Lessons I’ve learned the year after graduating college

In 2017, I decided to walk away from my career in cosmetology to start anew and get a degree in interior design. It took me a little over two years to complete the Associates of Science degree, and I learned a lot along the way. I would find out, however, that the real learning takes place after you graduate. Here are some things I learned about life after graduating college.

1. Getting jobs is hard, with or without a degree.

After I graduated, I applied for several jobs that coincided with my major. None of them so much as gave me a call back, so I switched gears and took a job in a different field, one I was more familiar with anyway – photography and social media. 

Never mind all that you hear about companies being short-staffed and unable to find workers. I put myself out there so many times and received so few calls back, that at one point I wondered if something about me just made me unhireable. I knew I needed to change my approach, so I changed my resume. I swapped out the black-and-white, basic-looking resume template I had been using originally, for a colored resume (a cream background with brown text headings) that had a space for a professional photo, where I placed the latest professional photo of myself that I had.

Using a resume template with a professional picture of me on it helped me get calls back from jobs I applied for, by leaps and bounds. One day, after updating my resume, I applied for a multitude of jobs (across several different fields, not just ones that aligned with my major), thinking I wouldn’t hear back from many of them. Well, the day I applied, I started getting calls back, and those calls continued throughout the following week. I ended up declining most, because I had already over-applied to begin with. I had some interviews, but nothing really stuck. I ended up keeping my photography/social media job.

2. I don’t even love what I majored in.

Here’s the thing: I went back to college on sort of a whim.

I had just moved into my own apartment for the first time, and I had done a little bit of decorating. Buying a rug here, hanging curtains there, and other little design jobs in between.

The thing about me is I get “carried away,” as my mom used to call it when I was growing up. I get a little too excited sometimes. I was so excited about all the progress I was making with my apartment, that I thought going to school for interior design would be eye-opening and fulfilling to me.

But the thing about interior design school is that a mere fraction of the time you spend in school is spent on “fun” design tasks like picking out fabrics and colors for rooms. The rest is decidedly harder, less-fun work, like drawing floor plans in AutoCAD or worse, by hand. I realized at some point during interior design school that this wasn’t really what I wanted to do for a living.

It wasn’t that it was too hard, necessarily, but it was far more boring than what I had anticipated. Perhaps, working in the interior design field is more fun than going to interior design school is. But I may never know for sure, since I have hardly worked on anything interior design related since I graduated.

3. Being really busy is tough and sometimes stressful, but maybe we do our best work when under pressure.

Looking at my journal entries from one year ago, I can gather that this time last year I was stressed, overworked, and looking forward to the end of college, despite being a little scared of what was to come.

At one point, I was splitting my time between college coursework, a work-intensive internship, my job, and my side hustles (my YouTube channel and blog). It was a lot to keep up with, and one theme I find commonly throughout my work from that time in my life was that I was generally stressed out.

But there’s something else I notice about my blog posts from that time and journal entries and videos – there were a lot more of them. Was I more productive because there were more deadlines placed on everything around me? It seems that way, like the more stress I was under, the more work I produced. Perhaps, sometimes, there’s a correlation between stress and productivity. Of course, too much stress can result in the opposite – less productivity, so it’s important to stay calm when you have a lot of tasks.

4. College is great for learning new things and challenging yourself, but it’s not completely necessary for everyone

After going back to college when my career was already going pretty well, I’ve come to realize I didn’t really need college to get to where I am today. The job I have now has nothing to do with my degree, and the skills I use for it are ones I taught myself.

However, I don’t know if I would be the same person I am today without having gone through the college process. Prerequisite courses like English and math classes provided me with newfound knowledge and abilities I didn’t have before. I was already a decent writer before I went back to school, but I think my skills increased from it.

I really feel like college is great for people looking to learn something new, hone new skills, and become a stronger, harder-working version of themselves. But I don’t think college is a necessity like I kind of thought it was when I went into it.

There is a lot you can do in this life with self-taught skills and the lack of a college degree. As I realized along the way, having an eye-catching resume is sometimes possibly more important than having a degree. I’m glad I got mine, because I don’t think I would be the same person without the things I learned along the way. But I don’t think it was really a necessity for me to go back to school.

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