Waaaaaay back in June, I had an idea to write a bit of an advice column to a former me, things I wish someone would’ve told me back then. Well, finally I’m sitting down to get started, and for my first post in the series I want to talk about something that took me a very long time to figure out. All through my time in undergrad, putting all those hours into my school work, I got myself through by thinking “as soon as I graduate, this will all be worth it. I’ll have a great job, I’ll make great money, and I’ll be happy with where I am”. It’s all true but one part: that didn’t happen as soon as I graduated. I went on to do a masters degree (and incurred some debt), I got my first full-time job only after 5 (looong) months of unemployment, and then I was saving up to move overseas and living on a very tight budget. After moving (and a bit of travelling), I went through 3 more months of unemployment. It’s been 2.5 years, nearly to the day actually, between my graduating from engineering and landing my dream job. That so did not go as planned.
Would I have changed anything? Well, other than addressing my unpreparedness for unemployment the first time around a bit earlier, no. But ohmygod did that cause me a lot of stress in the meantime. For many people, it actually is as easy as graduating and finding a great job, and it’s definitely possible to do that right out of university. But at the point when I first walked across that stage to collect my diploma, I still wasn’t sure I was ready to enter the workforce. So, I took another 10 months to complete a business degree, working as a server in a restaurant to pay some bills. Did I get a lot of odd looks from customers asking why I had an engineering degree and was serving them dessert? Yes. But that wasn’t the real issue. I wanted so badly to be successful, to be happy and hard-working and showcase my talents, and I was stressing that the process of getting there was taking too damn long.
Leaving my job in Vancouver was another stress factor for me. I knew what I wanted to do, which was work as an engineer in Melbourne, but I didn’t know how that would work out (or more importantly, when). Would I have to go through another 6 months of unemployment? Could I afford that? Could I handle it all when my family and support system was all the way across the world? I was leaving a perfectly good job behind in Canada, one with security and great people, to dive into the unknown land of immigration, braving the awful job market for the second time in a year. But again, after a lot of hard work and even more tears, it paid off. But seriously, there were a lot of tears.
What I’m trying to say, to show through my experience, is that when you want something that bad, it will happen. Just maybe not right away. Even if your friends and classmates seem to have their lives and careers together, don’t stress out about it. And for goodness sake, do not measure your self worth by it. It takes time. It will happen when you’re ready. And in the meantime, a little leg work and elbow grease couldn’t hurt either. Do your research, know your obstacles, and create a plan. These are the tools you’ll need to get where you’re going.
Back in 2005, when I graduated from high school, my plan was to go to university, get my degree, move home to Toronto and be an engineer. That was it. But since then, I’ve lived in and travelled through Europe, I earned a business degree, I’ve now held two post-graduate jobs, and I live in Australia. How’s that for sticking to my plan?
It’s good to have goals and have an idea of where you want to be down the line, but know that that changes. Be aware that opportunities may arise that you never even dreamed would be available to you. Be a yes (wo)man, and take those opportunities in stride. If they cause you to put your plan on hold for a year or two, do it if you can manage it. Because the time to live is now, and it’s not necessarily as a full-time employee with benefits. So don’t stress that you’re not working your 9-5, that you’re not a first-name basis with your local coffee shop barista. Don’t stress about not being able to afford going to your local coffee shop. Because the fact that you’re stressing, the reason that you’re so worried and anxious, is because you’re a driven, hardworking, talented individual. And people like that do not go unnoticed for long.