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10 Harsh Truths Every Grad Needs To Face Once Leaving College

10 Harsh Truths Every Grad Needs To Face Once Leaving College

The speeches have been given, the mortarboards have been tossed, and the couch your BFFs crashed on for the past four years has been moved to the curb. Greetings 2014 college grads, and welcome to the rest of your lives! If this feels scary, that’s probably because it is scary: You’re outside “the bubble,” and there are hard realities out there that you’re about to face. Here are 10 of them, with real stories, real talk, and real advice from recent college grads.

1. Your diploma is just an expensive piece of paper.

You’ve worked so hard for so long, and now you’ve got… well, wait. What have you got? There’s no doubt that your college diploma is an important credential: Studies show that the lifetime earnings gap between those who have a college degree and those who don’t continues to increase. But in the end, your diploma itself isn’t that meaningful. You are what matters here: What you learned, what you’ve accomplished, and most of all, what you can do are what’s truly important. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud of your accomplishments. As UConn grad Shana says, “A degree is something someone can never take away from you. It’s a timeless piece of you that belongs to you and only you.”

2. You’ll need to repay your loans.

Remember signing those promissory notes back when you were just a little freshman? Those were IOUs — and now that you’ve graduated, it’s time to pay up. “I technically knew that I would have to pay off my loans, but I never really thought about the details of it,” remembers UC Berkeley grad Aaron. “I got calls from loan consolidation places within weeks of graduation, and I had to figure out how that works quickly because I had no idea and I needed to start paying.” Unless you go back to school — and see #6 before you commit to that plan — repayment kicks in as soon as you graduate.

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Take a deep breath, then dig in and do some research. If you have multiple student loans, consolidating them so that you make one payment is a must-do. Even after you take that step though, there’s how to repay. If you have federal loans, you have several repayment options available (your choices depend upon the exact loans you have). In most cases, you will have to choose between making lower payments now and paying more overall (lower monthly payments usually mean higher interest rates, and in some cases a longer period of repayment than the standard 10 years or less). If you have private loans, put in a phone call to your lender(s) to talk about your options. Got a job? You should check to see whether that affects your repayment options. Some companies — particularly in the public service sector — offer loan repayment assistance programs. If you work for the government or a nonprofit and plan on sticking with it, you may be eligible for the recently established Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Get the facts and crunch the numbers to figure out what you can pay, then make sure you pay it regularly (set up automatic payments if you can to avoid tarnishing your credit score with a late payment). Whatever you do, avoid student loan “debt relief” firms — you already owe a big chunk of change, so don’t lose more money by being scammed.

3. Your major doesn’t really matter.

You spent so long deciding between majoring in Sociology or Anthropology, or between International Studies and Political Science. We’re not saying your agony was for nothing — finding the right major probably helped you to earn better grades and enjoy your college experience more. Thing is though, when it comes to getting a job, employers pretty much just see that you have a BA or a BS, and that’s that. With a few exceptions, like pre-professional degrees and some of the “hard sciences,” the person evaluating your résumé isn’t likely to think of you as having training in a particular field. To him or her, a degree is a degree. Your school’s name recognition could definitely help you, but no hiring manager is saying, “Finally, we’ve found someone with a Bachelor’s degree in Art History!” (Sorry, art historians.)

Yes, employers will sometimes list particular majors as a criterion for an open position. In those cases — say for example, an entry-level PR job where the employer says they want someone with a degree in business, marketing, or communications — if you have a relevant degree, you may be able to use it as a proxy for work experience. But if you want that job and you have experience that might make you a fit — say you majored in English, but you also did an internship at an online marketing agency — you should still apply. Again, since bachelor’s degrees aren’t normally perceived as work experience or job training, asking for a certain major is usually flexible and can be easily outweighed by other factors. Given a few years’ solid work experience, you may not even bother putting your major on your résumé anymore.

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4. You may have a long job search ahead of you.

UC San Diego grad Rachel says, “It’s definitely easy to get discouraged with the job search process. You pretty much have to start anywhere and look everywhere you can — then hope that at some point somebody will notice you and happen to like you enough to hire you.” We may not be in the thick of a recession anymore, but competition for jobs is still fierce, and you may well be competing for even low-level positions with people who have much more work experience than you do. Shana echoes Rachel’s sentiments: “When I started getting auto-generated emails declining my applications, I just started applying everywhere. Account manager for a marketing firm? Yeah I’m qualified. Office manager? Sure! You name it, I applied for it.” Shana also signed on with a staffing agency that didn’t actually land her a job, but on the plus side she says did give her “a lot of interview experience.” Though it took her almost two years — and plenty of interviews — Shana now has a job she loves. “I worked hard to get to where I am,” she says, “and I couldn’t be happier.

