One of the great joys in leaving college is the bitter thrill you will get watching those smug bastards who just knew what they were going to do with their life shoot out of the gates, slip, falter, fall on their asses, and end up working at Borders.
Most of them recover eventually, but it means they take longer to figure out what the rest of us knew from junior year on. That we all have no idea what we're going to do.
Basically, what happens is this: You leave college, get your shiny dimploma and whatnot, then you either go home for a while or don't. My advice is don't, because you most likely won't do anything useful while you're living in your parents house. It'll be like waiting for next semester, but next semester will never, ever come. Eventually you'll realize this and also, at about the same time, you'll realize that you're not actually "saving money" by living at home (beer, movies, playstation), and probably that all your friends have their own places, and then you'll feel really lame, and the lameness will build and build, and grow stronger day by day, until one day, you will finally leave. You will not be significantly better off for the 5 or 6 months you spent at home, so just skip it.
You will get a job of some kind. For most of us, this involves sitting down and figuring out what on earth we can con someone into paying us for. Heard of HTML? You're a web developer! Got a history degree? You'll probably work for a PIRG. Everyone else, just go right down to Borders and apply. They give you health insurance.
You'll hate your first job. This is right and good, because it will suck. You'll pretend you don't hate it, and in a way you won't, because you'll initially be all wrapped up in being on your own. But eventually you'll notice how much it sucks, and you'll quit. Don't worry-- they expect you to. It'll seem like a horrible traumatic event, but it's what you're there for. There are entire industries that operate solely on the underpaid labor of young go-getters straight from college who are excited about being on their own.
I can't stress this enough: Do not go to work for Enterprise rent-a-car. It will look like a really good opportunity. It isn't. You'll hate it. Borders is a much better choice. Same health care, but no one makes you pretend you give a shit.
Let's see. First job out of the way, you'll be looking for that second job. Please tell me you managed to learn something at your first job? A useful tip: Figure out what the guy that trains you does, because he makes more money than you. This should take about an hour of careful observation. Make sure your next job requires those skills. It will pay better.
Now you're getting on your feet. You will probably have some cashflow trouble right around in here, and discover the joys of credit cards. It's ok to not pay them off all the way, because the credit card companies actually don't want you to. It's an economic miracle, it is. This is also when you will lose your youthful enthusiasm to "never get into debt to the evil credit card companies!" if you had that problem before. Don't sweat it.
You'll be wanting to move out of that bug-infested rathole you moved into now, too. Find a less bug-infested mousehole instead. Think of it as "cozy", and anyway, it's better than that last place you had. Sheesh, what a dump. How did you ever live there?
Now's the time when you should have some grasp on what the obvious way for you to make money is, and perhaps even some idea of what you enjoy doing with yourself. Now's the time to make A Plan. The biggest problem most soon-to-be-ex college students have is they try to make their life plan senior year of college. Forget it. You don't know anything, you cannot possibly make a life plan. This isn't meant to be insulting, it's just the result of watching myself and many other people all do this at once. Don't even bother -- figure out where you want to live (i.e. geographically) and what job you can get. That's all for now.
But returning to the timeline, now it's been between 1 and 3 years since you got out of college, and you've moved approximately once and quit at least one job. If you haven't yet, quit it right now. I don't care how secure it is. Quit. If you don't, you'll wish you had.
So now's the time to make your Plan. This Plan should have two steps:
Step one is very, very, hard. Really hard. Most people never accomplish it. But then, most people never realize they have to, so you're already ahead. If you successfully complete step one, step two is a breeze. It'll happen by itself, without you even noticing.
- Figure out what you want to do.
- Do it.
Alright, that's all I can really say is definitely true. The above comment comprises pretty much "What I Know About Life" so far. Ain't much is it? Well, it's more than I knew in college.
Out of curiosity, how many of you did I just describe? I don't know if this is a uniquely American, late 20th century life path, or if it's been roughly the same for decades, and across cultures. Anyone else want to compare and contrast?
Not the real rusty