The folks over at Newly Corporate came up with an insightful post about life after college and what it means to postpone adulthood. The author expresses his befuddlement over how many twenty-somethings don’t seem to have set life goals by the time they graduate college.
“Kids now see the transition from high school to college much the way they do middle school to high school. This is bad. What this does is allow kids to wonder through the next 4-6 years of their life before they enter the “real world.” Many kids choose majors that interest them like Biology, Art History, Film, etc…
But the fact is, the majority of students that choose them, are not looking at the practicality of the major, they haven’t set goals, or even considered seriously what they want to do (why should they, they are still in school right? (sarcasm)). Next, once they graduate, they find themselves lost, wait I’m sorry, ‘too young to know what they want to do yet.’”
College Is a Time to Explore
I find myself a little befuddled by his comments. I always thought the point of college was to meander through life and figure out what you want to do before you enter the “real world.” Liberal arts universities exist to expose students to the plethora of subjects. College can be a place for people explore their interests by sampling different fields of study, such as art, biology or film to see if it excites them. This is why many colleges require students to take so many “general education” courses in a variety of subjects.
I’ve never put huge practical value on post-secondary education itself. Unless you are going into a technical or medical field where you must possess a specific set of knowledge, I’ve always felt a college education is more exploratory than mandatory. I personally chose to major in comparative literature, something that doesn’t appear to have much practical application outside of academia but what I’ve realized in the years since graduation is that I’ve picked up many peripheral skills from my course work that have been very valuable professionally.
For example, I spent most of my time writing essays, because of this, I learned how to argue persuasively and clarify my ideas on paper. I also spent a lot of time reading and comparing different texts making connections between ideas. I use this ability a lot in project management, taking pieces from many departments and working them until they make a whole.
I think it’s unrealistic to expect someone to know exactly who they are and what they want to do with their life at 18. I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there who know exactly what they want to do with their life from a young age, the author at Newly Corporate is clearly one of them, but I’m finding they are more the exception than the rule.
When I changed departments at work recently, my new boss sat down with everyone on my team and asked each of us, “What do you want to do with your life?” Some people had answers and some had no idea. My boss said it was okay if we didn’t know, it took him 50 years to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up: retired.
Take It Slow
Life is a journey, not a to-do list that you get to cross-off as you go along. So take it slow, try out new things, figure out who you are and ignore all these people who tell you should have an entire life plan by the time you’re 25. Most likely, they don’t have it all figured out either.