It’s that time of year again. The birds are chirping. The flowers are in bloom. And graduates everywhere are wondering what the heck they’re doing with their lives.
But listen here, graduates: Plenty of people will tell you to enjoy this time and not worry about what’s to come. And that’s just bad advice.
This season of life is important, so don’t waste it. At the same time, don’t drive yourself crazy with the fear of missing out or the stress of making the wrong choice. You will miss out and mess up. This season is a delicate balancing act. However, the difference between squandering this time and making the most of it is understanding what to do with what’s ahead of you.
So here are three pieces of advice you probably won’t be hearing at your graduate commencement speech. And whether you’re not about graduate or not, these are tips worth heeding.
1. Your education isn’t over.
When my friend and former roommate Andrew was getting ready to graduate college, I asked if he was excited about completing his education.
“No,” he said. “My education will never end.” He told me the one thing he was looking forward to was deciding what he would learn. He was eager to get back to reading what he wanted to read, not what he was told. His education hadn’t ended; it had just changed shape.
Andrew was right. You never really leave the classroom. There’s always a new lesson life has to teach you, if you’re willing to listen. So don’t worry too much about what to do. Worry, instead, about who you are becoming.
As author Parker Palmer once wrote:
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
Spend some time learning who you are and what you’re supposed to do will become more clear.
2. Stop trying to find the perfect job.
One of the great illusions in our world today is the idea that there’s some perfect job out there waiting for you. The truth is you can’t find the perfect job. But you just might be able to create it.
You can’t find the perfect job, but you can create it.
The world of work is changing. Companies are getting smaller, not larger. Organizations are shrinking and employers are outsourcing more and more, hiring contractors instead of employees as they look for ways to decrease their risk. And this is actually a wonderful opportunity for those entering the workforce.
When I interviewed hundreds of people for my book, The Art of Work, — people ranging in ages from 18 to 80 who had found their calling — there was one recurring theme: almost every person was a business owner.
From the college-aged computer programmer to the couple in Burundi starting a coffee company and the Singaporean doula, each person understood their life’s work would not simply be handed to them. They had to create it.
The job market isn’t great and probably won’t be getting any better in the foreseeable future. If the studies are true, by the year 2020, we will see over half the workforce functioning as freelancers,with no steady job but a portfolio of gigs that provide a living.
This may not sound like good news to everyone, especially those who are less entrepreneurial. But it is. If you embrace this reality, you won’t have to settle for a position that doesn’t fulfill your potential.
You can create the perfect job for yourself, as long as you don’t wait for someone to give it to you.
3. Don’t chase your dream…yet.
I often hear older people tell young people that the best thing they could do is chase their dreams. Hogwash. Blindly pursuing your passion is the fastest way to the unemployment line.
The world is full of dreamers who hate their lives and blame their bosses. Passion won’t save you from failure, and it won’t protect you from economic hardship. Deferring your dream, though, as the proverb says, “makes the heart go sick.”
So what do you do?
Passion won’t save you from failure, and it won’t protect you from economic hardship.
“Serve someone else’s dream first,” my old boss used to say. In other words, become an apprentice. Find a mentor. But this doesn’t work the way you probably think it does.
In The Art of Work, I wrote:
The worst way to find a mentor to go ask for one. The best way is to recognize the one that’s already there.
In other words, stop wasting your time in search of the perfect mentor and instead help someone else’s dream come true. I did this for seven years, and it taught me more than probably a master’s degree in business would have.
The world doesn’t owe you anything, least of all the privilege to do work you love. And chances are, there are already people out there doing it. So find them, help them, and learn from them.
Don’t chase your dream; serve someone else’s. Instead of putting all your eggs in the passion basket, spend some time learning from someone who’s been there. Get good, so others will see your skill and want to hire you.
This originally appeared on Entrepreneur.
Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his family. He is the author of the national best seller The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffGoins. To get more articles like this, check out his free newsletter. As a thank-you, he’ll send you a free excerpt of my best-selling book, The Art of Work, plus other fun things.