You’re 22, just about to graduate in a few more months and you’re thinking of what you should do after college. Your focus is to make some money, since you’ve been deprived of it for the last 4 years, and get started with “living life”. You’re open to whatever comes at you so long as the pay is decent. This is a template. And, by definition, this is mediocrity because this is what other people do and you should be afraid of it.
I’ve heard many recent grads echo this view, especially in this job market. I understand this thought process to an extent, however, it’s the motivation behind it that concerns me.
I’m concerned that students and young people in general don’t challenge themselves enough. Maybe it’s your parents who are pushing you to get into a job with decent pay and start your life. Maybe it’s your personal / family situation that is driving you to settle with whatever comes your way. Maybe it’s a combination of various factors. However, as harsh as it may sound, there are always too many “maybe’s”. The bottom line is you’re young. Don’t settle for anything as a result of your situation. You have interests. Pursue them to the highest degree that you can think of. Don’t worry about not being qualified or having no work experience. No student really does. You’re undergraduate degree doesn’t mean anything anyway. It’s merely a signal to show an employer that you were able to commit yourself to a 4-year goal and achieve it with a high level of success.
Whatever you do, you should aim really high. These are the years to hustle. Find that “thing” you want to do and begin positioning yourself towards it. Pursue your interests, even if it has to be on the side. Create a position for yourself if you have to. Have you thought about that? “What if they don’t pay me?” So what? During these years, your pay should essentially be your learning experience. Position yourself to focus on something you WANT to learn.
Here are some short pieces of advice that a mentor of mine gave me when I was graduating to ensure you shoot for more than mediocrity:
1. Take risks — you really have nothing to lose at this stage.
2. Think big — shoot for the moon, and you may land on the stars.
3. Be confident — at a minimum, be confident in your ability to learn.
4. Push limits — the difference between those who do well and those who don’t are sometimes marginal. Are you willing to extend yourself a little bit?
5. Surround yourself with smart people — be in an environment with people who are smarter than you. It can only make you better.
6. Be uncomfortable — always put yourself in challenging situations; it’s almost a certain way you will grow as a person.
7. Compare yourself to the best — don’t just compare yourself with peers in your class or school. Look outside of your world and try to compare yourself to the best.
8. Have others take credit in your success — latch on to influential people who will want to sponsor you and support you in a way that they will bank their name on you.
Most successful people didn’t have a template. They made their own. I encourage you to do the same.