5. You may not like your first job.

Yep, adding insult to injury — after all of the struggles you go through just to land a gig, there’s a decent chance you won’t actually like your job. Entry-level work isn’t often that exciting. We’re talking answering phones, doing coffee runs, filing (in the digital age, how is there still so much paper?), and other grunt work. Here’s the thing though: Everyone had to do it. If you are able to get an entry-level job in the field where you think you’d like a career, try to make the most of it no matter how much it sucks on a day-to-day basis. Remember that the people working over you paid their dues, too (and probably had to deal with even more paper). Instead of doing your assignments with a sigh and an eye-roll, try to knock your superior’s socks off with the quality of your work. The more you kick butt in your entry-level position, the more quickly you’re likely to get noticed and be able to move on to the next step in your career. Not happy with the field you’re in? Turning in a top-notch performance is more likely to get you better assignments (since you can’t put coffee runs on your résumé), help you develop more skills, and give higher-ups reasons to give you an excellent references, all of which can help you land a new job in a different field.

6. You should think twice about going back to school.

“The cliché for college graduates in the last few years is to go to law school if you don’t really know what you want to do next,” explains Zach, a University of Maryland grad. Though many college grads are thrilled at the prospect of finally being out of school, for others, it’s a daunting experience — after all, school’s what you’ve been doing for pretty much as long as you remember. Why not keep it going?

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Turns out, there are plenty of reasons. Though you don’t need to repay your undergraduate student loans as long as you’re still in school, you’re likely to rack up more debt in a graduate program. A master’s degree in the humanities or social sciences isn’t an especially helpful credential, and universities don’t usually offer grad students funding unless they are pursuing a PhD. The changing nature of higher education also means that visions of a cushy, tenured life in the ivory tower are now less realistic than ever. Unless you’re pursuing a degree with an eye toward a non-academic job (e.g., in medicine, business, or the sciences), racking up another diploma may not be the best plan. Though he had always wanted to be a professor, Zach says that the close-up view he got of “the stresses of balancing research, publishing, teaching, and bureaucracy” in his graduate program made him reconsider his goals and priorities.

7. You might wind up moving back home.

Millennials are used to hearing all kinds of terms bandied about to describe them — are new grads even Millenials, or are we still saying Gen-Y? One buzzword you’ve likely heard is “boomerang children”: Kids who leave the nest for college, but, like a boomerang, return and move back in after graduation. There’s definitely a stigma attached to having to shack up with Mom and Dad, but if you’re struggling to get a job and your parents are willing to support you, being a boomerang child may not be a bad call.

Shana remembers feeling ashamed of living at home the summer after she graduated, as she “watched many of my peers move away, buy new cars, and make contributions towards their 401k’s.” Though it was stressful to feel like she wasn’t keeping up, she now would advise grads “Don’t be so eager to move out when all your friends are moving out of town. Paying for rent sucks. Paying for groceries sucks. If your parents are letting you stay at home, stay!” Having that basic support system can give you the help you need to stick with a difficult job search, or allow you to beef up your résumé by volunteering or doing an unpaid internship. That said, you’re an adult now, so just because you’re sleeping in your childhood bedroom doesn’t mean you have license to act like a kid. Make your own bed. Wash your own laundry. Do the dishes. Remember that this is a temporary step, not a permanent lifestyle.

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8. Your values will be challenged.

“Prior to graduating from college, we were warned that college kids eventually lose their idealism and liberalism,” explains Rachel. She didn’t think this would happen to her — until it did. “Even having focused so much of my studies on social inequality, it was actually very difficult to work for a non-profit with the very people I’d been studying about,” she remembers. “Just because I had the academic and historical background did not mean I had a real-world understanding of life in underprivileged or unequal situations.” Struggling to make ends meet herself, Rachel found that as time wore on, she had “lower sensitivity” toward the people she worked with. Eventually, she left her non-profit gig for a corporate job.

Recent Columbia grad Yanyi says she’s noticed recurring themes in the conversations she has with friends about “being an adult,” the definition of which is “murky at best, but loosely includes holding down a job, paying your own bills, and owning Real Kitchen Appliances.” Yanyi explains, “What’s interesting is that people completely embrace or reject this: Dive headfirst into investment banking or struggle for a long time to identify and acquire a usually nonexistent job that will offer meaning, happiness, and gainful employment to them.” Being in the ‘real world’ is going to challenge you to take a hard look at your values. You’ll no longer confront ideas as abstract concepts being batted about in a seminar; instead, the choices you make will put your commitments and values into practice. It’s not going to be easy, but you are definitely going to learn a lot about yourself.

