I’ve only mentioned this once or twice on the blog but last month I was laid off from my grant writing job at the nonprofit where I worked (collectively) for more than 4 years. There was big organization-wide restructure and my position was eliminated. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard; I’ve never experienced a layoff before and it has really taken a toll on my self-confidence. Don’t worry, I’m working through it and getting my resume out there, but it has made me think a lot about the time I spent in college, preparing to join the workforce. I had no idea what to expect but I had (and still have, I suppose) a lot of dreams and plans for myself. I wanted to have some fun with my reflection so I wrote a letter of advice to my younger self. If I could go back in time and have a conversation, here’s what I’d say to me:
First and foremost, congratulations, you made it! You’re the first person in your family to attend a four-year college so everything will be a learning curve, but you’re going to do just fine. I’m really proud of the success you had in college and luckily, you don’t have too many regrets today. Those four years sure flew by fast, didn’t they? Felt like a blink of an eye.
You did good, kid. There were a lot of good times; those times are really important. You got involved in community theatre and women’s groups which helped build your identity. You decided to be specially added to that biology class freshman year where you met your future husband. Youdid a great job of balancing your studies with the partying, which is hard for some college students. Oh, that that time you drove all the way to D.C. just to see a Shakira concert – still one of the best experiences of your life. But most importantly, you adopted Chico and spent the next 10 years knowing a love you never thought was possible. (RIP little Chicoman).
Because college was a big learning curve for you, there are some things I wish you had known then that you know now – little nuggets of advice you’d give to just about any college freshman if they were to ask for your highly-valued opinion – that would help you out with your career in the future. These are the things I wish I had known back then because they’re very valuable to your new job search today.
Choose a few more challenging classes. I’m proud of you for choosing a course of study that interested and inspired you, but you really should have thrown a political science or economy class in there, as well. I know your mission was to make the world a better place (as you’ll be happy to know it still is) but you would have benefited from that foundation of knowledge just as much.
Learn how to network and then do it as often as you can. You never know when you will need to reach out to someone for help or vice versa. In this dog-eat-dog world, everyone is more successful when they help each other out. You’re almost 32 years old and talking to people you don’t know very well about topics such as jobs and what you’re good at still scares the crap out of you. This is a skill you could have picked up and mastered a long time ago.
Get more involved with the community. In a few years, the world is going to make you cynical person. Where you once loved people, you’ll find yourself retreating to recharge on your own for a while. Getting more involved with the community with help you build networks and people you can reach out to if you need it in the future.
Get to know a few professors better. Get a mentor. This is so important because a mentor will help you build your leadership skills and help guide you through the field and into the career you really want to have, as well as offer a foundation for lasting professional and personal networks. It’ll make finding your dream job that much easier!
Study abroad. I know it’s scary and you’ve never even stepped foot in an airport (and you won’t until you’re 26 years old) but this is the biggest regret you have in life right now. You know how much you love other languages and cultures so this is your chance to go out and experience them. You probably won’t get the opportunity again. I know it seems expensive and scary but you can talk to your professors and the cashier’s office about how to get your financial aid to pay for it. Trust me on this one. Also, there are companies like Earnest you can use after graduation to help you get back on your feet by refinancing your student loans. So don’t miss out on this opportunity!
Lastly, look at college as preparation for life, not just a job.
These days, life is pretty good despite your recent unemployment. You have a wonderful husband, a beautiful house, a silly little dog named Mia, great friends, and a baby on the way. You’ve accomplished a lot so this one little bump in the road isn’t breaking you. And that’s because you always have been and always will be pretty awesome. Keep it up.