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How To Stay Sane (And Hopeful) Early In Your Career

It’s hard to not compare yourself to other recent graduates that seem to doing so much better, but these goals are more productive.

How To Stay Sane (And Hopeful) Early In Your Career
[Photo: Flickr user Md saad andalib]

Since graduating from the University of Notre Dame in May, I was passed over for what I thought was my dream job. I busied myself with four part-time, freelance, or temporary jobs, all at the same time. I taught myself how to code on the job. I covered my first New York Fashion Week. I enjoyed the chaos of a full-scale company move, to an open floor plan no less.

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Now, as my four-day-a-week temporary position comes to a close, I’m back in the job search game and contemplating what’s next along with thousands of other 2014 graduates.

Whether you’re still looking for a job, hating loving the one you have, loving the one you have, tallying up student loans in grad school, or bouncing from one temporary/part-time/freelance position to the next, we as 2014 graduates are facing our first full calendar year without the comfort of school. Our first calendar year without the comfort of the phrase, “Well I just graduated in May.” It’s our first full year of “adult life,” and we’re feeling like 2015 is the year things are supposed to start coming together. Here are some ways for deal with life after college.

Don’t fall into the comparison trap

Hey, it’s great that your Facebook friends are: making six figures, backpacking around Europe, interviewing celebrities, killing it at his or her respective dream job. It really is great. Be happy for them, and don’t fall into classic Facebook-induced jealousy. Everyone has their own struggles that don’t necessarily make it onto social media. Dole out congratulations and well wishes all over the place, but don’t forget to give yourself credit, too.

Never, ever, utter the words “I should have been a [finance, engineering, accounting, fill in the blank] major.”

Hopefully, you majored in whatever you majored in because you enjoyed it and were good at it. If that’s the case (and even if it isn’t!), there’s no point in regretting it now. No major is a magical guarantee of success. All of your choices have brought you to this point, and now it’s about what you do from here.

Stop starting sentences with “I feel like I should.”

I feel like I should be further along in my career, I feel like I should know exactly what I want to do…none of this is productive. “I feel like I should” in itself is never a good reason to do something, and worrying about vague notions like this is a complete waste of time. If you feel like you deserve to, say, be making more money, don’t whine about it–do something about it. For the most part, sentences that start with this phrase only cause problems.

Take better advantage of my alumni network

Granted, this is one of those moments when I should give myself some credit. Over the past seven months I have gone out of my way to network, and in the past I’ve even gotten jobs simply by reaching out to fellow ND alumni on LinkedIn. But with so many alumni events going on in my area, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be attending most of them. This is the time when your college alumni organization really wants to give you a hand, so sign up to be a member, get over “feeling awkward,” and attend the events.

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Stay open to unexpected opportunities

Like I said before, this summer I went through a long interview process for what I thought was the perfect job, and just barely lost out. Now, I’m so relieved that I didn’t get that job, because so many other (better) opportunities have opened for me in the meantime. Let’s all just be honest with ourselves: none of us really know where we’ll be in ten, even five years. Even if you think you know, stay open and loose on your feet. Many of the greatest career developments happen when you pivot into an unexpected opportunity.

Negotiate job offers, even though it’s tough

We’ve all heard the stats: If you don’t negotiate your first job offer, you’re likely to miss out on about $650,000 over the course of your career. As someone who writes about the wage gap and encourages women to ask for more, negotiating my own salary should come naturally right? Ha, I wish. When someone offers you a job, or even in an interview when they ask for your salary requirements, it’s so mind-bendingly difficult to ask for a slightly higher number. But again, as someone who writes about the wage gap regularly, I have a responsibility to practice what I preach. So in 2015, no matter how much easier it is to not, I will do the research, gather my confidence, and ask for more.

This article originally appeared in Levo and is reprinted with permission.

Kelsey Manning works for former Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Kate White and is a freelance writer.

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