7 Tips to Make Life After Graduation Awesome

Right towards the end of any college semester, an underlying feeling of anxiety starts to wave its way under the feet of graduating students. You learn never to ask one of those what they’re planning to do after graduation…of course, despite knowing you shouldn’t do it, you end up doing it anyway. The typical answers are, “Get a job”, “Go to Grad School” and “Get married”.

While there’s nothing wrong with those options, they hint at something that’s very typical of us millennials — we like structure. We leave a structured system just to jump back into another structured system. We need runway edge lights in our lives, and that’s the way we’ve been raised. So until we get that job or get accepted into that grad school or get a suitable proposal on shadi.com, we spend the nights playing PS3, we sleep in late and we fight with the family members in whose basement we live.

Get a job. Go to grad school. Get married.

There’s only a slight problem with these options. The only slight problem is it’s what most new graduates do, and if you want to know where you stand,China alone is expected to spew out 7.2 million graduates into the market. And that’s just one country. So if you’re graduating soon you’re just a droplet in a very wide ocean.

So what should you do to stand out and become awesome?

1. Wake up. A loafer’s life might be pretty appealing, but until you’re making one million dollars in your sleep, you can’t be a loafer just yet. Just because you don’t have school anymore doesn’t mean you should be glued to your bed. And since the automatic thing is to find yourself a new structure trough job or grad school, you would need to do some work like throwing your CV everywhere, and checking for companies on line in search for talent like yours. And for that, you really need to wake up – and get out of bed.

2. Find out what your unique gifts are. This transitory stage is the perfect time is to get to know yourself; your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions…basically, everything I’ve outlined before here, here and here.

3. Build your skill set and add value to the world around you (even when you’re not getting paid). It’s very hard for us to do something unless we’re getting something in return. Think of the feedback loop that exists when we go to school. We study and then the grades we get at the end of the semester closes the loop. We get into a job, then we get paid and that closes the feedback loop. But in a structure-less system, we have to close the feedback loop yourself since (surprise!) there’s no structure. So the best question to ask yourself every night is, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?” And the main areas you might want to focus on are; intellectual, spiritual, mental and social.

If you’re gaining so much weight and can feel your neurons fizzling away then you’ve got an obvious problem. Whether you watch inspirational TED talks or enroll in an online Coursera course, do not waste your transition period. And I say this because a time will come when you wish you had the energy and the time to actually pursue the things you want to pursue but because your time gets sold for money and by the time you return to your apartment your brain’s too fried to focus on anything but cat videos…make the best use of your post-commencement-ceremony-before-first-job period. 

And you never know. You might end up stumbling on a million dollar idea (read the story behind AirBnb.com). Whatever you do, with the technological advances, you have more opportunities now than before to tap into a hidden market.

4. Get a menial job. So that Fortune 500 company hasn’t called you back for that interview yet? What about helping your uncle deliver milk to his customers. Many university graduates look down at menial jobs, and of course let’s not even start talking about the social implications…”He got a Master’s degree and decided to work as a farmer?” But you know what, if you really think about it farming is a basic life skill and it does build your character by teaching you patience so it can’t be that bad. 

5. Read, read, and read some more. Not just comic books. Not just fiction. Read biographies and other nonfiction books. Universities are supposed to instill in us a love for life-long learning but between the eight o’clock powerpoint slide lectures and heavy textbooks, that becomes quite challenging. But pick up a book. Your brain cells will thank you for it.

6. Travel. This is not always possible because of the $$$ limitations. However, if you have a sense of adventure, you can google traveling hacks and plan for a trip without hurting your wallet too much. If you’re like me and lack that sense of adventure, then you can explore the area you already live in. Travel before you’re sucked into a job that binds you to a desk for a third of a day, inspires you to glue yourself to a couch the second third of the day, and puts you to sleep for the rest of the day.

7. Give back to society. Let’s take some time to appreciate the gift of education that has been bestowed upon us. As we speak, the war in Syria is keeping 2 million children out of school. It’s mind-boggling to multiply that by the number of troubled and poor countries where children just can’t afford to go to school. It’s quite heartbreaking to think that while the internet has made knowledge accessible…its access still doesn’t reach everybody. So give back to society, in whatever little way you can think of.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re sharing with the world your unique gifts, make sure you are adding value to the people around you, and work on paving your own path and remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Share on Twitter

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It’s not too late to make and keep a resolution

A lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s as if they needed January 1 to be reminded that maybe they need to eat healthier and exercise more. But if you really think about it, New Year’s Resolutions are a major procrastination technique where you’re supposed to wait for the time or date to be right to begin something. It’s like when you break your resolution by Day 30, it’s easy to tell yourself, “Maybe next year.”

A resolution is like a promise you make to yourself, and the reason many promises find themselves broken is because they are made with a mindset that is different from the mindset with which the’re broken. So come January 1, you’re pumped up and excited about your resolutions because the market is selling you the slogan ‘A new year, a new you,’ and that’s the mindset with which you write your resolutions. Come Day 30 and you just left work feeling weary and subdued, and you know you’ve promised yourself to stay away from Baskin Robbins but it was on your way home, and it might as well have jumped right in front of you because there you are standing at the counter selecting flavors, mentally doing this, ‘I resolve to stop eating sugary snacks‘.

So what’s the solution to this vicious cycle of making resolutions and then breaking them? Many people delineate solutions and sell them as a self-help book or something, but the most intuitive response involves:

1) Don’t make resolutions that are not important to you. Sometimes you might find yourself making a resolution just because everybody is putting it on their list and it really adds no value to your life. It’s the simple rule of ‘Don’t make a promise you can’t (or don’t want to) keep’.

2) Write down your resolutions. The idea is to take the idea out of your mind and keep it somewhere you can review it occasionally. Some people hang it on their boards, others save it on their phone notes. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.

3) Baby steps. When you write down a list of 25 resolutions that will turn your life upside down, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed and give up a a few days later. The easiest way to go around it is to make a few promises to yourself, let’s say four, and work on a concrete plan on how you’re planning to stick to these four resolutions then update your list on a monthly basis.

4) Integrate your resolutions within your life’s auto-pilot system. A system in this context is a collection of habits that you acquire over the years. If you think you don’t have an auto-pilot system, think again. Everyday we do things more out of habit than out of conscious effort. Developing your system requires more than knowing your habits exist. You would need to understand where your habits come from, what the payoffs are (because all habits, whether good or bad have payoffs), and finally, how to change them. But changing a habit is easier said than done. Some habits are so difficult to change, you might want to consider not changing them because the effort is not worth the result. When done properly, having an effective auto-pilot system would help you keep your resolutions even on the days you ‘don’t feel like it’ and are more likely to break your resolutions.

Let’s take an example; come January 2014, you resolve to spend more time with your family. If your auto-pilot system has you work everyday until 8 pm then you go home and sit in front of the TV until midnight, how will you keep that promise? Your system does not support it. But if you force yourself to leave work at 5 pm, and you get rid of your TV, then maybe this particular resolution has a chance of surviving. Think of it in another way, even if you don’t feel like spending more time with your family, just the fact that you habitually make it home by five and have no TV to distract you might force you to do it.

So here’s a challenge for you, write down in the comments section what 2014 resolutions you’ve kept so far?

This post originally appeared on A Heart’s Echoes: http://ahechoes.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/keep-your-resolutions-this-time/