April 9, 2009

Moving On: Leaving campus is not always easy!

Graduation is a time of great excitement. It is what every student is waiting for and looking forward to. Your life is about to really begin. The commencement speaker will routinely say something about it being a brand new start as you launch out into the world.

But launching out on to a new career path is not always easy, especially during this time of recession. Yes, there are definitely opportunities and there is good reason to feel excited, even if you are still working on the job search. Yes, you will find a job and tremendous satisfaction. You do not qualify to be permanently unemployed. The average length of time it takes to get a job is three to six months. It takes time and it takes a concerted effort. This is not a casual walk in the park. It is hard work to get a job. And you may have to do things you never imagined doing, like volunteering.

In addition, as you move to the next thing, what you will probably find is that moving from campus into the world of work (or back home) is a huge adjustment. In this economy, family matters. (They are the people who you can really depend on for support). Life is no longer an instant party or an instant team meeting. You may find yourself somewhat isolated as you figure out your daily plan. This is true for the new grad as well as the newly laid off worker ... You will need to become self-directed instead of being driven by work or classes.

I have met with multiple people in the last few months who have been out of school for four to six months or who have been out of work for a period of time. One new graduate was trying to re-focus on his job search and career development plan. Another, my daughter Elizabeth, is busy adjusting to a new job and living on her own.

What I learned from both of these people is that the adjustment was difficult. The young man moved home to live with his parents. Elizabeth lived at home here in Sacramento a bit, stayed with family for a while in Washington DC (while making contacts), and then lived next with two different aunts in the Bay Area.

They were both quite welcome at home, but it is a lot different living at home after you've been out there on your own. It is not your kitchen, your friends are not just around the corner or down the hall, and there are no parties when you walk out your front door.

Elizabeth told me that being in school was like belonging to a "giant book club." She was learning and reading constantly, working on projects with others, and there was always someone there to talk to about new ideas and events. There was also always time available for whatever: to linger over coffee, to go to the gym, to keep up on her blog and on Facebook, to visit a museum or to go out dancing. We could have long talks by phone and I was the only one who might feel rushed. Now, her days are busy from early morning until after dinner. She used to walk to school. Now she is on bus, or BART or bike and sometimes all three.

Be prepared for this new reality. Work (and looking for work) is not Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or just Tuesday and Thursday. It is every day and all day long. You cannot just pop out of bed and throw on jeans, t-shirt and a baseball cap and wonder what next. Everyday you have to look professional or at least sane ... (Slobs don't get Jobs!). The friends who were always there are busy with their own lives. If you are living at home, your parents will expect you to pick up your clothes, keep your room clean and put the dishes in the dishwasher before you leave the kitchen - even as you spend your time looking for work.

As anxious as you might now be to get out of school, you will probably find that you will long for the days when you could stroll across campus and lounge in the student union. In the end, you will adjust and you will find that the career world is a whole new frontier in which you can reinvent yourself (repeatedly). You will survive and thrive ... But keep in mind that it is not always going to be easy.

Copyright: Cici Mattiuzzi