Hey Graduates-Here’s Your Introduction to the Real World

When I left college, I had no idea how to get along in the real world. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. 4 years of education at a liberal arts school hadn’t prepared me for this.

How did I find my purpose? I started by doing Vipassana meditation in a 10 day retreat. By the way, this is free, and anyone can do it, and you don’t have to believe in a religion to do it. It was powerful, and I highly recommend it.

Here are some ideas that will help you survive in the world after college.

DISCLAIMER: These first three ideas are mainly aimed towards white people who went to homogeneous small liberal arts colleges. (Like me! Hey! Why do so many of us gravitate towards the NP sector? Because we can afford to live on an internship stipend and our families will support us. Plus guilt. See below.)  If that’s not you, skip down to #4.

Idea 1: Not everyone has to agree with you. It’s okay to be uncomfortable sometimes. Build the skill of asking questions of new people and being uncomfortable. Diversity makes us stronger-and getting to know someone with a different life experience than you is going to make you a better person. Even if that person has done things you personally would never do. You can learn a lot from them. If you don’t believe this is a skill you need to learn, think again. You’ll be talking with and working with people from all sorts of backgrounds-and finding ways to find common ground with them is going to help you get hired, keep your job, and move on up. Plus this skill will help you NOT OTHER the people you might be helping with your nonprofit. This is a crucial skill.

Idea 2: Dressing up for a job interview or dressing up to go to work is not selling out. It’s a uniform. You know, like doctors, janitors, nurses, lawyers, and judges wear. You have a sleeping uniform you wear, that old t-shirt that you don’t want to throw out. And you have a concert-going uniform you wear- jeans, t-shirt, jewelry, etc. So, you’re already wearing a uniform, believe it or not. I didn’t really get this for years, because of white privilege. I didn’t HAVE TO know this to get hired. I am sure I got passed over for promotion because I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to learn how to use makeup. I didn’t want to figure out which colors looked best on me. But now I’m so glad that I learned both of these things. People will treat you better when you’re interviewing and on the job if you dress up. Try it sometime.

Idea 3: GUILT!! Maybe you want to get involved in nonprofits because of this. Maybe you had a fairly privileged upbringing. You don’t have to feel guilty about everything. Just stop doing stuff that perpetuates oppression. Work on what you can. And go easy on yourself.

—————-Still with me, everybody else? ————————

OK-more reality checks.

Idea 4: The job market sucks. And probably your college or university didn’t teach you how to make a resume or cover letter. Probably those “entry level” jobs want 3 years of experience now. And a master’s? No seriously that is what I’m seeing now.

So, you need to learn how to write a cover letter. Learn how to write a resume, and find a way to get experience before you have a job. Those boomers who are giving you advice like “Read the want ads!” or “Just get an entry level job” have not looked for a job in years- so they just don’t know what it’s like out there.

While we’re on the subject-

Idea 5: Don’t just blast out your resume and cover letter to 10+ places a day. I tell you this because after I got out of college this is EXACTLY what I did. What a mistake! They can tell when you do this, you’re apt to make more mistakes, and you’re going to burn a lot of bridges.

Idea 6: You’re not going to have a straight path to the top of some industry- and you’re not a failure if you don’t have that straight path. I thought I had to have a straight path. Nope. It’s okay to not know what you want yet. You’ll probably end up having multiple careers, not just multiple jobs, in your lifetime. So cheer up. Try lots of stuff! It’ll help you figure out what your first career or second career is going to be. Chances are you won’t be using your major, but that’s okay.

Idea 7: Start getting to know people IRL and stop hiding behind your phone. I know it’s difficult, it’s MUCH more difficult than getting on Facebook right now, but seriously, people hire people they like. they aren’t going to have a chance to know you or like you if you sit at home just sending out resumes. So, check out, or look at a fund or association website to see where there might be meetings in your city or town.  Do some informational interviews. Volunteer somewhere. Just get started.

OK, do you have any other ideas for new graduates that can help make finding a job in the nonprofit sector easier? Please leave a comment! GO!

Also, if you want to come to the Fundraising Career Conference next April, you should!

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