So, now what do we do?

4 minute read

Navigating the world of college is chaotic, but there is, at least, a constant flow of direction amidst the chaos. As a freshman, the main goal for myself was to get acclimated and find a sense of self on campus. And with that sense of self, I transitioned to sophomore year and catered my focus on narrowing down on a major, concentration and minor. Then came junior year, the year I put myself to the test against corporate America, where the outcome is not always income. And finally, the year where it all came together, senior year— the glorified year of attaining job stability. 

There are a variety of elements that impact our individual college path, but at the end of the day, the majority of us are there to graduate and get a job. Achieving that goal can be accomplished by just graduating with a degree, or leveraging the additional experiences college provides us with. Regardless of how you tackle the “best four years of your life”, there are step by step paths and strategies to help you achieve those goals. Whether it’s to achieve your dream internship, add a cool minor, complete your coursework on time or even meet cool people, everything is laid out for you. But what do you do when the path is no longer clear? 

Throughout college, I checked off every box that I needed in order to achieve my goal of landing a job. Well, I landed that job, I’m here, but what do I do now? I’m currently in that rude awakening period of my life, where I’ve realized I have no idea what to do next. There are no peer advisors, peer mentors, or career counselors in corporate America. It’s up to you to seek out that direction and support within your team and organization, which is easier said than done. We have to create our next steps, and let me tell you— it’s hard, and even harder in a pandemic.

Throughout my mere three months at my first job, I’ve learned we can’t jump into the comfort of a path. We first need to learn how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. But before that, I think it’s important for those of us who recently graduated college and transitioned to our full-time jobs to take a second and pat ourselves on the back. As someone who was engrossed in the hustle culture of business school, I often have to remind myself to be present with my environment, versus being tunnel-visioned into accomplishing my “next step.” And that leads me to my second point: we can’t identify our next step in this post-grad world until we understand our “why” behind our choice. In college, the “why” behind that next step was to graduate and get a job, but now that we’re all here, how do we identify our why in our first job?

Diving headfirst into my first job has slowly enabled me to identify my “why.” I’ve learned I can’t easily narrow down a future path for myself because this time is not about checking off boxes— this time is about growth and finding my value. As the only new grad on my team that joined during a busy season, I’ve experienced more growth in these last three months than my entire senior year of college. I’ve learned what it means to work cross-functionally, how to handle tasks that I wasn’t not trained for, how to be concise when working with stakeholders, and how to stay proactive versus reactive, and what it really means to match business requirements with technical requirements. These are all things I thought I knew how to do when reading a job description, but experiencing it first hand has really changed my perspective on things.

I’ve learned there are good days and bad days, zoom fatigue is real, and the hours of 9-5 is a structured myth. These realities mixed with the growth I’ve experienced has allowed me to understand, I cannot fine-tune my “next steps” until I am in control of the present. I’m only three months into my first job, but I’ve experienced many moments of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Throughout those moments, I found a strategy that helps me stay in control of my value and growth at work. This strategy has taught me the importance of making mistakes, and getting comfortable making mistakes, but figuring out a way to effectively learn from them. These new experiences have pushed my growth to a level I didn’t expect, and for that, I am so proud of myself. I have been navigating that growth through this activity I like to call, “Epsa’s personal wins & accomplishments.” Before you plan your next steps, I urge you to create this slide deck activity that allows you to quantify and qualify your work. 

  1. Epsa’s Personal Wins & Accomplishments
    1. You can title it anything you would like, but make it bold and add dates so you can have a timeline of your work.
    2. Bucketize your work
      1. Separate your categories by “Projects” “Learnings” “Daily Tasks” or anything that pertains to your role 
      2. Within each category, add qualitative or qualitative data to measure your daily impact
    3. Add your brand to it
      1. Use bars/charts/infographics
      2. Add colors that are close to your company’s colors 
    4. Share it with your manager at every 1-1
      1. This will help track you and your manager track your personal and professional growth.

In the post-grad era, you have to be your greatest advocate. This slide deck has helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses within my role and has driven me to create weekly action plans to tackle those weaknesses or leverage those strengths. I highly recommend this activity to anyone who is struggling to find their place in their first job. A lot of that fear and uncertainty can come from not knowing if you are following the steps necessary for a path of success. To combat those fears, I urge you to create this deck, pat yourself on the back and remind yourself, your “next step” starts from within.