College graduation season. It’s that time again, and I’m scared because I know exactly what happens around this month every year: panic. So many of you have graduated (or will be graduating) and still have no idea what you want to do with your lives, and you know what? That’s okay! You shouldn’t be stressed about that. In fact, what I’m scared about is that most of you don’t realize how much opportunity lies before you!
If you are in your early twenties, regardless of if you’re graduating from college or not, there are two things you should keep in mind:
- You are entering some of the greatest years of your life.
- This is your time to be massively risk oriented.
This is not the moment to be practical or take the “safe” route. This is NOT the time to get the job Mom always wanted you to get. This is NOT the time to try to make as much money as you can just to save up to buy a sick car, big house, or fancy vacation. This IS the time, however, to realize that you have a five-year window (three for some, eight for others) for you to attack the life that you want to win.
In a COVID-19 world, it’s important that we remain open and able to adjust our expectations. If the pandemic has made anything clear, it’s that those perfect “plans” we have for our lives can go left at any moment. Now more than ever, it’s so important to prioritize health, safety, and living a life we actually enjoy!
That being said, I can already hear the panic. “But Gary, what if I don’t know what I want to do with my life?” Listen, it’s okay if you don’t know what your “craft” is, or what you’re going to focus on for the next several years or decades. It blows me away how much pressure we put on young people – and young people put on themselves – to have their lives figured out. The truth is, “figuring it out” is a forever game. Of course you don’t know what you want to do yet – you haven’t even lived!
The truth is that what you’ve been doing up until now is easy. Classes and school are easy because they’re structured. The real world? It’s hard. It changes every day and there is no curriculum telling you what comes next. The good news is that the hard stuff doesn’t kick in for you for another several years! Why? – because you don’t have all the baggage.
Most of you don’t have children yet. Most of you are not married and have not yet promised your lives to someone else. I understand you might have college loans and I respect that financial debt is a real hardship, but one way or the other, that loan is going to be there whether you use these next five years to build something for yourself or not! I truly believe that you can wake up on your 26th or 27th birthday, start being practical, and still pay off your loans and any other debts. On the other hand, you can never wake up and get back the precious time you’ve wasted living by other people’s rules. Leaving the opportunity of “going for it” in those five years (especially if you have entrepreneurial DNA) is a mistake and actually lacks practicality.
Understand that the land grab for happiness starts right now. With that said, here are 12 great ideas to explore post college. Why? Because you’re young and you can!
* Note *
When I say “risk,” I am talking specifically about going after professional, personal, and creative opportunities that bring you happiness. I do not encourage unsafe behavior related to safety during the pandemic. As always, be safe, smart, and follow recommended public health guidelines!
1. TRAVEL AND LEARN
Too many kids never leave the town they grew up in, or they take one study-abroad trip in college before working their lives away. No more. Now is the time to go travel the country or the world! Grab a few buddies and take a road trip. Make use of your network and couch surf with friends in other states. Too expensive? Go sell or flip some shit you’re not using and travel hack for inexpensive flights. Don’t know how to get started? Check out my article, The Ultimate Flip: How To Find Free Stuff to Sell on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Ebay. It’s possible.
2. TAKE ON RISKS
Now is when you go high risk, high reward. How you define “risk” is up to you and what you’ve cared about up to this point. It might be “risky” to go against your parents wishes. For someone else, “risk” might be quitting the safe, stable job they hate for a lower paying job they think they’ll love. Either way, you only perceive these things as risks because they don’t live up to the opinions of other people. You don’t want to disappoint, but guess what? That’s mentally hard – fake hard. The threat is mostly – or completely – in your head.
That discomfort you feel isn’t because you’re doing something wrong, it’s because you’re doing something different – something you actually want to do. If you can get past that fear and realize that risks come with rewards, you’ll be great.
3. FIND AN INTERNSHIP
So many people think internships are about learning an industry and gaining skills. In reality, that’s about 3% of the equation. I think the biggest value by far of being an intern is in building relationships. Don’t be a wallflower – network your ass off, put time on people’s calendars to meet over lunch. I don’t care where you intern, but you need to have a “shake hands and kiss babies” type of mentality. Meet everyone, be kind, take initiative, and please understand that the human connections you make will be the only true ROI of an internship.
4. START YOUR OWN BUSINESS
Even if you’re about to graduate college, most people stay stuck in a “high school” mentality where they’re too afraid of what other people will think or say to actually execute on their ideas. If you want to start a business – and I’m talking, you have true entrepreneurial DNA – you’re going to have to get over it. Get over the noise, get over the trolls, get over the comments from the peanut gallery, put your head down, and do the work.
