A few days ago I had a conversation with an old student of mine that was having trouble staying focused after graduation.
“There’s just not much for me to do,” my former student said when discussing time spent after college.
Life – just like a great game – is going to be filled with times of heavy action when it’s your turn (i.e. during college) as well as with downtime while other players are having their go.
Life – just like in games – still gives you an opportunity to be really productive during your down time.
After thousands of hours playing poker I’ve made it a habit to watch and read the table in between hands. I follow how players bet, when they raise, and when the fold. I try and guess who’s been sitting the table the longest; who recently sat down; who needs to catch a bus; and who is at the casino with a friend.
In between turns of Pandemic, Hanabi, or Risk, you can use your time wisely to size up the situation, anticipate future moves, and predict what the board may have in store for you when your turn comes up again.
Similarly, I told my former student that this “down time” can be used wisely – just because your college career has ended doesn’t mean that you should just wait until something new happens.
Most of the time YOU have to make that something “new” happen for yourself.
That’s when you have to read the table, watch the board, and anticipate the moves.
I advised my student of some top tips for new grads to do while they “wait their turn” in either preparing for graduate school, a professional field, or whatever is in store for them during their post graduate life…
Tip #1: Temping
When I first graduated I had no clue what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. But I knew that I definitely needed one thing: money. That’s where temping came in. While I did have a lot of student leadership experience; my professional experience was severely lacking (I didn’t even know how to make coffee! Can you imagine?!?). Temporary staffing companies place temporary employees (or temps) in positions where sometimes very little professional experience is required. Yes, you’ll probably have to staple a million things; pick up the bosses’ dog from the groomers; or try to fix a fax machine. No, the work is not glamorous (you are a “temporary” employee after all); but temping did allow me to earn some extra income while keeping busy and making some connections. And it also beat sitting at home all day.
Tip #2: Volunteer
Yes, there are cute dogs at the animal shelter. Yes, there are grandmas that would love for you to call their bingo nights. Yes, there are parks and rivers that need to become litter free. Volunteering is not only a great experiential learning experience; it also serves to connect you with a field that you love. Like the outdoors? Volunteer with a state park. Can you math? Become a high school tutor. There are literally thousands of different opportunities out there for a bright, college educated person to pursue. And, volunteering is another great way to connect with others who care about the same things that you do.
Tip #3 Write
The internet has truly democratized the writing and publication process. This crazy blog is proof of that. Some people don’t like writing – they find it difficult and painstaking. Just know that you don’t have to always write something public. I’ve kept a personal journal for years that will probably never see the light of day. Why do I keep it? Simply for personal reflection. Writing is a way for me to ponder I’ve learned and experienced during the day. Since I keep a daily journal it allows me to see where I was and what I was doing a year ago, two years ago, and five years ago. It’s like a mini time machine – in MS Word.
Tip #4 Connect
Temping and Volunteering are not only awesome ways to stay active – they also help you connect with other people. Going to college was a great experience – one that has probably connected you to more people than you have ever met before. Your college network is incredibly valuable; but it’s not something that you can rely on entirely. You need to also expand who you know so that when opportunities arise you are the first one on someone’s mind. Create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t already have one and ask faculty, staff, and administrators for recommendations. Visit your old teachers from high school and give them an update on what’s going on with your life after college. Connect with former supervisors from past internship opportunities; or simply engage with people on Facebook that you haven’t spoken to in a while. I make it a habit of wishing as many people happy birthday as possible as a way to stay connected to them – that way I get to say “what’s up?” at least once a year!
Remember! When waiting your turn you don’t have to sit by and do nothing.
Study the board and read players. Temp, Volunteer, Write, and Connect!