The other day I was talking to a friend who is about to graduate.
"We can't all have our lives figured out like you do Michaela."
I almost screamed.
I DID NOT HAVE MY LIFE FIGURED OUT BEFORE GRADUATION.
"Dear Michaela, Thank you for your application to the MFA in Theatre in Arts Leadership program at Virginia Tech. The candidate pool was competitive and the decision-making process was difficult. I am writing to let you know that we are not able to accept you into the program at this time.
I wish you all the best in your next endeavor."
I got a similar response from every other program I applied to.
Within a week I had been rejected from all the MFA Programs I applied for. It was about 2 months before graduation and my entire future had fallen apart.
I was completely alone in a foreign country and no one I knew was awake.
Life got dark. Real dark.
Over and over again I asked, "What am I going to do?"
Then I asked "what do I want to do?" the answer was cry, and lay in bed. I did just that.
I had six weeks left in London and I was trying to make the most of it, but I couldn't keep that question out of my head "what do I do after graduation?"
What I did after graduation.
I moved back in with my parents (something I swore I would never do). I cried some more. I laid in bed some more. I had no money. No job. No idea what I was going to do. I applied to any and every job I could in the area. I got a job as a host at a popular restaurant in San Diego.
I applied to my safety school, where I knew I would get in, I got in.
Yet I still felt like a total failure and lost. The job wasn't in my field, and the program was very different than what I thought I would be doing.
It's been a year since my future fell apart and now I have an even brighter and better future planned. There was no way I could have known things would have turned out like this, but here are some things I wish I would have known.
Are you about to Graduate?
Congratulations! Enjoy that you just did something massive, and you should be proud of yourself. You're about to go through a really tough transition period, but know it's going to be worth it.
Have patience and faith.
Every application submitted and every day you work towards your goals is one step further. Recently I went on a hike that was a little more ambitious than I was ready for. There wasn't really any other option than to finish the hike, I had to walk back to my car, I couldn't just lay on the trail until one of my friends came looking for me. You have to keep working towards your goals, otherwise you will lay on the trail looking stupid to people who walk past you and the sun will go down.
I knew I needed money quick so I applied to every job I could possibly want to work at. I even applied to my old retail job (and got rejected). I finally got a job at a restaurant and while I loved working there, I knew it wasn't my goal. Now that I had a steady income I just had to apply for jobs I wanted in my field.
It's not an exaggeration to say that I applied to hundreds of jobs. So have patience and faith that you will get one, because you will! Even if you apply to a thousand jobs, you will get one of them.
Grow a thick skin to rejection.
Those hundreds of jobs you're about to apply to? 99 of them will reject you. It's okay. You have no idea why the rejected you, maybe they had already filled the spot but forgot to take the post down. Maybe they didn't think you were right for the job because they knew you weren't passionate about it. In college I worked at a clothing store for 2 years, when I graduated I called them and asked if they were hiring, the manager pretty much begged me to apply to be a manager because they were short staffed. The District Manager then saw right through me and new I didn't really want to work there but wanted to make money while I found a better job, and he rejected me.
As a host at a restaurant I was passionate about my job, I was challenged in new ways, got to spend all day around fun people, and got to represent a company that had values I believed in, and the managers saw that and hired me. Quitting that job was hard, but I had to follow my actual passion and move back to LA.
Find small things that make you happy.
Apply to jobs sucks. Getting rejected from jobs sucks. "How can I make this less miserable?" Well I didn't have a job so I had to find ways to have fun without spending money. I lived in San Diego so I spent a lot of time filling out job applications on the beach. Filling out a job application on the beach, or at a coffee shop, was a lot less frustrating than sitting in my house for days on end.
I also got to hike a lot. I found small things that made me happy and made me feel productive so that I felt energized to fill out my 80th job application.
Save your money.
It was easy for me to save money because I didn't have any friends in San Diego to go out with. Also I knew I wanted to move out of my parents house as soon as possible so I saved as much as I could as fast as I could. Yes this made my life a little boring for about 4 months, but it was completely worth it to be able to move out in 4 months as opposed to a year.
It was a simple question every time I went to make a purchase "do I need this or would I rather move out of my parents' house?" and the decision was easy.
I hope some of these things help you on your post-grad path, and if you have any questions let me know!