What should my first steps outside of MIIS be? What should I do on, say, May 16th, the day after graduation? A well-articulated question from a student who is about to graduate in May, 2021 inspired me to write this blog, with her permission to share her question.
“Recently, I have noticed that, in conversations with fellow second-year classmates, many of us are struggling to grasp what our first steps will look like outside of MIIS. We have been hearing from and talking with many professionals, both within our classes and outside of them, which has been wonderful. Naturally, the vast majority of those we speak with graduated 5, 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Much of the advice they give us, as inspiring or helpful as it is, is provided with the caveat that the market has changed or that it doesn’t apply during the pandemic.
This leads me to my question. Though I think many of us (or at least I personally) understand what we want our lives to look like in 3-5 years, it’s hard to know what to do on say…May 16th (the day after graduation), or even August 1st, 2021.”
What I shared with her:
“Since you asked about informing your first steps, my thought went to creating a check list. The closest I have come to a post graduate check list is this:
- Assume that you “know” enough already for your needs. It’s time to act. No amount of additional knowledge will replace your actions at this point. “Action” will be the theme of my message.
- Recognize that you have all of the information you need to guide you. None of the professors, advisors, colleagues or friends will have that totality of the “database” you own, even if they may know more about specific domains. Part of that “database” has information that you, and only you, know – your dreams, values, directions.
- Think back on the MIISMap that you worked on during New Student Orientation two years ago. You were asked about your career goals in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and at retirement. Have you changed your mind about your career goals since that time? If yes, congratulations! You have grown. If not, congratulations! You knew what you wanted clearly before coming to MIIS. My point here is: there is no “right” answer and it is ok to change your mind (within reason).
- Number 3 above is important. Keep your goals in mind as a “guide.” Make sure your career moves, short-term and mid-term, go in the “general direction” of your long-term goals. Regular calibration will be useful.
- Put on paper your vision for the next year – where you want to live and what you want to do. Know that these ideas are not coming from a vacuum. These ideas come from your “database” that has been collecting data. Don’t be afraid of these goals being “wrong” or “unrealistic”. We will get to that next.
- Put your “project plan” on paper, noting how you would reach your goals from item 5 with actions, milestones and dates. Think about goals in three categories: professional, personal and financial.
- Review items 5 and 6 with trusted professors, advisors, colleagues, family members and friends. Their role is to be your sounding board – to point out blind spots, provide additional perspective or connect you with others. Remember that this is not a private struggle. Use your network to support you.
- Implement your project plan, knowing you are able to adjust along the way.
The key points are:
- Put down a plan.
- Get feedback.
- Take action.
Your question made me reflect on my own and some of my close friends’ journey after MIIS. Every one of us has a post-graduation story to tell – one with twists and turns. It is typically not straight forward. What I have learned from so many of these stories is: just land somewhere and go from there. We are not defined by our first jobs. Analysis paralysis is your biggest enemy right now.
At this point of the Spring Semester, I think of 2nd year students as great performers who are about to get on stage. You have studied and you have rehearsed. At some point, you have to get onto the stage. Know that you are well-prepared. Have a support system that can be your sounding board and you will be just fine. Finally, know that I am always available to act as your sounding board now and after graduation.”
It occurred to me that expectant graduates have worked hard to enhance their professional profile by acquiring knowledge and skills. At some point, a switch of mindset from knowledge acquisition to action needs to happen so that they can continue to thrive post-graduation. I have boiled down the new mindset to:
- It’s showtime. Act.
- Get comfortable co-existing with uncertainty.
- Strive for excellence, not perfection.
(Image credit: www.streamspy.com)