Staying Optimistic After You Graduate

We’ve spent nearly our entire lives attending school. Being graduate from university means the end of what we’ve come to know, and the start of our lives as independent adults. A deep sense of uncertainty is natural in times like these; a dogged sense of optimism is essential.

Farewell to student discounts and sleeping in on Tuesdays, hello real world! Some of us have our lives planned out well into the future. Others are diving into new jobs or taking some time to travel. And some of us are biding our time and waiting for opportunities to present themselves.

All of us are on the verge of a great unknown. That’s unnerving, but it needn’t be the cause of fear or panic. As a graduate, our energy and our ideas are among our most important resources at this time, and so is our sense of hope.

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Some of your friends may seem to have it together and to be doing everything right. The truth is that they don’t know any better than the rest of us what the future holds. No one course of action is right for everyone. Having a firm idea of your path forward doesn’t make you unimaginative, and having no clue doesn’t make you aimless. Either way can be the beginning of a rich, fulfilling life…as long as you keep your spirits up along your journey.

In the short run, that journey may be littered with graduate job application rejection letters, revisions of your CV, and skimpy pay stubs. Those aren’t signs of defeat. They’re badges of honour, trophies of the hard work that goes into building a happy life. And they’re great fodder for the stories you’ll tell down the line.

Most of us will be doing something significantly different in a dozen years from what we’re doing now. When you find it difficult to keep your chin up, remember that your goals define you, not your current circumstances. You alone can decide whether a setback or a stretch in the doldrums takes your eyes off the prize.

Which means that those friends of yours who have lined up seemingly plum jobs, or who are about to set off for Bali, aren’t necessarily any closer to their larger goals than you are. You can’t have anticipated every challenge you faced and overcame at university. There were times you felt you couldn’t overcome them, and yet you did. You’ll do the same after graduation. If the path seems clearer for some of your friends than for you, that’s just because their goals and the opportunities presented to them happen to have aligned early in the game. They’ll align for you, too, but only if you stay focused on your goals and pursue them in a spirit of optimism. A mentor can always help steer you into the direction you’re looking for, even if you don’t know what direction that is! They can give you advice how to write a graduate CV and many ideas of what to do next and keep you thinking optimistically.

“Time makes fools of us all,” as mathematician ET Bell once said. “Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us.” The same holds true for any post-graduation uneasiness you may be feeling. As a graduate, you have already accomplished a great deal more than you once thought possible. The challenges will not stop. Neither will your capacity to meet them and to build a life on your terms.

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