Dear Grads:

By Peggie Arvidson

Dear Grads:

You’ve heard so many lofty speeches and congratulations this time of year, haven’t you? Your teachers and professors and parents and grandparents, siblings, friends and pretty much anyone you meet on the street is happy to give you advice and share their wisdom and wishes for you now that you’ve graduated.

I hope they’re reminding you that things aren’t ending but beginning. Lofty sentiments aside, whether you’re graduating from pre-K (and when exactly did that become a ‘thing’?) or Medical School, you’ve got the next big road ahead of you.

Not to rain on your parade. You’ve worked hard (presumably) and earned your way in more than one way. Maybe you learned to share without hitting the kid next to you over the head with the block he wanted. Perhaps you’ve learned to make friends with people who are nothing like you and even figured out a way to share the bathroom with that neat freak who screamed every time you left toothpaste in the sink.

Your learning has been more than bookish, I hope, and you’ve spent time figuring out what you want to do next.

Here’s my advice. Don’t take the lofty proclamations about the world being your oyster or everything coming up roses now that you’ve got that certificate too seriously. According to Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in their best-selling book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, “…in the United States, only 27 percent of college grads end up in a career related to their majors.” Not only that the idea that now you’re in for a life of drudgery and boredom until you die is just not true.

So Grad, what do you want out of your life? What are the pillars that you’ve set up for yourself and your vision of success?

You see, getting a job or finding work is one piece of who you are and where you are going on this journey. We humans spend a great deal of time doing, far too many are doing things mindlessly. Whether it’s falling into a job we don’t love or falling in front of the TV or computer at night at the end of a day – we’re falling, not creating the life we dreamed about.

I’m here to encourage you to start thinking about the next few months and years of your life in terms of setting yourself up for more joy. I’m hoping most of you haven’t yet suffered great losses in your life, but I presume some of you have. Life’s losses do in fact wake us up to the things we’ve deemed important. However, you don’t need to wait until someone you love dies to find meaning and joy. You can do it now.

You didn’t get the plush job you had your heart set on? Instead of whining or finding ways to blame something outside of yourself for the situation, use the time you have as you continue your job search to look inside and ask what you really want and need in a job. Then ask yourself if that job aligns with your overall goal for joy.

Joy can actually co-exist in your daily life.

For more than a decade I’ve been preaching the idea that joy and happiness are the keys to success. Not the other way around. Since you’re just out of the ivy halls of learning I implore you to start your next phase of life with this in mind. If you follow the joy the money and acclaim will follow. What does that look like for you? This is where you need to take some time and get all up in your own grill. Ask yourself what truly makes you light up when it comes to your work. Hint: It’s not a job title. Do you like helping people reach agreements? Are you lit up when you find the solution to a tricky mechanical problem? Does it light you up to put things in order? What’s your preference when it comes to dealing with people? Are you into persuasion or letting others do their own thing?

All of these questions are just the beginning of finding clarity on what comes next.

Here’s an example, although I was an English and Political Science Major, I discovered through two decades of trial and error that I am great at business. In fact, I love business and all the moving parts. However, I truly light up when I’m helping others find their sweet spot. I love the part of business that includes hiring, training and empowering others to excel. I love spotting the diamond in the rough and showing them their strengths. My communications and logic skills – honed in college classrooms – comes in handy, but the joy in my work comes from interacting with people. Although I spend a great deal of time writing, if I don’t also have the capacity to work in groups, engaging with others to meet goals I end up feeling flat and burnt-out.

Grads, I’m hoping you have the courage to follow your joy. Remember you are simply beginning again.

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