Transitioning out of College

Transitioning out of college comes with a plethora of unexpected emotions. Graduation was a time of celebration and reflection for me.

This moment was 23 years in the making, as it was my parents dream for me to attend and graduate college. So by walking that stage, I almost felt like that degree was for them, more than it was for myself.

This period also caused me to reflect on the past 5 years of my life.

What have I accomplished? What does this mean? How will I use what I’ve learned moving forward?  

I considered myself “established” at my university. I was Student Government President, worked as an assistant for the diversity office, and had a good rapport with my professors. With that, I feared that if I didn’t have an exit strategy, I would become comfortable and complacent.

Complacency, for me, meant not progressing at the rate that I have come to expect of myself. I wanted a meaningful career that made an impact and a personal life that I was proud of. So I started applying for full-time positions and setting up informational interviews 6 months before graduation to give myself ample time to get my life together.

It took me 5 years to complete my degree because of the numerous academic and career changes I made. From a young age, I was raised to want a career, and not just a job. For me, that meant finding a sense of purpose in the work that I did.

Thankfully, about a month before graduation, I received an offer from FleishmanHillard - a global communications firm - to be a Fellow in the Alfred Fleishman Diversity Fellowship program. A dream come true – this would allow me to integrate public relations, high-caliber client work, and diversity.

Starting the new job was exciting, intimidating, and slightly stressful.

Will my team like me? Will I like the company? Who will I eat lunch with? Will I like the job? These are just some of the questions that were racing through my head on my first day.

The transition impacted my personal life as well. The friends and community I had developed at school was now separated. I kept feeling that I should be doing more professionally. I also found myself comparing my path to others. After researching further, I found that I was not alone and that these are common sentiments among recent graduates.

So I realized I had to do some deep internal digging and here’s just a few things that worked for me:

  • Comparison is the Thief of Joy

    • My friends are incredible and I am always genuinely happy for their success. They have achieved a great deal and have raised the standard. Knowing that, I have to often remind myself that all of our paths are different and operate on their own timelines. Learning to trust the timing of my own life has been making all the difference.

  • Work Smarter, Not Harder

    • Issa Rae said it best when she said, “network across.” So often, we view our peers as competition, versus collaborators. There is enough opportunity for everyone, so when appropriate, I try to support my friends and associates’ endeavors, whether it be photography, IT consulting, or graphic design.

  • Be Graceful and Gentle with Yourself

    • Having high expectations of myself is something I take pride in. At the same time, personal and professional growth is a never-ending journey, not an end destination. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the love, patience, and kindness I give to others, must be extended to myself as well.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts and insights on this. Let’s keep the conversation going.

With care,

Michael

Photography: Jonathan Burns and Taylor Crump