The post-grad life so far has been short but frustrating. Some days, I am happy, eager, and ready to conquer the world. Other days, I am lethargic and nervous. It’s a huge life change and upon reading about this period, I found that I am far from alone. This list contains some of the best, most useful, and most inspiring material I’ve come across so far, including some subjects that are barely touched upon in mainstream education, such as debunking the conventional wisdom of “Follow your passion!” and exploring the psychological side of the jobhunt. Hope these articles help you guys as much as they helped me.
On the myth of “passion” and finding work that resonates with you:
What You’ll Wish You’d Known by Paul Graham
Paul Graham is a programmer and venture capitalist who founded Y Combinator. There is seldom, if any, a dull essay from Graham but this one especially struck a chord with me. He debunks the conventional and trite advice we always hear: “Follow your passions!” Instead, he talks about nourishing your curiosity instead and discovering your “burning question” about the world. It’s a long read but holy hell, it is worth it, especially for people who aren’t quite sure what their passion even is.
Some Thoughts on The Real World by One Who Glimpsed It and Fled by Bill Watterson
Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, delivered this speech to the 1990 graduating class at Kenyon. He talks about how he got fired from what seemed to be his “dream entry job” as a political cartoonist right after college. The link between making a living and your “passion” is complicated and Watterson goes to great length about how to live true to your heart but avoid soul-sucking work.
The Overjustification Effect from You Are Not So Smart
I’ve reference this article many times before and I’ll do it again. The myth: there is nothing better than getting paid to do what you love. The truth: Getting paid to do what you love will sometimes cause your love to wane. People keep advocating, “Follow Your Passion!” and yet totally disregard that there is a psychological dimension to money. The link between the two is often complicated and this is why I’ve decided to personally separate my creativity from my income.
A video by Ramit of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” on combining “passion” with work.
The Passion Trap by Cal Newport
Newport’s study habits blog has been a lifesaver for me in college. He addresses the myth of passion here and presents The Passion Hypothesis: the more emphasis you place on finding work you love, the more unhappy you become when you don’t love every minute of the work you have.
On unconventional job-hunting tactics:
A New Way to Work by Charlie Hoehn
In the video above, Hoehn recalls the painful period after his graduation trying to look for work. There is controversy on the solution he advocates but it’s definitely worth a listen and attempt. Within less than a year, he got incredible job offers and connections from this simple tactic. I know I’m saying you must read everything on here but seriously, WATCH THIS VIDEO! Master the hustle.
(Check out his ebook, which you can find if you google his name)
How to Network Your Way to World-Class Mentors Part 2 by Michael Ellsberg
There is a link to Part 1 at the very beginning but I included Part 2 here in case you decided to skim. I wanted to make sure you see the tactics he outlines though it is very important to understand the foundation of his networking techniques. I love collecting helpful mentors; they make your journey so much easier. Mentors will light up shortcuts, provide valuable warnings, and bestow incredible advice.
8 Steps to Getting What You Want Without Formal Credentials from 4-Hour Workweek by Michael Ellsberg
Ellsberg writes about the unconventional routes people take to achieve their goals and tells anecdotes of millionaires who got where they are without college degrees or previous experience in their current fields.
How to Stand Out and Get Hired by Ramit
One reason why I love Ramit’s articles is that he is realistic and addresses the psychological barriers we impose on ourselves. Here, he mentions the misconception that “if you work really hard, you’ll win.” That’s a large chunk of the equation but you set yourself up for disappointment if that’s your only tool. Your skill/talent should be the ace in the hole, not the sole weapon. Ramit challenges you to be specific and avoid common resume “fluff,” to master OVERpreparation, and reaching DEEP into your networks, not just sending out emails to a few people you talk to the most.
4 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Put On Your Resume from The Daily Muse
This a good supplement to Hoehn’s video and will give you ideas on productive things to do while you look for work/build your resume.
5 Tips For Emailing Extremely Busy People from 4-Hour Workweek
Tim Ferriss takes an email someone sent him and specifies what components made it more likely to receive a response: be brief, be specific, and be CLEAR about next actions.
