Sometimes the best of intentions can have unintended results. Many high school yearbooks have pictures of their alumni and if you look at all the quotes under those photo’s, one that seems to pop up frequently is, “voted most likely to succeed”. Somebody at the time thought this was a cute idea, and their classmates agreed that so-and-so will be the most successful out of the entire class. What pressure!
So what happens then if you go on to University or College, and then realize upon graduating that you’re just one more person out there with hopes and dreams looking for a job? And then after a few months of unsuccessfully looking for a job, you run into your former classmates who all expected you to be bringing in the cash and well established in some large well-known organization. But you aren’t are you? You’re unemployed; struggling to make ends meet, and somebody tells you that they ran into someone from your school that you had thought was never going to amount to anything, and they have a great job and are doing well. More pressure.
So the first thing to realize is where this pressure is coming from. Well of course it’s those expectations you put on yourself in the first place, and the added expectations of your peers. Remember first of all that those expectations were thrust upon you by high school students at the time who knew very little about how tough it is to get a job; you yourself didn’t know either. Markets change, companies come and go, industries go through hiring phases and periods of lay-offs and contraction. So when you started to look for a job, you have to take the pulse of the economy and what field you are looking at.
The other thing about expectations is that the kind of job you are willing to be seen by others working at becomes important. Sure you could get a job selling greeting cards in the mall, but there may be part of you that doesn’t want your friends to know that. Why? Well again, it’s the social stigma of being expected, unrealistically I might add, to have the best job of all the graduating class that year.
Experience in a broad range of employment sectors can actually be beneficial in the long run. You may still just be laying the foundation for future success by trying out entry level positions in retail, manufacturing or labour and that experience, those references and recommendations may lead to a wonderful opportunity down the road. That’s what’s great about life; you never know really where life will take you and what job might interest you enough to pull you in a completely different direction. Few people I know in my work said when they were fifteen years old, “I want to be a Welfare Worker”. Most didn’t even know that job existed, although the job title has undergone a change.
Now that you’ve graduated and have joined the ranks of the job seeking, you may also have noted that you are no longer the ‘star’ shining down on the rest of us. Your high school days of being the darling of the dance floor, the dreamboat of the prom, or the exceptionally talented athlete are over. You’re just as good, but no better than most of your peers, and in some cases, they are much better now than you are, and that makes you something you may have never been before; average and normal.
So those lofty expectations are still hanging on you unfairly. Recognize though that you have the power to leave them on your shoulders or remove them and just get on with your life like everyone else. In the course of a lifetime, the average person is going to change their job about eight times; their field of work about five times. When this happens, it will be new and exciting and different and maybe perplexing too. If you could look into your future and see what you’d be doing years from now, you might say, “No way!”; and you’d be wrong.
Now you can still excel of course. However, the skills you had in high school aren’t going to be good enough to succeed long term unless you build on existing skills, and learn new ones. Learning new things is exciting and a chance to grow both physically and mentally. This stimulation is often why people want to get ahead and try new things. It helps us become more well-rounded, valuable to employers, in demand, and it keeps our own brains active.
So if you are uneasy, unnerved and experiencing a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem for the first time, maybe you’re just going through what many of your classmates went through in high school when they felt awkward, unpopular and unwanted. A frustrating job search can rob anyone of their self-worth and change their perception. It just means you are growing, and maturing. In the end, it will probably all work out for you just as it will for your peers, but there is no guarantee; you’ll have to work hard to succeed perhaps.
So I’m pulling for you. Whether you live of life of entitlement or you have to struggle, I really hope you have the good fortune to be productive and happy in your work life. We all deserve that much.