“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” – M. Scott Peck
In an economy where degrees don’t guarantee jobs I cannot imagine that there is one young professional who cannot relate to this quote. I was one of the lucky few to have graduated from law school with a job. It may not have been the ideal job but in a market where more that half of my cohorts nationwide found themselves waitressing and tending bar I was lucky. Uncomfortable – definitely, unhappy – seemingly, unfilled – absolutely… As I tried to figure out my next steps to “glory” or at least the career trajectory I had always imagined I realized I was spinning my wheels.
I had to reflect and realize that I had a wonderful opportunity to develop my skills in a niche that I loved although through nontraditional means. Whats wrong with nontraditional? NOTHING! I had to learn to embrace the space within which I found myself and I quickly realized that the opportunities that I mistook for setbacks were placing me in an optimal position. I was able to parlay my interest in intellectual property law into a budding expertise in cyber law!! Where did that come from?!
I have come to realize that this confusion and wondering is all apart of the process and if you continue to reflect and be aware of the opportunities around you they will manifest themselves into the opportunity of a lifetime (or at least the stepping-stones to one). It is natural to leave school and be lost and unsure. There is no handbook for navigating the professional world and life in general. The rules are always changing. The few pieces of advice I can offer are:
- Be confident in your abilities – The opportunity to display your skills will present itself and if you’re confident and constantly honing your skills you won’t disappoint.
- Always be ready to perform – When you’re given the chance to prove yourself, DO IT!
- Advocate for yourself! – NETWORK – Do not be ashamed to reach out to friends, mentors, acquaintances, family, etc. As you figure out what you want, make sure you’re vocal about it and seeking out every opportunity to make that happen. No one can meet people for you. This is a job market and a corporate landscape that demands that everyone network. Having other people vouch for you and your abilities is essential to success.
- Be patient with the process and with yourself – It may not happen on your time but it will happen. do not take it too personally, use it as motivation and keep pushing.
- Friendships are extremely important – A support system filled with like-minded and similarly situated peers is extremely important. It is always nice to have someone who was recently in your situation or is still in your situation offering words of encouragement or commiserating in your misery for a moment. If you surround yourself with positive people this kind of communing will be extremely therapeutic.
- Be prepared to fail, but be ready to bounce back – Reflection is key! We are all bound to fail whether big or small, what matters is how you use the information garnered to move forward. I know this sounds cliché but its true and empowering once you get over yourself enough to recognize what happened. Use that information and move forward.
- Find ways to continue to hone your skills – Find side projects that allow you to practice or develop skills you have or want to acquire. If you claim to have great writing skills or want them, write: write a blog, write articles, write a book, write something. Do freelance or pro bono work for more experience. Volunteer you time at a place of interest to garner experience specific to that company, industry, etc.
- TRY IT! – If you’re interested in it. Try it! Whats the harm? It might open you up to a world of new possibilities and if not you can cross something off the list. I’m not saying to do this irresponsibly. Don’t quit your job and juggle. But if you’re interested in something find a way to safely explore that interest on the side. There is never anything wrong with pursuing your passions.
- When you can, help someone else – Remember what it was like looking for that first opportunity? Of course you do! Well, help someone else find theirs. Whether its by being a mentor (which everyone should do), by forwarding on relevant information, or passing on a name; be of help to someone else. If for no other reason than someone helped you. And if no one did, help because someone should’ve helped you. Share your knowledge and experience with the world!
In my experience it all works out! Remain positive and motivated! Good luck!
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” ~Anatole France