Recap of Round One Responses to Assistant Gig by Tucker Max
Love him or hate him, this series is not just funny, it’s incredibly insightful. He documents the experience of trying to hire a research assistant for which he invited applicants. It is incredible just how many terrible, unqualified responses he got back and the best thing is that he dissects what made a terrible response and what made a great response. This made me realize that even if I am one out of thousands of applicants, I can simply make myself stand out from a great number of them by just following directions. Check out part 2 and 3 too.
Is “Dream Job” a Reality?, an interview of Ramit by NPR
Again, Ramit never fails to deliver and he reiterates the importance of overprep and how to effectively network to gain knowledge of your target industries and companies instead of firing off random resumes.
On the emotional side of graduation and jobhunting:
4 Ways to Defeat Jobhunt Desparation from The Daily Muse
One component of the jobhunt and post-grad life is the psychological toll of expectation, rejection, anticipation, and disappointment. Graduation is a drastic life change and it’s unfortunate that there are such few resources in this realm. Above is a simple article on how to shake up the jobhunt routine so you don’t get stuck in a rut.
The Tyranny of Choice and High Expectations by Marcos Salazar
This is a part of a series on post-college depression and it discusses the difference between “satisficers” and “maximizers” in the context of post-grad life. Not having heard these terms, I found it enlightening as I had no idea there was a difference and that my tendencies as a maximizer made me unnecessarily paranoid and anxious about my future. You can read more about maximizers vs. satisficers on The Happiness Project.
How to Be Happy At Work from Inc.
Happiness begins not in your surroundings but in your mind. This article escorts you through three steps to transforming your attitude to one that better facilitates happiness. Are your personal “rules for happiness” too narrow?
How to Pick Your Next Personal Project from Paper Wings
This blog is primarily geared towards web comic artists but can apply to any creative person out there. I include this podcast here because I strongly feel that everyone needs to embark on a personal project. A personal project challenges you and opens you to new opportunities, gives you a sense of autonomy over at least one part of your life, and provides an outlet for your creative efforts that your first job might not be able to facilitate. (If you haven’t already, read this provoking article on creating output instead of soaking up input: The Dangerous Effects of Reading)
How I Overcame Bipolar II and Saved My Life by Michael Ellsberg
Face it: failure is an integral component of life. Ellsberg divulges the ups and downs of his bipolar disorder, feeling the strength and confidence to conquer the world one month and drowning in despair and self-hatred the next. He shows us his multiple attempts to start different ventures and the emotional toll his disorder wreaked on him. It’s long but wow, it’s hard to stop reading. It’s rare to find someone this candid.
THIS. Good God, read this. This is probably up there as one of the best threads I’ve ever come across on Reddit and it really puts things into perspective. Lots of great advice and you will see a couple patterns in all the responses …
From my conversations with people and their experiences with their post-grad lives, I am discovering that the roads to success are many and varied. I’m still in the middle of my own journey so I can’t say anything conclusive to others who are suffering the same “quarterlife crisis” phenomenon but it is astounding to listen to people’s stories. Some roads to success have included:
- Being extremely draconian and persistant in chasing a job and not giving into compromise (though I’d imagine you’d need a skin thick as hell and the determination of a demigod for this route)
- Taking on a less-than-ideal position in the desired company with plans to move up (become familiar with the company)
- Taking on a relevant position at a less-than-ideal company with plans to transition to a similar position in a better company (gain experience in the position)
- Taking on a position in a recognizable company in a specific industry (to gain “street cred” or a “badge of merit.” A friend of mine graduated with an accounting degree and tackled Ernst and Young to get that exp on her resume; she’s in her early twenties and has incredible mobility now.)
- Taking on a acceptable job and working on meaningful side projects to build resume, connections, or skills (Related: While targeted to artists, check out this podcasts on choosing side projects with a long-term goal in mind and avoiding project “whack-a-mole”)
Most of all, I’ve concluded that the reason why I am scared, anxious, excited, and ambivalent right now if because it’s normal. This is supposed to be a hard period in your life. As young workers, we are building our lives and our reputations and we are bound to make mistakes. You’ve just gotta pay your dues sometimes and work hard. There’s no shortcut.
