Advice For The Graduate

My middle daughter is graduating college this week, and last week, I called her to wish her Happy Birthday. She was turning 22. I could tell as soon as she answered the phone that something was off. Some people don’t like their birthdays. Some people don’t like getting older. Some people don’t like the attention. Some people don’t like parties. Some people find birthdays anti-climactic. But this is not the case for my middle daughter. She loves her birthday. She loves to be the center of attention. She lets every one know when her birthday is coming… and she’s not afraid to throw herself a party. 

So, clearly something was wrong. I decided to play twenty questions: How are your finals going? What are your plans for your birthday? How is your roommate? How is your boyfriend? Are you excited about graduation? Although, I only received one-word responses, everything seemed to be in working order. The usual suspects were all accounted for. But still something was wrong. 

Finally, she admitted that she hadn’t heard back from her last job interview. Let me back up. My daughter is a worrier, a planner, a do-er, a box-checker, a people-pleaser, a hard-worker, and maybe not the most patient person on the planet. For those of you who know me and/or have been loyal followers of my blog, I am aware that these qualities sound vaguely familiar. And yes, it has crossed my mind that these attributes might be hereditary. But I digress.

The thing is that my daughter has applied for 70 jobs over the last six months in anticipation of her upcoming college graduation. She wrote cover letters, sent resumes, did phone interviews, and follow-up letters. She basically did all the right things. She was open to working at variety of companies in a variety of roles. Her only requirement was that she wanted something with potential for learning and growth. 70 job applications later! Some of the companies never bothered responding. Some of them responded with kind rejection letters. Some of them conducted phone interviews, but ultimately wanted someone with more experience. 

Like most young people, she questioned how could she have more experience unless someone hires her to give her more experience. Yes, this is an age-old conundrum in the workplace. Now she was down to the FINAL job. The one where they did write her back and say that she might have the “right stuff” for their sales training program. They agreed to do a phone interview. She got called back for a second interview, and they paid for her to travel to meet with her potential new boss. The interview went very well. They told her they would get back to her in a week. So, D-Day was on her 22nd birthday, and I called the day before D-Day a.k.a. her B-Day. She was on pins and needles and was trying to hold it altogether. Finally, she burst into tears and admitted that she was tired of everyone (aunts, uncles, grandparents, moms, dads, sisters, and friends) asking if she had “gotten the job yet?” She was worried about what she would do if she didn’t get it and what everyone else would think.

I explained to her that people keep asking about her job status because they care about her. No one is invested in whether or not she becomes a “Sales Rep Trainee” for a nationwide paint company. Nobody cares… except her. We all want her to find a job/career eventually, but no one expects that she lands her first full-time-big-girl job BEFORE she even graduates college. Through hysterical tears she said, “But why do they keep asking me? It’s making it so much worse.” I explained that this job does not define her. Whether she gets it or not, it is irrelevant to the rest of her life. Even if she gets this job and stays with this company for years, she will face this line of questioning many, many more times. It will sound something like this:

When are you getting engaged? When are you getting married? When are you going to buy a house? When are you going to start saving? When are you having children? What are you going to do about child care? When are you going to have more children? How are you going to afford college? When are you going to get promoted? When are you going to leave that job? When are you going to find another job? When are you going to retire? When are  you going to have grandchildren? etc, etc, etc.

It’s just what people do. Sometimes it’s just to make conversation. Sometimes it’s to show they care. They bombard you with questions without realizing that their inquiry is like adding gasoline to the fire that already burns inside of you. They don’t do it to be mean. They do it because they want to connect, guide and seem interested in you. But as I told her, this job does not define you. There will always be other jobs. Other houses. Other boyfriends. Other friends. Other other other. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals, work hard, and be loyal, but it does mean you should not be attached to the outcome.

I have written a lot about the Four Rules of Success:

1) Show Up. On Time.

2) Tell The Truth.

3) Do Your Best.

4) Don’t Be Attached To The Outcome. 

This is SO hard for box-checkers, people pleasers, Type-A people, and control freaks. No, I am not talking about my daughter this time, I am actually referring to myself. I wish I had someone tell me the same thing when I was her age. So, I reminded her that she is surrounded by people who love her: Friends, family, an awesome boyfriend, and her beloved hedgehog. We all want her to be independent and successful, but she does not have to figure this all out before she puts on her cap and gown and accepts her diploma at the end of this week.

I reminded her that she has already accomplished so much. She has lived independently for the last four years 2500 miles from home. She has made good friends. She has learned to cook, maintain her own apartment, and pay her own bills. She held multiple part-time jobs during her entire four years of college, and worked every summer to supplement her cost of living. She has already started living like a grownup, and did it with tremendous pride and grace. I could not be more proud of her. She defines herself through hard work, integrity, independence, loyalty, and perseverance. If those qualities are not what this company wants, then it is their loss not hers. Something better awaits. 

With that, I dedicate this week’s post to my 22-year-old college graduate. May life always be filled with joy and opportunities. May you always recognize them and take advantage of them whenever you can.

And one last thing, after I gave her this heartfelt speech, the company finally called back. She got the job.

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