Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advice for Life After Yale (or finding your footing in the real world)

Published by Yale College Undergraduate Career Services, Life After Yale: A Survival Guide for the Class of 2009, features information regarding taxes, health insurance, the transition to the "real world," and career resources available to the class of 2009 after graduation. While this type of information is critical for the recent graduates who wonder if it's important to keep receipts, don't understand how credit cards work, or how to balance a checkbook, I'm convinced that the more compelling wisdom in this survival guide is the advice shared by recent alumni about making the transition to life after Yale. One particular gem comes from Steven Klein, Class of 1998:
"It is confusing to go from a world with identified authority figures who regularly give you grades to keep you aware of the status of your accomplishments…to enter a world with no consistent metric of success and no clear authority figure to ask for your grades. You are not the only one feeling this and a million other fears, insecurities, confusions, doubts, etc. My five-year reunion was a profoundly uplifting experience as I listened to old friends with myriad interests and career paths all share the same sense of wandering and learning and fear and joy. We all laughed at how much easier our past five years would have been if only we’d been strong enough to admit we spent a lot of it feeling unsuccessful and small. Don’t think that your over-achieving self needs to have it all figured out all the time—none of your classmates do, either! And there is much joy and growth to be had in sharing your difficulties and learning from those of your peers.

One of the most important adjustments I’ve had to make is one of timeline. In your years as a student you are accustomed to measuring growth and progress on what are in reality very short timelines. In college you are expected to be 25 percent through your Yale learning curve (or, culturally, even more) in just one year. And I know that I and many of my classmates expected to make similar leaps of achievement, learning, and growth in each year of our life in the real world. It’s more accurate to suggest that each decade of life (or even more) is equivalent to one year in college. You’re going to be a freshman in the real world for all of your 20s. (After all, your ‘senior’ citizen years don’t come until 40 years after college!) Rather than bemoaning this in the name of wanting to reach your highest goals now, try to focus on the joy and ease of this idea. Take the time to learn and value the journey along the way to your goals and focus on building your wisdom along with your résumé. You cannot rush wisdom, and it’s the wisdom that deepens life and its meaning. It’s easier to say than do, I know, but it’s a lesson I’ve learned through cracking a whip over myself for a good four or five years before figuring out it was neither necessary nor particularly effective.

...In fact, I’ll even go further and say I started achieving more as soon as I started focusing on learning over achieving per se. (And I want to attribute a lot of these lessons to my friend Tyson Belanger, also MC ’98, who was featured in Yale’s magazine. He’sa first lieutenant in the Marines, and his journey in the military has taught me much about this. In the military, you cannot rush up the ranks, no matter who you are. You must pass, rank by rank, up the ladder, and you will not move up without first learning very concrete lessons at each level.) There is much wisdom in this... as smart people, we often think we can reason our way into the wisdom of someone considerably older. We cannot. We must make the journey. So we might as well enjoy it."

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