I end with a profound line I did not expect to get in a movie I thought was just going to be a fun, dumb party flick:
- Dad: Matt, take a shot at something. Don’t think about it too much. Just take a shot.
- Matt: I don’t even know where to aim.
- Dad: Anywhere. Everywhere. Just take wild shots. Just to hear the gun go off.
I worked incredibly hard on cherry-picking articles and putting this together because I genuinely want to help people in my situation. Please help others get access to this content by reblogging or sharing this link. Normally, I wouldn’t ask of this but it’s astounding how prevalent the “quarterlife crisis” phenomenon (and similarly emotionally charged events) happens but no one really talks openly about it. If anything on here can help at least one person, let’s make it happen.
You’ve been in this situation before. You’re about to go to some sort of networking event. There are going to be some awesome people and opportunities you want to catch. You get nervous. You’re anxious. You almost back out but you don’t. “I can do this, I can do this,” you chant to yourself.
You arrive and for the next two hours, you are a total wallflower. You leave, tail between your legs, kicking yourself in the ass for not taking advantage of the event.
This applies to speaking events. Art festivals. Job interviews.
It’s important, you don’t want to fuck it up, and that’s precisely why you freeze up and do terribly.
Over 3 years, I’ve honed a routine that always helps me kick ass, collect awesome leads and opportunities, and leave at least a DECENT (but most of the time, it’s pretty damn good) impression on people you’ll see there:
1. Wake up early. EARLY! Give yourself time to slowly wake up and get ready and eat breakfast. Put on an outfit that makes you feel AWESOME and invincible.
2. Craft a very short “intro” for yourself. People will inevitably ask “What do you do?” or “What brings you here?” Be very brief and concise! You can mention your occupation, your side projects, or your current pursuits. Three variations:
“Hi, I’m Havana! [What do you do, Havana?] I’m a recent graduate looking for a marketing position at a small-to-midsized company in media or tech. It’s broad, but I’m openminded right now.”
“Hi, I’m Havana! [What do you do, Havana?] I’m currently working on an animated post-apocalyptic sci-fi and my team and I are trying to pitch it to networks this year.”
“Hi, I’m Havana! [What do you do, Havana?] I’m a recent grad who is shopping around for a job in marketing for a small company that deals with tech or media. For the time being, I’m working on a supernatural graphic novel set in Afghanistan.”
These answers are short and they give a tiny peek at what I’m working on AND it gives easy talking points for the other person to work with.
Also: DON’T RAMBLE ABOUT YOURSELF. More importantly, don’t focus on ONLY yourself or your needs, either. I would also like to add don’t obnoxiously brag about yourself but that might be asking for too much.
3. Come up with 3 “emergency” conversation boosters. It is inevitable that you’ll stumble upon a conversation that stalls at one point to the much-dreaded awkward pause. Don’t be too frightened by them; it happens to literally everyone at some point. That’s where you can jump in with a pre-planned conversation reviver. Some ideas:
“So how long have you been working with your company/business? What’d you do before that?”
“So what is one project you’re excited to be working on right now?”
“How exactly did you hear about this event?”
Don’t worry about coming off as an idiot; people are usually quietly thankful if you save them from the awkward pause. Plus, you can learn more about the person! Hurrah!
4. Gather talking points. Read up on relevant headlines for the event. If it’s a panel on current interactive marketing campaigns best and worst practices, skim over Mashable for a bit. If it’s a mixer-plus-lecture on the current Palestinian bid for statehood, read 1-2 articles or op-eds on Al Jazeera. This will give you more conversation ammo and get your head “in the zone” before the even even starts.
Now, if it’s an interview or a very important one-on-one meeting, construct different talking points based on what you WANT to talk about. List 3 quick bullet points/examples or anecdotes about your greatest strengths or accomplishment so they come easily for you in an interview or culminate, through research, 3 deep and provoking questions for the person you’re meeting with. It’s important to research them because you don’t want to simply get information you could get through a simple Google search. Instead, ask them to elaborate on something you’ve read about them.