If you’re just starting out, you’re going to want to leverage social media to land clients. Provide value through written and video content on platforms like LinkedIn. Present your target audience with solutions to their specific problems. Once a week, make up a hypothetical scenario with a hypothetical budget, and actually teach people how your business would provide value. If you’re consistent in posting this kind of content every week, as often as you can, I believe in my heart that the clients will appear – but first, you have to give yourself permission to actually start the business!
5. TAKE A LOWER PAYING JOB YOU LOVE
If you didn’t know by now, more money does not equal more happiness. If you have a job with a great salary that pays for your great life in your great house…but you HATE your life Monday through Friday, that’s not winning. Winning can look like taking a different job for lower pay in a new industry that you’re excited about. Read this article if you want to quit your job but don’t know how. Trust me, there’s more to life than living for the weekend. Go find a job you enjoy and stop living for the weekend.
6. LAUNCH A CREATIVE PROJECT WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Go start that podcast, that band, that startup, that YouTube channel, that comedy troupe – whatever! If it’s on your heart and you have a couple of buddies down for the cause, do it. Use your twenties to flex your creative muscles as much as you can.
7. TASTE DIFFERENT THINGS
This one is for those of you that don’t know where to start because you don’t know what your passions are. If you don’t know, good news – you can try literally anything. TASTE things. Try different jobs, industries, and projects just to get a sense for how they make you feel. If you ever feel pressured to do one thing or fit neatly into a box, just remember that I do garage sales, sports cards, wine, business, and now, NFTs. There IS no box.
8. BUILD INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Making connections is key even outside of the office. Not a social butterfly? No excuse. Social media makes it easier than ever to insert yourself into existing conversations and build relationships with people by sharing your $0.02. If you’re not sure what I mean, check out my article, The $1.80 Strategy to Grow Your Business or Brand. This works on virtually every social platform from Instagram to Twitter and LinkedIn. THIS is how you network in 2021.
9. BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
I was 30 years old before I made my first piece of content – don’t be like me. Start early aka right NOW! No matter where you want to go with your life and career, you should be documenting everything you possibly can. Make shit – write, draw, paint, sing, film, edit – and then POST it. Put yourself out there, provide value, and build a community around just being you.
10. GO TRY TO BECOME BEYONCE
You probably think I’m kidding but I’m 100% serious. Too many young people half-ass their dreams of a music career because someone – mom, dad, ex-girlfriend – told them it wasn’t practical. The truth is, what they’re really afraid of is that they’re not good enough to “make it” in music. If music is what you love, you should absolutely pursue it, BUT you’ve also got to be willing to put in the reps.
Are people not responding to your music? Go release a song every day on SoundCloud or TikTok until something pops. Go produce 100 beats and collab with other artists. The simple fact of the matter is, if you want to be Beyoncé, you’ve got to bleed like Beyoncé.
11. FIND YOUR IDOL AND WORK FOR FREE
I believe unpaid internships and work are highly underrated. So many people miss the point. In your early twenties, it’s not about stacking money, it’s about stacking opportunities. Want to be an artist or a designer or an entrepreneur or whatever? Go find your idol – that person whose life you want to live – and work for them for free. Soak up all the knowledge, resources, and network access they have to offer. That’s where the real payment is.
Spoiler alert: it won’t be easy. You’ll need to get comfortable with rejection and being “left on read” by the people you reach out to. None of that matters. It literally takes one person and one response to get things going, so keep going, keep messaging, keep emailing until you get the “yes” you need.
12. LIVE WITH 8 ROOMMATES
Some of you are probably freaking out, wondering how you can actually do any of this without real money. My answer to you would be that sometimes, you have to be willing to take a step back financially to take a step forward in life. These are the years where you can live in an apartment with eight roommates and split rent. These are the years when you can afford to eat inexpensive, crappy food. Too many people are unwilling to humble themselves and downgrade their lifestyle, even if it means upgrading their happiness! Ask yourself, what’s really important?
I truly hope that you’ve gotten something from this article. This season often ends up being scary and stressful when it should be one of the most exciting and freeing periods of a person’s life. My parting words to you…You. Have. TIME. Breathe, taste things, and do stuff you actually enjoy. You have the rest of your lives to be practical.
If you enjoyed this article, it would mean so much to me if you shared it on your favorite platform, or sent it to someone you know who’s about to graduate from college. Thank you!