It is a nerve-racking experience to be finishing school, especially uni. It is the beginning of the rest of your life. Sure, every day is the beginning of the rest of your life but some more defining than others. Finishing uni and venturing into the world has to be one of those more defining beginnings.
A lot of people struggle to find their footing. The natural progression being to find a job once you have that degree.
The Job Hunt.
A common depiction of adults in movies is as being at a dead-end job. Or just a job they hate but keep going back to because, well, because if not, then what? When there are bills to be paid, possibly dependents to be fed, clothed, housed. By the time you are at that point, you really cannot afford to be picky when it comes to the choice of work or job. You take whatever comes, whatever pays the bills, puts food on the table, a roof over your head and clothes on your back. You do whatever it is that has sustained you up till that point.
At the very start though, right after finishing uni and before getting your first real job, then, in my opinion, is the time to be picky! Be choosy. Be particular about what you choose to embark upon because it sets the course for the rest of your life, to varying degrees.
If you can, if there’s still time for you, be sure to absolutely love your first job. That way, should you ever get off course, cause life has a way of bringing this about, correcting the course is not too big a feat.
I gave this analogy once, and then in hindsight realised how somewhat brilliant it was. The analogy of a circle. Think of a circle. Think of the centre of the circle as well, a point right in the middle. Hypothetically, if you were standing at the centre of this circle and took one step in any direction, you are not too far from the starting point. You are also one, two, or at most three steps away from all the other spots you would have been at had you taken the step in a different direction, a direction other than the one you chose.
Think of this first step from the centre of the circle as your first job. It may be in the field that you studied at uni. It may be in something else entirely. Perhaps a step towards your true passion if your university years, if nothing else, revealed to you that the course you studied is definitely not the field you would like to work in. It may be a placeholder as well, that first job. Something which is keeping you busy up until the kind of opportunity you are actually on the lookout for or want comes round.
More often than not, this first job sets you up for the next one, and all sorts of other opportunities could come of it. The people you meet, the experiences they bring into your life, that kind of thing. It is one hypothetical step from the centre of the circle but it quickly opens up your world to other steps that would not be available to you if you had stayed at the centre of the circle or if you had taken a first step in another direction.
If you started out doing something you absolutely love, then all subsequent opportunities and interactions reinforce that.
Using myself as an example, when I was in the final year of my undergrad, I knew I wanted to work in Data Science and would not accept any opportunities that did not have me actively dealing in data. That has now turned into me co-organising a community of individuals in my field and leading a department of no longer one person at my place of work. My initial role as a data science intern and community organizer has allowed me to grow tremendously. The roles have led me to handling all sorts of requests both internally and from outside my place of work. I have authored blog posts, attended conferences, facilitated sessions…and all this has happened in a very organic manner. From one recommendation to another and the ‘domino effect’ all started with me deciding what I wanted to do and completely disregarding all other opportunities that were essentially just noise.
If you started out doing something else entirely, something besides what you want, a placeholder role, with the intention of altering your course as soon as the opportunity presents itself, then your situation is vastly different. Like the individual who goes for the job of their dreams, you are also wholly and completely sucked into a world…even if not of your choosing. The world comes with interactions and opportunities that propel you deeper into it. Not opportunities that present you the chance to alter your course. Those you will have to go out of your way to still look out for. I daresay this is doable at first, to immerse yourself in your current role even as you keep a lookout for a role you prefer, but the more you get pulled in to your present situation, the less you can focus on keeping a lookout for others.
The average person will start with some steam and very soon, the change in career course becomes something you used to think and talk about, something that now only wistfully crosses your mind. You may find you have been at the placeholder role so long that life has caught up with you. The placeholder becomes the pivot that sustains your life. It becomes how you pay your bills and feed yourself so you invest more and more time in getting better at that, to perform better, to earn more, and soon, you have taken so many steps from the centre of our hypothetical circle, remember that one?, so many steps that a change in course to anything else is no longer just one or two or three steps away. It would take much more effort to overcome the inertia given all the momentum you gained in your current course.
(This example is how you can tell I am heavily influenced by math and physics, ha ha)
Mon Amie…this one is for you. For the 2 Mwendes in my life actually. Take your time ladies. Life happens anyway, you’d rather it happen on your terms.
Of course my advice is very idealistic. Many will not have the luxury of turning down opportunity after opportunity until one that suits them comes along.
So I shall finish off by saying life is a long con. To reinvent oneself at different stages is not impossible. I intend to do it a couple of times in my lifetime.