5. If you’ve gotta drink coffee, DRINK IT HELLA EARLY! Bad breath can make you repellent at an event and you don’t want something like that to get in the way of creating connections and opportunity for yourself. Drink it early and either brush your teeth, gargle mouthwash, drink tons of water and a handful of Altoids, or WHATEVER, make sure that at LEAST your hygiene makes you bearable to be around.
And if they serve coffee at the event, for the love of God, don’t take it!
Alternatively, drink some strong black tea, a 5 Hour Energy, or an energy drink if you really need the pep.
6. Do vocal exercises and then rock out to music real loud on the way there. Yep. When I get in the car, I either practice my interview answers or introduction (you can do this before you drive out, too). This allows me to know what the words sound like out of my mouth and reduce the “umms” when I actually deliver it. I also do vocal exercises to warm up my voice and add variety and enthusiasm in it later.
Blast high energy music that pumps you up so that you are filled with awesome-not-anxious energy for the event. I always pump up “Born This Way” or “Marry the Night” by Lady Gaga myself. :) Don’t be afraid to sing and dance in the car. You WILL look a fool but you’ll animate yourself and give yourself a lot more pep.
BONUS: spark up a convo w anyone and everyone you see on the way. If you’re stopping by Starbucks, ask your barista how she’s doing. If you have to stop by the store to grab a lint roller, spark up a conversation with the cashier. Make eye contact, smile, and say “hi” to people you pass by. Do not think about it JUST DO IT. Who the hell cares, you won’t see these people again. This desensitizes you to sparking contact with strangers so the event won’t be so scary.
7. Arrive early. This will keep you from the feeling of overwhelm that you get when you walk into a FULL room. Talk to the few people scattered around and if you can, talk to the host or organizer. Make it seem like an innocent accident if you feel weird about it. At StartupRiot, arriving early helped me park a conversation with a guy I met with last year. I asked him for some advice on talking to recruiters since it was my first StartupRiot. Not only did his insight empower me and help me the rest of the event, I made a great impression on him as someone who takes initiative and now, I have an interview with his company in early March! That’s how it’s done, son.
At another meetup, I also used my early arrival as an excuse to help out with the setup so that I could meet other event organizers. I’ve even helped them greet guests as they entered. Suddenly, I am making an impression on a majority of the people who are there.
8. After the first 15 minutes, just step aside and evaluate yourself real quick. What’s working right now? What’s not? Maybe you need to trim your intro. Maybe you need to mention another project bc it doesn’t seem like your intro is getting any interested response.
For example, I changed:
“I’m Havana! I’m a recent graduate who spent the last 3 years building her own design business. I love tech and worked with a lot of people who were also into technology and interactive media. Last year, I interned at an advertising company and helped them with their market research. Right now, I’m just working on a couple of personal projects and shopping around for a position in marketing for a small company that values entrepreneurship. I saw that you were hiring for a marketing position, can you tell me more about it?”
Augh. What the hell was I rambling on about?! I could tell I was jamming too much info at them. I changed around my intro:
“I’m Havana! I’m a recent graduate who spent the last 3 years building her own design business. I found that I really enjoyed developing marketing campaigns for my business and my clients. I’m shopping for a marketing position in a small company that needs entrepreneurial people and I saw you guys were hiring for one. Can you tell me more about it?”
It’s not MUCH shorter but it’s at least more focused.
If it’s hard to get started with conversations, start talking to fellow wallflowers. They are guests as well and not only will you break out of your own shyness, you’ll help other people too!
And on that note, focus on helping other people instead of “What can this person do for me?”
9. Slow down and try to have fun with it. People respond more to energy and enthusiasm than anything else, I’ve found. Don’t take everything so seriously, learnlearnlearn from the people there, and take comfort in having a prepared list of talking points.
I could speak more about the actual process of networking itself but I’ll save that for later if folks are interested. This is MY personal routine to prepare for events and it’s been tried-and-true. I hope it’ll work for other people too.
