No More College / Career Anxiety

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More than 20-years after graduating college, I clearly recall how college was a very anxious and uncertain time in my life. I know I was not alone and that it’s common to feel this way during this period or any major transition in our lives. After high school, I felt a combination of real and self-imposed pressure to figure my life out and select a plan (college, whatever) that would lead me to be successful and happy. As much as I tried, I was young and inexperienced and didn’t know the best plan (sound familiar?).   I was lucky to go to a good college and just jumped in. Today, I can say that I made it and it’s important to reflect on one of the keys that got me here. This blog is dedicated to those who might be feeling anxious about what’s next either after leaving school or a job, or relocating and starting anew somewhere.  

Regardless of where I thought I’d be and what I thought I’d be doing as an adult, I realize that my career/life path has taken me in a direction that I didn’t anticipate in high school or college. Today, I am grateful for the success and happiness I have in my life, despite it being quite different than what I anticipated many years ago. In retrospect, I now understand what contributed to my current situation, despite it being very different than what I saw 20+ years ago.

First of all, the specific courses that I took in college have little to do with my career path. Like many, I plunged into studying science because I figured I could be a doctor.  And while I thought working in healthcare sounded fine (for lack of a better idea at the time), the extensive science courses I took ultimately had no direct correlation to my life today (other than being OK at science trivia and knowing some medical buzzwords).  But, whether I knew it or not, the coursework I took taught me academic discipline, analytics, writing and problem solving skills. Whether it was science and math or more qualitative courses (which ultimately ended up being my focus), it didn’t matter and I benefited from all of them. I worked hard and treated school in a very disciplined and responsible manner and that is what paid off. The topic and subject was less important than the work ethic and ‘intellectual exercise’ I gained. This applied both in school and outside.

Although the benefits of working hard didn’t immediately clarify what I would be doing later in life (nor did I realize at the time that I was, in fact, on the right track), it did definitively put me on the right trajectory and path towards success and happiness. Today, as somebody who is a bit smarter and more experienced that I was 20-years ago, I would simply advise anybody who is feeling nervous and anxious during a transitional life stage to simply stay focused and work hard. If you are working hard and applying yourself everyday, something good will come of it. It may not be immediate, but it will definitely happen.

Employers and college/ graduate school admissions people look for a proven record of discipline and a demonstrated work ethic. This can be demonstrated from school records, accomplishments and those that know you. If you have these credentials, you will have the greatest ability to control your destiny (work-wise or school). Additionally, by immersing in numerous subjects of study (or different types of work), you will be more likely to uncover what ultimately inspires you for a career path. I started college studying sciences and today, 20+ years later, I’ve done nothing but owned and operated small businesses. The subjects I studied had little to do with my career path but the discipline of studying a broad range of things got me into graduate school and ultimately positioned me to start my own businesses. If asked me 20 years ago what type of business I would be starting, I would not have had a clue. Working hard generates the momentum that will create stability and ultimately success in your life. Be less critical of the exact topic and more focused on the ‘work ethic’ and discipline associated with whatever you’re doing. The smarter sooner strategy is to incorporate this in your life as early as possible.  I wish you the best of luck!

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