Recent graduate confused about career/life
February 21, 2014 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Recent graduate confused about career/life

Confused about career/life

Alright, so I’m a recent graphic design graduate from a well reputed school that left me feeling like I haven’t learned anything at all (which could be the current state of mind I’m in though)

Out of college I’ve had a few freelance projects, I recently got an internship/job thing that at least covers my bills (nothing hip or groundbreaking, but I am learning). The other day I got a nice quick assignment that is kind of prestigious in the design scene here. Things aren’t necessarily skyrocketing, but they are not that bad either; I realise any creative discipline simply takes time to develop and it’ll probably be years before I hit the sweet spot of doing work that is both interesting and somewhat financially lucrative.

Thing is, I’ve been disillusioned from design for a while now, and these days I’m having mood swings where I can’t focus, come up with solutions and form nice, calm plans about my future, and the next moment I’ll be frantically googling about engineering, geography, pharmacy, architecture and whatnot.

I’m genuinely interested in just everything (I have ADD), and more often than not I regret not pursuing a more technical degree, and I’m thinking a lot about doing another Bachelor’s again (I’m 23 now and in Europe, where I wouldn’t incur any more debt).

I don’t know where all this started, but it did get amplified. Recently I fell in love (first time, yay) with the most amazing person ever. Unlike myself, he’s the complete opposite; super disciplined, confident and always knowing exactly where’s he going. He’s doing really well and part of me is worried that I can’t live up to his (well, my own) standards (which is completely in my head as we never talked about this stuff). I’m comparing myself to him NOW, although he’s 5 years older (which age-wise isn’t a difference, but career-wise a big one).

We’re not physically together now (I'm working in a different country), and I miss him a whole lot, and it could maybe be that all of this is just an unhappiness with my situation here. I want to move back home (after 4,5 away from home, not just for him), but worried that as a designer I’ll be having a hard time there.

It feels like I’m not going anywhere at the moment, and no solutions are forming, and my anxiety about my future is getting in the way. I'm just afraid that I'll regret my whole life because of a choice I made when 18.

Not sure what I’m asking, hive mind, but, any advice?
posted by ahtlast93 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
these days I’m having mood swings where I can’t focus
I have ADD
my anxiety about my future is getting in the way

You need to fix these before you commit to a multi-year course of action like another bachelor's degree. These problems are solvable, but they won't be solved without consultation with a medical health professional. As a bonus, if you're in Europe, there's a good chance you can do that without having to spend an inordinate amount of money. The worst that can happen is you go pursue another degree and end up exactly where you are now. Don't let that happen to you.

I’m genuinely interested in just everything

If this is actually the case (I don't think it is), then you simply need to arbitrarily pick an area that has the highest potential income in your area. Law, medicine, and petrochemical engineering are three possibilities here. Can you see yourself going to law school or seven-plus years of medical school, requiring a significant studying effort, and joining an extremely competitive career? If so, then there's your decision. Can you see yourself working on an oil rig for the rest of your life? If so, there's even more money to be made there.

If the answer to either of those questions is "no", then you just reduced your career field by three and you've shown to yourself that you're not actually all that interested in everything. Once you come to that realization, you can start to work with the previously-mentioned medical health professional and possibly a career counselor to help narrow down future options.
posted by saeculorum at 10:30 AM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are doing high-level procrastinating. You're out of school and you should be actively looking for a full-time job, doing what you studied.

You're so lucky you have no school debt, I'm just going to say that up front.

The reason you're thinking about another degree is because it is the ultimate procrastination. It would allow you to stay in school, and not have to make adult-type decisions.

School isn't going anywhere. Get out and work in the world for a year.

Interesting people find interesting things interesting. That doesn't mean we all go running off to study each thing in depth. I mean, where would it end?

So get to a doctor and get the ADD under control. Put a portfolio together and start looking for a job.

Watch documentaries, read books and blogs about things that interest you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:35 AM on February 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Don't worry about feeling like you haven't learned anything. Smart people know that they don't know everything. Ignorant people think that they know everything.

Your objective, the first few years out of college should be to stay afloat or move forward professionally. You're still paying your dues. The sooner you eat your vegetables you can have your ice cream. Make a to-do list and when you start thinking about other things, look at your list and get back on task.

For a lot of jobs, it really doesn't matter what your bachelor's degree is in so getting another bachelor's probably won't help you much. If you're really interested in learning about something else, get a book, go to the library, see if you can find an online class you can take. If that sounds boring, then you definitely should not go back to school.

Don't compare yourself to other people - it's not productive and things change for everyone at some point. I always thought I should be more like my sister because she's really smart. Then she didn't get in to med school. Things happen. Plans change.

