Advice to College Graduates: Don’t Rush It

college graduate advice

Graduating from college is such an exciting milestone. After earning our diplomas, there’s a whole brand new world out there ahead of us, one that’s equal parts exciting and daunting. On one hand, we’re filled with an entirely new sense of freedom: we’ve made it through the education system and landed on our feet, ready to make our mark in the real world. We can move to a new city or find a great job or hone a new skill (and there’s no more homework!).

On the other hand, we feel a sense of fear threatening to encroach on our good graduation vibes: from paying bills to finding a job we really love, we suddenly feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do, how much remains to be accomplished. Though we might feel overwhelmed by all that lies ahead, at Darling we think there’s value in taking things slowly by easing into the real world with patience and grace.

Check out some of our thoughts below, and chime in in the comments section with ways you’ve been able to transition into life after college.

these days

Enjoy the Process

It can be challenging to even know where to start as we’re looking for jobs after graduation. We’ve always been taught that we can achieve any goal we aspire to fulfill, and while that encouragement is so helpful and valuable, it can also set us up with expectations that are just a bit too high.

While it’s true that we can (and will!) do anything we dream about doing, it’s inevitably going to take time (and lots of hard work) to reach our goals. The end result won’t just fall into our laps; we have to work hard to make our dreams become our realities. So instead of becoming intimidated by all that lies ahead, let’s try to enjoy each step of the way. Let’s practice gratitude for the small stepping-stones that shape our characters and prepare us for the future. Let’s celebrate little victories and revel in the small things that help bring us one step closer to achieving our goals. Let’s treat ourselves on the days that we finish a project or come to the aid of a coworker or make our boss swell with pride as a result of our work.

Let’s enjoy the process and find joy in the skills that we learn along the way.

Walk Through Open Doors

We’re often presented with opportunities that don’t necessarily sound like the perfect fit for our lives. Instead of turning away from these chances, let’s take a minute to contemplate them and the positive effect they could have on our journeys.

When I graduated from Pepperdine University, my mentor set up several interviews to help me find a full-time job. While I appreciated the effort he put into orchestrating these opportunities, many of the job roles were not in my field of interest. However, I attended the interviews anyway and found immense value in walking through the open doors that were made available to me. I gained valuable skills by participating in these interviews and found connections that ultimately led me to another job, one that made me come alive in ways I never dreamed possible.

But I wouldn’t have found that job if I hadn’t walked through numerous doors beforehand. I had to put in the time and the effort and, ultimately, I had to trust the process. I had to have faith that if I kept moving, then the right opportunity would land in my path. Instead of remaining stagnant and still, I needed to be in motion and approach opportunities in stride, regardless of whether or not I viewed them as the perfect fit for my life.

I had to put in the time and the effort and, ultimately, I had to trust the process.

The process reminded me that I truly didn’t know what was best for me; instead, I needed to embrace the wild ride I was on and realize that there was so much goodness in store, more than I could ever have planned for myself.

dont rush it

Collect New Skills

While we may dream of being a top player in our field of interest, it will take us time to get to exactly where we want to be. So in the meantime we can work on honing skills that will equip us to achieve our goals. It’s a fact of life that at some point or another we will get stuck in a job that isn’t exactly what we’d hoped it would be, so we need to find unconventional ways to learn and stretch and grow while we’re there.

Instead of focusing on the things we dislike about a particular season or job role, let’s identify ways in which our current status can help prepare us for the future. Let’s embrace a less-than-ideal job by utilizing our time in productive ways: by forming great relationships with our coworkers, by learning a new skill, by making new contacts in our industry, by demonstrating that we can keep our chins up even when things aren’t perfect. All of these things will help shape us into the adults we were meant to become, ultimately paving the way for success in future roles that will lead us to our dream job.

Where do you find encouragement when you’re in a job that’s less than perfect? What tips do you have for transitioning from college to the real world?

Images via Monica Friese

Rachel is the Development Director for the Touch A Life Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of exploited and trafficked children in West Africa and Southeast Asia. She currently lives in Dallas, TX, with her husband, their baby girl Ruby, and their cuddly English mastiff.

  • Elisa January 8, 2017

    I love this article! I’m a few months from graduation and working at a bank, which is about the furthest thing from what I want to do (non-profit community development work). However there are so many opportunities to treat people with kindness on a daily basis and learn more about the financial industry. While I’m frustrated and anxious about the uncertainty of what might be next, this article helped bring peace and hope into an unknown future. Thanks, Darling!

