Surviving As A College Grad Isnt Impossible Kenny Soto

Surviving As A College Grad Isn’t Impossible, Right?

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek


What I wish I knew before graduating college

It happens once every year. Parents full of tears and hope for their children; professors, college administrators, faculty, and staff watch as young and hopeful students ascend from their 4-5 year journey from academia into the professional world.

With a promise of new opportunities and fulfilling their dreams and aspirations, graduates look forward to their future adult lives. However, as they are thrusted into the market and entrusted to be responsible young adults – some look to the future with unease. An anxiety creeps in as a realization occurs, “I am no longer a student. I’m an adult now.”

I never self-identified with the term millennial until I graduated college. Being placed into a category that’s often looked down upon didn’t jibe well with me. Now that it has been two years since I’ve graduated, I’ve had more time to think about why so many people my age are suffering from huge amounts of stress and angst.

Having taken the time to discuss the issue of life after college with recent grads, I’ve found that the general sentiment the majority of us feel is, none of us really know what we’re doing when we are starting our careers.

This realization is reassuring only in the fact that we are all going through this struggle together, regardless of the varying degrees of internal strife we may feel. Some get past this hurdle faster than others, some hide their angst better than others, and others try to espouse a nonchalant approach towards their future considering how much time we have to “figure it out.”

I’ve been pursuing some reasonable approach that I could use to tackle the issues at hand, with little luck. I find that trying to create a solid identity, one that really encompasses my passions and allows me to truly have an impact on society, to be utterly difficult to accomplish.

“Advice taken from the past doesn’t always relate to the new and unique challenges that our generation is facing today.”

For seventeen years of my life I have identified as a student. Now that this is no longer the case, I like many of my peers alongside me have to figure out what to is my identity. Moreover, we find ourselves in a position in which, for the most part, we’ve never experienced before.

We have new responsibilities, with no manuals available to help us navigate the new world we are entering. Advice made taken the past doesn’t always relate to the new and unique challenges that our generation is facing today. Both the domestic and global job marketplace is constantly changing. Job security is a thing of the past and yet, for the most part, we have been taught in a way that helps us navigate the markets of the 20th century.

No one will make your schedule for us, there are no handouts, and we all have to assume our own responsibilities. It’s more than just identifying with a profession.

Understanding fully well that a career isn’t built in a day, there still seems to be this unspoken pressure from so many places. Perhaps this pressure I personally feel could be coming from the fact that I’m a first generation American. I’m certain that I’m not the only one who has a unique “chip on their shoulder.” Whether it’s from your parents, social circle, society – the pressure won’t go away. However, the pressure that should take priority is the pressure we give ourselves to succeed and find happiness in a way that we define.


Related: 5 Tips To Use When Surviving Life After College


Finding a dream job vs. your place in life

It’s easy to settle for the first comfortable job that comes your way during your first six months after graduating. Your parents stress the fact that you need to start contributing to the household. Or if you live on your own, you need to keep maintaining the lifestyle you’re building for yourself. There’s also the added pressure of competing with your friends who have also graduated. “Peter has a new gig as a (insert generic entry level position) at (some prestigious firm)! His prospects are very promising.”

Both the social pressure of trying to seem like you have everything figured out and the balancing act of trying to simply survive and pay off any college debt you may have add to the hasty decision-making for getting the first job that comes your way. That’s what happened to me.

I thought that if I took a job at a startup, I’d at least have something to show for myself. I believed that it was a good starting point as any other and if it didn’t work out I could just move to another company. So that’s what I did.

I moved up the corporate ladder until I got into my dream job, but something didn’t sit well with me. Even with all of the hard work I put into keeping up with appearances and advancing my career I still felt unfulfilled.

I fell into the trap of listening to other people’s expectations they had for me and not designing the expectations I had for myself.

There is no perfect path. There is no reason for you to decide that what you studied in college is what you need to actually do. And going immediately back to school to get a master’s degree or a higher one doesn’t boost the prospect of you getting your “dream job.” It will most certainly guarantee an increase of your debt.

