As I wrote in my post on the WSJ, “College is a romantic period, bursting with ambition and reveries of prosperous careers.” After emerging from the stimulating cocoon of academia, I was left grappling with the realization that real life isn't as malleable as mapping out my college courses. Additionally, I mourned the loss of a day-to-day that focused on my own self-development, self-improvement and growth.
It's not that you don't learn in the real world, but your purpose shifts from learning to driving the bottom line. It makes sense, but I still miss attending lectures and spending hours in the library working on a thesis.
I've heard a lot of "non-millennials" shake their fingers at my generation, accusing us of being "know-it-alls," impatient or ungrateful in our careers. I beg to differ. I don't think it's unique to my generation that the transition from college to the real world is difficult, but for us, it's heightened.
All graduates have to adjust after college ends, but we grew up in the Internet boom. Knowledge acquisition wasn't just in the classroom, it was always instantly available at our fingertips. And the loss of the constant gratification of learning, it's deserving of grieving.
I have a friend who makes a lot of money, is one of the few that maintains a great work-life balance, and she is dying to leave her job. The reason? She's not learning. She's great at what she does. She loves her colleagues. But each day she's not growing, she feels she's losing. Her tenure at this post? Just over one year.
I don't think we 20 somethings are too hasty in trading jobs. I think we're addicted to learning. We crave it. We desire it. We have to have it. Learning inspires hope because it allows us to dream that with each new nugget of knowledge, we're worth more. We can do more. We can go further.
In my two (plus) years since receiving a diploma, the primary thing I've learned is that I love learning. And where I'm happiest in my career is where I can continue to indulge in even a sliver of that selfish passion for learning. If I can impart of piece of advise on anyone lost in the pursuit of career, it's to go where you never stop learning.