    • Rachel Brown January 11, 2017

      I’m so happy this article helped you feel more at peace with the work that you’re currently doing, Elisa! It sounds like you’re gathering a lot of great experiences while you search for an opportunity in the non-profit sector. Keep up the good work!

  • Elisa January 8, 2017

    I love this article! I’m a few months from graduation and working at a bank, which is about the furthest thing from what I want to do (non-profit community development work). However there are so many opportunities to treat people with kindness on a daily basis and learn more about the financial industry. While I’m frustrated and anxious about the uncertainty of what might be next, this article helped bring peace and hope into an unknown future. Thanks, Darling!

  • Fiona January 8, 2017

    I think this advice also pertains to College/University students that haven’t graduated yet. i.e Mwa lol. In life we always have expectations and dates set to meet them, but life is so unpredictable and frustration doesn’t take long to grow into an avalanche. I agree with this article about taking your time through the process, it’s in the process we learn and discover more about ourselves and those around us. And I hear you Kate! Trying to keep positive minded is hard work for real. I’ve found for me, that permitting myself to consciously build perspective allows for a smoother transition into life’s challenges every day; building anything great takes time… building perspective, now that’s soul reaching

  • Kate December 12, 2016

    It’s going on one year now since I graduated college. I went from being a passionate, determined student who knew exactly what they wanted to a graduate filled with anxiety and not knowing where to go next. Throughout the year, I tried many new things/jobs. I applied to countless positions in and out of my field of interest- I went back to my old pre-college job for a few months, I worked as a non-profit canvasser for a bit, a nanny, I even worked at a coffee shop for a month. All this time, I went back and forth between freaking out and panicking with anxiety (& too often- boredom when I was jobless and my friends were all busy with school and work) and then pushing myself to try new things alone like go to mediation classes, practicing Spanish, doing ceramics at a local studio, signing up for “Meet up” groups to meet like-minded people, and even taking a trip to Cuba! It’s extremely difficult to maintain a positive mindset when you’re in the midst of anxiety and feeling lost, but now that I am hitting my one year grad mark- I can look back and feel happy about the steps I’ve made since college and the networking I have done. I still do not have my dream job, but I can at least feel myself getting closer to the life I envisioned and feel hopeful about the future again. The timing of this article could not be more perfect as I relate to it so well. Thank you again, Darling!

    • Kate December 12, 2016


    • Rachel Brown January 11, 2017

      Thank you for sharing, Kate! We are so glad the piece resonated with you and gave you hope.

  • Hannah December 11, 2016

    I have to chime in and say that I don’t think the “dream job” exists for most of us, and is what trips up college graduates and even those who haven’t gone to college yet. I think you have to create a “meaningful body of work” for yourself. I started marriage, motherhood, and a full time job and had a battle with cancer all around the same time and have yet to go back to school though It’s high on my list. But I appreciate what you said about enjoying the process and collecting new skills. I have spent 3 years in the same industry and learned new things at each job. Sometimes you pay life tuition instead of college tuition and learn how to grow in ways a degree could never teach you, but I’ll tuck this article away for when I get it.

    • Rachel Brown January 11, 2017

      You are so right, Hannah! I love your “life tuition” reference. Thank you for sharing your wisdom & insight here.

  • Erika December 11, 2016

    I recently graduated from university and I have been trying to explore a career field that does not relate too much to my degree. Nothing brings more anxiety, stress, and fear than realizing you want to change your career path after holding a diploma. This article helped me realize that while pursuing these dreams of mine, I need to find patience, motivation, and grace. So long as I keep moving I will come across something I love!

    • Rachel Brown January 11, 2017

      Thank you for sharing, Erika! So happy the piece helped you view your journey in a different light.

    • Vanessa January 13, 2017

      I am on the same boat Erika! I realized a few months before I graduated that I did not enjoy the career I was studying to work in and that I had chosen a major based on comfort and was not pursuing my dreams. I decided to finish the degree since I was so far in but pursue my dream job after. A couple of weeks ago I graduated college and I now have a degree in a field I do not wish to work in in the long term. I’m not going to lie, I am filled with anxiety especially looking for jobs because i’m scared to get stuck working in this field I know I do not really enjoy. However, i’m motivated to keep pushing forward and closer to my dream. This article was a huge help to me because it relates so accurately on how i’m currently feeling. I know I need to enjoy the process and this crazy ride we are in and never stop pursuing my dreams!

  • These are good tips for graduates. I remember when I first graduated from my bachelor’s course, I was so panicky. I wanted to go on a graduation trip but I wasn’t sure if I should send my resumes off before or after my month-long trip! I definitely did not enjoy the process, I was so anxious.

    – Charmaine