I believe one of the shifts in thinking all us need to adopt is that just because we have college degrees doesn’t mean we are special. What will truly differentiate us in the market is the accumulation of life experiences and the purposeful adoption of struggles and discomfort we make over time. These things aren’t obtained through a college education – that’s why we shouldn’t rush into things.

Sure, with all practicality in mind, we do need to pay our bills. At the same time, need to be very calculated with the opportunities we say no to because it’s the no’s that will create the foundation of our careers.

Our time is the most valuable tool we have right now.

”How can I help people and enjoy my time doing it?” This is the question we should be asking ourselves. It all begins with doing a self-audit of our desires and interests, and it’s not too late to do that even if you’ve already begun working in that lovely cubicle or desk you’ve vied for since leaving the academic world.

A fulfilling career isn’t obtained in a day, it takes a tremendous amount of time.



Do not confuse cognitive ability with maturity

Keeping the challenge of obtaining our dream jobs, realizing our identity outside of school, and surviving our first decade as adults in mind, there is another shift in our thinking we need to make.

We must not confuse our cognitive ability with maturity. They aren’t the same.

Our educational system coddles us in a way. We expect our time to be managed for us. For things to be clear cut, which doesn’t work with reality. If we can’t break away from the patterns that were predefined for us, how can we create our own in the future?

Maturity is accepting responsibility and choosing our struggles before they are thrusted upon us. However, it is difficult to accept our own responsibilities when we are comparing ourselves to our peers.

Comparing yourself with others can lead to a dead end. If you find yourself jealous or stuck ia n rut because you’re not checking off the boxes – you’re not alone, but you need to stay grounded in reality. It’s impossible to know all the nuances that led to someone else’s success. Envy can be used as a tool to help you succeed, but only if you stay grounded on what success means for you. Just because you received good grades throughout your academic career doesn’t mean you can manage a home on your own. It doesn’t equate to any skills that could be used to help a team grow, it doesn’t ensure that you can be an asset.

Focus on the small things first. Can you create a budget? Do you have the ability to set your own schedule, to say no to the events and opportunities that have nothing to do with your daily goals? Can you set a plan and stick to it? Are you auditing your friends and social circle to make sure you’re being celebrated and supported, instead of being tolerated and doubted?

All of these questions have to be asked frequently if we want to make sure we are staying on track. “Adulting” only occurs when we first define what type of adult we want to be and work our way backwards to where we are today.


Related: Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College


We all go through the growing pains of “adulting”

“Adulting” isn’t impossible. It sure is difficult and arduous, but with enough time spent thinking about our lives – we can tackle our issues with full force. We can achieve our goals, no matter the time it takes to do so. However, it all begins with a realistic view of our futures.

The world is constantly changing. Our education cannot cope nor can it adapt to the changes from technology. It’s up to us to assume responsibility.

We have to create and venture into our paths of self-education. This isn’t the same as getting a higher degree. A master’s degree or PhD won’t solve issues regarding our character.

Travel the world. Volunteer and work for free – see if you actually enjoy working in the field you studied before you invest decades into it. Leverage the internet to not only consume content, use it to help you learn.

You will make mistakes and that’s okay. We all have our own paces when it comes to learning; we all have our unique struggles. What we have to do is assume responsibility for these struggles because it is through them that we will grow up.

Remember, there is no easy path. There is no manual.


This blog post was inspired by a podcast episode with Professor Jordan Peterson, when he was interviewed on the Joe Rogan Experience. If you’re a fan of audiobooks or podcasts in general, I highly recommend listening Dr. Peterson’s interview with Joe as accompanying content to this article. In this podcast episode, Dr. Peterson discusses the challenges that young people are currently facing (among other topics). The point of inspiration I gained from the episode comes mainly from his claim that in order to justify your suffering that comes from living in this world, you have to assume responsibility over your life. I wouldn’t do any justice to what he says by paraphrasing him any further, this article is mainly pointed towards the reflections I have made while struggling with life after college.

If you have any tidbits of advice or personal stories you’d like to share, please leave a comment below and let’s chat! How you are “Adulting” right now? How do you define the term?


