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Seniors, I don’t know when it happened. At some point, we crossed an unspoken line and now, all of a sudden, we’re expected to know exactly what we’re going to do for the rest of our lives. If you’re about to graduate like me, I’m sure you’ve felt the pressures from your parents, grandparents or professors. You’ve listened as your friends and roommates got offered dream job after dream job. You’ve sat in bed, panicking, wondering how it is that everyone else seems to be so much more prepared than you.

Or maybe your experience has been less dramatic. 

Either way, we’ve been conditioned to feel as if we need to have our careers mapped out the second we leave school, and to have something lined up by the time we grab our diplomas. Well, we don’t! And we’re not the only ones to have ever felt this way.  Most of our Time4Coffee guests stood in our very shoes—some only a few years ago. 

Here are three tips from them to ease up the pressure.

Tip 1: There is no such thing as the perfect job. Start anywhere.

Caroline Muggia, an associate product marketing manager at Oscar Health, shares in T4C episode #328 about how disheartened she felt when looking for her first job. After she graduated, she applied everywhere she could but kept getting rejected. Caroline found herself in a rut, where she kept comparing herself to those around her. What got her through it was thinking about her values and reminding herself of what it was she really wanted. It was a time, she said, where she “needed to dig deep and really focus on my worth.” Caroline searched well into the fall after graduation, eventually landing a paid internship with MindBodyGreen, which soon after turned into a full-time job offer. She later leveraged that experience to pivot into healthcare at a better paying job with a better work-life balance.

Don’t focus on what others are doing, or on this notion of the “perfect career.” Caroline put it best, saying, “being in post-grad life, you realize that there is no perfect scenario, there is no perfect job, because every day is different.”

Tip 2: Leverage your alumni network to get your foot in the door.

Ann Hornaday, a journalist and senior film critic for The Washington Post, shares in T4C episode #432 that she also didn’t know what she wanted to do when she graduated.. So she took a leap, moved to New York and began leveraging her alumni network, which eventually landed her her first job as a researcher at Ms. Magazine.   It wasn’t a dream job but it was good enough. The co-founder,  feminist icon Gloria Steinem,  had graduated from the same college as Ann. Rather than going into each interview with an agenda, Ann says she  went in with curiosity, trying to see how she could fit into any of the positions she was hearing about.

Tip 3: It’s OK not to have your career mapped out.  Finding what lights you up is a process.

Serilda Summers McGee, the founder, principal and chief human resources officer of Workplace Change, went through many twists and turns to find her passion. She shared in T4C episode #480 that she studied Biology and behavioral science in college, and thought she’d become a Biology teacher.  But in order  to help pay for school, Serilda  worked as a  university counselor, recruiting and tutoring minority students. This led her to seek a Master’s degree in higher education instead, and inspired her to shift her career toward working in human resources, focusing specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Our generation will probably have at least 9 different jobs, and 4 distinct careers, throughout the course of our professional lives.  And we’ll have plenty of time to figure it out along the way. Based on the hundreds of people interviewed on the Time4Coffee podcast – one of the most important takeaways is to follow your interests where they lead you.

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