From Radical Honesty:
[Radical Honesty] was founded by a sixty-six-year-old Virginia-based psychotherapist named Brad Blanton. He says everybody would be happier if we just stopped lying. Tell the truth, all the time. This would be radical enough — a world without fibs — but Blanton goes further. He says we should toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, say it. Confess to your boss your secret plans to start your own company. If you’re having fantasies about your wife’s sister, Blanton says to tell your wife and tell her sister. It’s the only path to authentic relationships. It’s the only way to smash through modernity’s soul-deadening alienation. Oversharing? No such thing.
Yes. I know. One of the most idiotic ideas ever, right up there with Vanilla Coke and giving Phil Spector a gun permit. Deceit makes our world go round. Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.
And yet…maybe there’s something to it. Especially for me. I have a lying problem. Mine aren’t big lies. They aren’t lies like “I cannot recall that crucial meeting from two months ago, Senator.” Mine are little lies. White lies. Half-truths. The kind we all tell. But I tell dozens of them every day. “Yes, let’s definitely get together soon.” “I’d love to, but I have a touch of the stomach flu.” “No, we can’t buy a toy today — the toy store is closed.” It’s bad. Maybe a couple of weeks of truth-immersion therapy would do me good.
I e-mail Blanton to ask if I can come down to Virginia and get some pointers before embarking on my Radical Honesty experiment. He writes back: “I appreciate you for apparently having a real interest and hope you’re not just doing a cutesy little superficial dipshit job like most journalists.”
I’m already nervous. I better start off with a clean slate. I confess I lied to him in my first e-mail — that I haven’t ordered all his books on Amazon yet. I was just trying to impress upon him that I was serious about his work. He writes back: “Thanks for your honesty in attempting to guess what your manipulative and self-protective motive must have been.”
Wow. Hang this one up there with the 21-Day No-Complaint Challenge under “Things I Want to Try But Am Too Chickenshit To Do.”
But yes, this article is definitely worth a read! Very interesting, though I’d imagine it’d be EXTREMELY hard to implement at first and it’d be exhausting to deal with all the mini-confrontations you’d face in a day.
But damn, some of the benefits in the article are attractive: liberation from untruths and resentment, the thrill of social candor, the OPEN and genuine communication, and the “creation of possibility.”
And Blanton is hardcore about this. He even chastises the author for confronting him with the truth via email:
Blanton responds quickly. First, he doesn’t like that I expressed my resentment by e-mail. I should have come to see him. “What you don’t seem to get yet, A.J., is that the reason for expressing resentment directly and in person is so that you can experience in your body the sensations that occur when you express the resentment, while at the same time being in the presence of the person you resent, and so you can stay with them until the sensations arise and recede and then get back to neutral — which is what forgiveness is.”
Shef and I went through a period in our relationship where we were diligently, ruthlessly honest with each other. Some confessions were cringe-worthy. Discoveries were, at times, painful.
And we had never felt closer and more intimate with each other than we did then.
My hesitation in either of these challenges reveals to me something about myself (and perhaps most people?), however: I avoid confrontation through demonizing my adversities (i.e. complaining) and cushioning people’s feelings. I cling to the “safety” of complaint and the safety of white lies. Doing one of these exercises (though implementing them as part of your actual lifestyle seems like more of a good idea) would definitely be a good way to chip away at that fear of confrontation.
Now to grow the balls to take on either of these challenges ..
This is from Julia Cameron’s incredible book, The Artist’s Way. This excerpt on creative perfectionism resonated with me so much that I just had to recreate the passage to disseminate to everyone. Hopefully, it pull you out of your own vicious cycle.
Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop— an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck inside the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.
Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details just right. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity […] The perfectionist writes, paints, creates with one eye on her audience. Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results.
For the perfectionist, there ar eno first drafts, rough sketches, warm-up exercises. Every draft is meant to be final, perfect, set in stone. […] The perfectionist is never satisfied. The perfectionist never says, “This is pretty good. I think I’ll just keep going.”
To the perfectionist, there is always room for improvement. The perfectionist calls this humility. In reality, it is egotism. It is pride that makes us want to write a perect script, paint a perfect painting, perform a perfect audition monologue.
Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. Perfectionism is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough— that we should try again.
A book is never finished. But at a certain point, you stop writing it and go onto the next thing. […] That is a normal part of creativity— letting go.