Nine years ago, I graduated from university. I graduated with a unique and cutting-edge degree and had been told for four years that this was going to be the ticket to a great job.
The world was my oyster. Reach for the stars. I hung my hat on all the classic millennial clichés. Watch out world, here I come.
When I crossed that convocation stage, I had my five-year plan all worked out. I was going to become a Public Relations professional – ideally at an agency in Toronto. Right away, I made a connection that got me an interview at a high profile agency. Every class, exam, project, summer job, led to this. I was about to “arrive”.
I didn’t get the job.
And more than that, I cried the whole way home from the interview because I didn’t want the job. I didn’t want the thing I’d been working so hard for.
All that planning and focus felt misguided. It crushed me to admit the thing I had been working towards wasn’t actually going to happen…all while my classmates seemingly slid into their dream jobs.
I was living back at my parents’ house, frustrated, bored and feeling really sorry for myself. Just ask them – I was a treat.
And that was just the beginning. Nothing seemed to be working out. I interviewed a lot and got rejected a lot. I tried to keep myself busy. I volunteered and took on freelance or short-term projects. I coached gymnastics and worked in a greenhouse to make a bit of money.
This was not how it was supposed to go.
But after a full year of this, I finally got a “grown-up” job. Thankfully, it was worth all the boredom and frustration of that year. I had incredible leaders who are still mentors in my life. I made friends that are now some of my closest people. I learned so much that shaped who I am as a Communicator.
None of that would’ve happened if my five-year plan had worked out.
So to that nine-years-ago Lindsay (or anyone else) who has just crossed the convocation stage and the plan isn’t going as planned, take a deep breath. You’re going to be okay. Just keep these four things in mind.
Hold your five-year plan loosely.
It’s important to have a plan and work towards a goal. But don’t be so focused on that particular plan that you miss out on an even better plan that you hadn’t thought of. Then have the courage to jump into the new plan with two feet.
The “next thing” is sometimes just that – the next thing.
Don’t put too much pressure on the “next thing” to be “the thing”. Often, it’s just the thing that will prepare you for whatever comes after it, and that’s still important. You don’t have to understand how this next thing fits exactly into the bigger picture. You just have to trust that you’ve made informed and prayerful choices, and then embrace all that the next thing is.
The goal is not to “arrive”.
Spoiler alert: you may never arrive. And that can be a good thing because arriving means you’ve stopped growing. Embrace where you are, while you take each step as it comes.
Find a mentor.
Humble yourself to realize you don’t know everything. Seek out someone who is doing something you think is fun and seems to be enjoying it. Listen to them. Listen more than you talk to them. Not only will they have good advice, they may advocate for you one day.
And on that humility note, let me say that I’m only nine years into this 40-year career thing. I’m still a relative rookie. I know nine years from now, the list above will have even more insights. What would you add?