Also, your career is not your life. It might seem that way when you're 23 and trying to start your career but I promise it's not. Something dramatic will happen to you or someone you love and you'll realize that there are few gigs that you wouldn't quit in a heartbeat to be with someone who needs you.

Being in your mid-20s is uncomfortable because you're forced to deal with uncertainty which is challenging. Then you realize that all parts of your life involve uncertainty - you just face it head on for the first time when you leave school. I'm more settled than you are but still, me, my husband, my father, any of my siblings could get crazy sick tomorrow and that could turn my world upside down. My apartment could burn down. My husband or I could find out that we can't have kids. But having dealt with uncertainty before, I know that I could deal with it in the future, because what choice do I have?

Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.
posted by kat518 at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Are you getting treatment for the ADD? GO GET TREATMENT

And the best advice anybody ever gave me was "keep your eye on the ball". I was annoyed at the time, because it seemed vacuous and glib. They were right. Keep your eye on the ball.
posted by tel3path at 11:30 AM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

After years of classes and clearly defined assignments it is a big change to be let loose into the "real world". It is very common for people to feel out of sorts after coming out of school. Try not to pay attention to how you feel, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. Your mind has been so focused on reaching the goal of graduating that daily life without that big goal and the busyness of school can feel like something is missing, because you're looking for something to keep you busy/directed in a similar way. Over time you'll adjust to life outside of school and it won't feel so strange.

Your disillusionment with design could be a sign that you aren't interested in continuing as a graphic designer, or it could be plain old fatigue from the stresses of graduating and job searching and will abate with time. Don't go back to school until you work for a while and spend time figuring out what you like and don't like about different work and life options, even if you're not going into debt for the degree you are using precious time that you could be using gaining other potentially more valuable/interesting experiences (and I say this as someone who did stay in school through my twenties, I wouldn't say I regret my choices but I do envy my friends who are more financially stable and have travelled and gained other life experiences I didn't).

Don't worry about your preconceived notions of what you "should" be doing or where you "should" be at in your work. I'm sure your lover isn't looking down on your achievements. Take up hobbies (that may or may not overlap with graphic design), read for pleasure, plan a trip (perhaps to visit your lover?), go out with friends, enjoy being "free", because you really are. Schedule some "worry" time in your day but try not to let it go outside of that time, like "for the next ten minutes I will worry about my future and my sense of confusion about my life's path" and then it's done for the day.

What did you like doing when you were a child? What made you really happy? I think we all know what we have a calling towards and it's apparent from going back to childhood joys and activities. You should be working towards having a sense of what you want, and you can't gain that without spending time doing "nothing", or journaling, self-reflecting, or meditating. Once you have a goal/desire to work towards you'll be able to take concrete steps towards it, but in the meantime try to stop creating plans for your future that go beyond a few months to a year or two. You don't need to have your whole life planned out, and I think once you stop thinking that way things won't seem so confusing. For now I think you owe it to yourself to give graphic design a chance, to enjoy your newly won freedom from being in school all the time, and to explore your interests outside of your internship/job. Doing these things does not mean you are wasting your life, I promise.
posted by lafemma at 11:32 AM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Honestly, my advice would be to pick the most lucrative career that doesn't suck your soul, especially since you're open to many different careers and don't feel like you were put on earth to do one particular thing and you would feel like a shell of a person if you were unable to do that.

I say this because I got a fluffy, fun degree in college and now I'm in my mid-20s, having just finished a technical degree. The technical degree wasn't all that fun to do, but it's great fun now knowing my future is more secure. So, it's not too late to pursue something more technical, I'd say. Also research the hottest fields where you want to move.

It's eerie how similar we are, as I also have a very nice, stable, 4-years-older boyfriend with a great job, and in the beginning I was worried about not living up to his expectations, but it turns out the only expectation he has for me is that I try my best, and he loves me no matter what. I'm positive your boyfriend is the same way.

Also, do get treated for ADD. Maybe once your mind settles down, the right career will emerge from the ether. But definitely weigh in the practical realities of the job. If it's rodeo clown...
posted by madonna of the unloved at 11:51 AM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of young people fall into the trap of thinking that their career should be skyrocketing as soon as they leave school. The reality is that, especially in fields like graphic design, your real schooling begins after you leave school. You are in the learning-the-ropes phase of things. You need to focus on building your strengths and talents (and portfolio) by doing as many different projects as possible. That is how you build your career.

And, yeah, get the ADD treated.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:00 AM on February 22, 2014

« Older What Device Do I Need?   |   How to handle wedding registry gifts that have... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.