know if she was weird and I was happy to be able to tell her that it was normal. Last week, I spent some time in a group coaching session for real estate brokers and the business coach said it was normal to feel lost and clueless at times. Of course by last week I had already figured it out; I just wish someone had told me sooner!

3) What happens after I study all this and realize I hate it?

This was another question I should have asked someone years ago but finally asked an older gentleman last week and his answer to me was: you can always change your mind and go do something else, life is not fixed. If I had understood that a few years ago I may have saved myself years of over analyzing my decisions.

4) How do I tie in my personal values to my job?

 

I guess the real question for me was how to become satisfied with my job. I never found an answer to that except to be an entrepreneur but I think the answer lies not with me but with the company that recruits me, unless companies strive to understand their employees as people and not as machines, they will never be able to retain them. How do companies define their values and morals? How can I ensure that when I work for a company I will not sell my soul to the highest bidder but retain my own values?

5) How can I have work life balance and still be successful?

This was a big thing for me. I am not a fan of 40 hour work weeks, sitting behind a desk and not talking to anyone for hours on end, or at least not having conversations that matter to me as a person. I remember graduating and telling my ex boyfriend that I was going traveling because I knew only one thing: I did not want the life my parents had. He could not understand why I was refusing this life because in his view it was not bad and had some benefits. In my view, it was awful – I had grown up seeing my parents work long hours and get no loyalty from employers, granted they were in health care but I knew that this was true of most employed baby boomers. Baby boomers are a generation that grew up on the idea that more work equals 80 hour weeks which equals success. I have always looked at this as insane – if I work 80 hour weeks then when do I get to spend all this money that I am making? The real question for me has always been: how can I be successful on my own terms with my own values?

What questions do you wish you could have asked before graduating and what answers and insights have you received along the way? Please share in the comments section below.

Image by Flickr user Dannerzz

Vangile is a Realtor and the founder of Speak 2B Free, a company that provides resources for poets and storytellers in the spoken word and poetry slam trades. Follow Van at: www.twitter.com/speak2bfree

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