Related: A College Grad’s Biggest “Adulting” Challenge: Managing Money


A special thanks to Alejandra Barraza, Rachelle Campos, Kenneth Reed, Matthew Jacquet, Rene Jimenez, Kenny Moreno, and Devin Rajaram for discussing these issues with me and for helping me write this article.


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Kenny Soto China

Days 3-9 – A Lot Has Happened, Living In China Isn’t Easy

Proper preparation prevents poor performance

I must admit that even with all the preparation I did before arriving in Beijing, I have found myself to be overwhelmed. This feeling tends to persist every day, mainly due to all the challenges I have faced.

I faced my first toilet challenge at a shopping mall, of all the places it could have happened. Even with the time I took beforehand on YouTube to research how the toilets are used here—I still forgot to carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with me at all times. Traveling is comfortable with the internet but, only if you remember what you’ve learned. With that said, there are other subtle aspects of life in Beijing that I still have issues wrapping my head around.

This feels like 1984

Another part of China that I still need to get used to is the sheer amount of cameras that seem to be in every subway station and public vicinity. Even at my job, cameras are commonplace. The Chinese love to take photographs of foreigners (lǎowài/老外) whenever they can. We are an oddity to them, and the concept of privacy isn’t a thing here.

Cameras are used to deter crime (both violent and petty) and to maintain the public order and harmony that ensures a stable society. In one subway station alone, you can find over 40 cameras staring at you from all angles.

I feel as if I am living in Orwell’s nightmare. However, I am not as disturbed about this as I thought I would be. In any given room in the States, there are as many cameras as there are people. Perhaps China isn’t as different in this regard, maybe as time goes on our own concept of privacy will erode as well—we are already used to being tagged in photos on social media without our approval beforehand. In addition to that, we don’t really know how our data is being used to influence our lives (*cough cough* Cambridge Analytica).

Adaptation Comes In Many Forms

My ability to adapt quickly is undoubtedly being tested now. I recently purchased a new phone so that I could have access to cellular data while I’m here. However, I feel like a child with this new phone in my hand.

I have no idea how it works, not only because I’m used to Apple’s user interface—most of the apps on this phone are in Mandarin. Even with all of my language settings converted into English, some of the apps needed to live in China (Alipay, JinShiSong, Didi, Taobao, and Baidu) only have Mandarin or limited Pinyin text. I wish I had the foresight to unlock my iPhone before leaving the States so that I wouldn’t have this issue but, I guess this will help me pick up the language faster.

Another aspect of China I’m still getting used to is the nightlife. There are a large number of bars that cater to expats, and I’ve already learned how to purchase some beer (píjiǔ/啤酒), the hard part is getting used to all of the prostitutes who try to solicit my friends and me. They are incredibly pushy and even when you say “no thank you” or bùyào/不要 (which has become my favorite word since I’ve arrived, considering how many people try to sell me shit I don’t want), they still persist. They think that if you’re just drunk enough you’ll succumb to their pitches—even though the majority of prostitutes I’ve encountered both by my own experience and from stories my friends have told—are all in their 40s to mid-50s. I don’t see myself ever getting accustomed to this aspect of Beijing’s nightlife.

There’s An Economy Based On Illiteracy

Lastly, I was able to see the Great Wall Of China. The experience on the wall itself was terrific but, getting there was a hassle. My friends and I arrived by bus, and we ended up getting lost in a parking lot as soon as we got there. After that, we ended up walking past the main entrance twice. We kept going into a shopping area for tourists and those who have already completed their journey on the wall.

As we were walking, we ended up stumbling into a photo booth/ticket area. When we purchased our tickets, we believed we were being scammed because we were guided into another area to take photos. Since no one could speak English, we were under the assumption that we didn’t need to pay them for the pictures we took. If we had known how to say “no thank you” correctly or “what’s going on?”, we could have avoided the whole awkward moment in the first place.

What worries me is any future situation in which people actually have nefarious intentions. Will I be able to see what’s about to happen before it occurs? It’s a persistent fear that I have right now.

I guess I just have to get used to the fact that I am not as smart as I thought I was back home.

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