twelve months

photo by Nikki Henson
It's been a full year since I graduated from college, y'all, and I'm not looking back. I can confidently say that this has been the best year of my whole life. My friendships are stronger, my skills are more developed, and my sights are set much higher than they were when I was in school. School came with grades and tardiness and classroom politics. I'm not saying that these things go away entirely, but they don't oppress me in the real world the way they did in college. Finishing assignments had me working towards a single goal: passing the class. Now, each assignment is an opportunity to learn, connect, engage, and move myself forward in a much bigger way (the way it should be!). The short-term goal of graduating isn't looming over my head and giving me a reason to be successful; life is giving me a reason to be successful. And you know, for a year out of college, I think I have been pretty successful.

I'm not working for (or even working towards) Glamour Magazine, nor am I knee-deep in GRE flash cards or grad school apps. I've found a path that feels right, but I'm not afraid to hike off the trail a little if it means I'm learning something about myself or trying something new.

So, here's where I stand, career-wise, one year out of college: 
+ I work two part-time jobs //  one as an advocate for a dating abuse helpline, and one as a social media manager for a wedding photographer. 
+ I also have two (and a half?) business ventures // branding and social media consulting for wedding vendors under the name Here Comes the Brand Consulting, wardrobe consulting and personal shopping, and I s'pose this little blog counts as a sort of business venture too.
+ I've got another big career goal up my sleeve for the next five years // not to give too much away, but I've always wanted to start a non profit program for girls, and let's just say I hit the jackpot with this idea.

So, what have I learned in the past year that might be useful to you?

Say no. Say no when it doesn't feel right. I can't stress this enough. Only you know what you can or will really do, and if this isn't it, don't get involved. Another opportunity will come along. Just because Samantha took on a fourth freelancing opportunity in addition to her full time publishing job and her part-time hostessing gig doesn't mean that you have to or that you should. Samantha has different goals, a different support system, and different neurosis than you do.  

Say yes. I know, now it looks like I just lied to you in the whole paragraph above, so why even keep reading? But keep reading. Say yes to all the things you always wanted to do. Sick of applying for jobs that don't actually fit your qualifications? Or, worse, ones that you don't actually want to work? Make your own job. I know I sound like a crazy person, but I'm not the whole one who's done it. Every company, no matter how big or small, started because someone saw a need and decided to fill it. That could be you! I'm not saying you should quit your stable job or stop browsing job boards altogether (though I did). Unfortunately, it takes a little bit of cash to make a little bit of cash, so plan ahead and save up what you can. If there's something you really want to do, commit to making it happen. Say yes. I believe in you.

Invest in your relationships. Networking is always portrayed as a quantity-over-quality game. You have to meet people to know people, right? Sort of. Seeing the same event planner at three different events, but not ever seeing her outside of networking events, does not a relationship make. Networking can be so superficial and it's hard to make those connections develop if you're only ever seeing each other once a month. Instead of introducing yourself to everyone in the room, spend time getting to know someone you're interested in working with. Also, networking can be paralyzingly terrifying. If you're skipping out on an event because of the pressure or the anxiety is just too much, use that time to build another relationship. Send an email to someone else you've met or, even better, offer to grab drinks with them in a less intimidating setting. Twice now I've missed networking opportunities to have dinner with women I'm genuinely interested in knowing better. Find these people in your industry or community and reach out to them on a one-to-one basis. 

The most important people you can do this with are those you whom you want to be your mentors. They are out there and they want to help you. Reach out to them, be cognizant and courteous of their time, and listen. Like with any potential employer (not that a mentor will eventually hire you), do your research before meeting them, whether that's a simple Google search or reading through their website. Don't worry too much about asking dumb questions because they've all been there and, if they're a good mentor, they'll be honest with you about their experience. Just remember to ask something so that your time together is productive!

So congrats, recent grad! You made it! It's okay to be scared, but be really, super excited too. I am not an expert on post-grad life by any stretch of the imagination and can only speak from my personal experience, but if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or email me!

8 comments

  1. This is such a good post for current graduates to read! Isn't it wild how much life changes once the typical undergrad experience ends?

    PS-Can we PLEASE live closer? I hear us northerners are quite fun this time of year :-)

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  2. you are amazing.
    so when are you going to come visit sf so we can be best friends?

    K

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  3. Great post! You look so cute. Adorable photo!

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  4. Thanks for sharing, such an awesome list!

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  5. Ah, Nicole, this is JUST what I needed to read! Looking forward to these post-graduation years even more now :)

    Also, let's def meet up sometime, I'd love to hear about all of these exciting things in your life!

    -Jeff

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  6. I struggle every day with saying "yes" and saying "no". I tend to over-commit myself to things and then end up kicking myself. But at the same time I like to say "yes" to things that I know/think I will enjoy. Definitely can be a win-lose situation! keep staying strong!

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  7. this is an awesome list. it's so easy for me to focus on my "big" goals that i miss the opportunity to grow and learn in everyday life. you are an awesome chick with a fantastic career path ahead of you!!!

    -Jenna Brianne <3

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  8. Nicole I love this post it is so incredibly relevant to where so many young women are at right now. You are doing a wonderful job and most importantly, working at YOUR pace (essential.) Wishing you continued success and happiness xo

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