9. Your college grades aren’t really that valuable.

Yes, we know you worked crazy hard and pulled more than a few all-nighters to polish up that GPA. But here’s the thing: Once you’re out of school, your college grades just aren’t a big deal. So long as they aren’t utterly abysmal (like “D is for Diploma” level), your GPA isn’t likely to help or hurt you. In fact, few employers are likely to even ask about your grades, let alone want to see your transcript. While you can (and should) put your GPA on your résumé if you had at least a 3.0, even within two years of graduating you should probably take it off and focus on your work experience. Explains Aaron, “I’ve talked in job interviews about skills I learned in my classes, but people want me to prove that I really learned those things by doing them, not by asking what grade I got.”

10. You have to get out there and create the life you want.

“If you grew up in the ‘K-12 then college’ trajectory, you’re used to having The Next Big Thing on the horizon. You’re also used to fantasizing about it and the life it’s supposed to give you,” explains Yanyi. But, she continues, “After graduation, your Next Big Thing is the rest of your life.” Sure, your parents, your friends, and society at large still have expectations for you, but it’s up to you to decide what you really want — and more importantly, you’re the one who has to make it all happen. “You can no longer delay figuring out who you want to be; every day you will make choices that actualize who you are in the world,” she continues. “You will have to stand by definitions of ‘justice’ or ‘good’ that you may not have figured out. Or maybe you have. How will you act? What mechanisms of our world will you look to move?” No more parents, no more professors: Grads, it’s up to you to get out there and make it happen.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Stop Feeling Stagnant at Work

How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Stop Feeling Stagnant at Work

There are plenty of people who successfully made a career change at the age of 40 or above:

The Duncan Hines cake products you see in the grocery store are a good example. Hines did not write his first food guide until age 55 and he did not license his name for cake mixes until age 73.

Samuel L. Jackson made a career change and starred alongside John Travolta in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46.

Ray Kroc was age 59 when he bought his first McDonald’s.

And Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart at the age of 44.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. If you have a sound mind and oxygen in your lungs, you have the ability to successfully make a career change.

In this article, I’ll look into why making a career change at 40 seems so difficult for you, and how to make the change and get unstuck from your stagnant job.

What’s Holding You Back from Making a Career Change?

There are a flood of amazing reasons to make a career change at 40. Heck, you could argue the benefits of making a career change at any age. However, there is something a little different about making a career change at 40.

When you are 40, you probably have lots of “responsibilities” that come into the decision-making process. What do I mean by responsibilities, you ask?

Responsibilities tend to be our fears and self-doubt wrapped in a bow of logic and reason. You may say to yourself:

  • I have bills to pay and a family to support. Can I afford the risk associated with a career change?
  • What about the friends I have made over the years? I cannot just abandon them.
  • What if I do not like my career change as much as I thought I would? I could end up miserable and stuck in a worse situation.
  • My new career is so different than what I have been doing, I need additional training and certifications. Can I afford this additional expense and do I have the time recoup my investment?
  • The economy is not the best and there is so much uncertainty surrounding a new career. Maybe it would be better to wait until I retire from this company in 15 years, and then I can start something new.

If you have experienced any of these thoughts, they will only pacify you for a short period of time. Whether that time is a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years.

Since you know that you prefer to do something else for a living, you start to feel stagnant in your current position.

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Your reasons for inaction that used to work are no longer doing the trick. What used to be a small fissure in your dissatisfaction in your current position is now a chasm.

Ideally, you never stay in a situation until that point, but if you did, there is still hope.

4 Tips To Change Your Career at 40

You do not have to feel stagnant in your current role any longer. You can take steps to conquer your fears and self-doubt so you can accomplish your goal of changing your career.

The challenge of changing your career is not knowing where to begin. That feeling of overwhelm and the fear of uncertainty is what keeps most people from moving forward.

To help you successfully change your career at the age of 40, follow these four tips.

1. Value Your Time Above Money

There is nothing more valuable than your time. You are likely receiving a pay-check or two every month that is replenishing your income. Money is something you can always receive more of.

When it comes to your time, when it is gone, it is gone. That is why waiting for the perfect situation to make a career change is the wrong mindset to have.

Realistically, you will never find the perfect situation. There will always be something that could be better or a project you want to finish before you leave.

By placing your time above money, you will maximize your opportunity to succeed and avoid stagnation.

If you feel disconnected when you are at work, understand that you are not alone. According to a Gallup Poll, only 32% of U.S. employees said they were actively engaged at work.[1]

Whether you think your talents are not being properly utilized, the politics of promotion stress you out, or you feel called to do something else with your life; the time to act is now.

Do not wait until you retire in another 10 to 20 years to make a career change. Put a plan in place to make a career change now. You will thank yourself later.

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2. Build a Network

Making a career change is not going to be easy, but that does not mean it is impossible.

One benefit to being further along in your career is the people you associate with are further along in their career as well.

Even if most of the people in your immediate network are not in your target industry, you never know the needs of the people with whom they associate.

A friend of mine recently made a career change and entered the real estate industry. The first thing he did was tell everyone he knew that he was a licensed real estate agent.

It was not as though he thought everyone he knew was getting ready to sell their home. He wanted to make sure he was in the front of our mind if we spoke to anyone purchasing or selling their home.

You may have had a similar experience with a financial adviser canvasing the neighborhood. They wanted to let you know they were a local and licensed financial adviser. Whether you or someone you knew was shopping for an adviser, they wanted to make sure you thought of them first.

The power of your network being further along in their career is they may be the hiring manager or decision-maker.

You want to let people know you are considering a career move early in the process, so they are thinking of you when the need arises.

Let me put it to you in the form of a question: When is the best time to let people know you have a snow shoveling business?

In the summer when there is not a drop of snow on the ground.

Let them know about your business in the summer. Then ask them if it is okay to keep in touch with them until the need arises. Then you want to spend the entire fall season cultivating and nurturing the relationship. As a result, when the winter comes around, they already know who is going to shovel their snow.

If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, start throwing out those feelers before the need arises. Then you will be ahead of your competition who waited until the snow fell to start canvasing the neighborhood.

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Learn about networking here: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

3. Believe It Is Possible

One of the greatest mistakes people make when they want to try something new, is they never talk to people living the life they want.

If you only talk to friends who have not changed their career in 30 years, what kind of advice do you think they will give you? They are going to give you the advice that they live by. If they have spent 30 years in the same career, they most likely feel stability of career is essential to their life.

In life, your actions often mirror your beliefs. Someone who wants to start a business should not ask for advice from someone who never started one.

A person who never took the risk of starting a business is most likely risk adverse. Consequently, they are going to speak on the fact that most businesses fail within the first five years.

Instead, if you talk to someone who is running a business, they will advice you on the difficulties of starting a business. However, they will also share with you how they overcame those difficulties, as well as the benefits of being a business owner.

If you want to overcome your fears and self-doubt associated with changing your career at 40, you are going to need to talk to people who have successfully managed a career change.

They are going to provide you a realistic perspective on the difficulties surrounding the endeavor, but they are also going to help you believe it is possible.

Studies show the sources of your beliefs include,[2]

“environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs.”

By choosing to absorb the successes of others, you are choosing to believe you can change your career at 40. On the other hand, if you absorb the fears and doubts of others, you have chosen to succumb to your own fears and self-doubt.

4. Put Yourself Out There

You are most likely going to have to leave your comfort zone to make a career change at 40.

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Reason-being, your comfort zone is built on the experiences you have lived thus far. So that means your current career is in your comfort zone.

Even though you may be feeling stagnant and unproductive in your career, it is still your comfort zone. This helps explain why so many people are unwilling to pursue a career change.

If you want to improve your prospects of launching your new career, you are going to need to attend industry events.

Whether these events are local or a large conference that everyone attends, you want to make it a priority to go. Ideally you want to start with local events because they may be a more intimate setting.

Many of these events have a professional development component where you can see what skill-sets, certification, and education people are looking for. Here you can find 17 best careers worth going back to school for at 40.

You can almost survey the group and build your plan of action according to the responses you receive.

The bonus of exposure to your new industry is you may find yourself getting lucky (when opportunity meets preparation) and creating a valuable relationship or landing an interview.

Final Thoughts

Whatever the reason, if you want to change your career, you owe it to yourself to do so. You have valuable in-sight from your current career that can help you position yourself above others.

Start sharing your story and desire to change your career today. Attend industry events and build a mindset of belief. You have everything you need to accomplish your goal, you only need to take action.

More Resources About Career Change

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/HY-Nr7GQs3k via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] News Gallup: Employee Engagement In US, Stagnant In 2015
[2] Indian J Psychiatry: The Biochemistry Of Belief

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