All Grown Up

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Don’t Ride In The Passenger Seat Of Your Own Car

Have you ever sat in the passenger seat of your own car while somebody else drives it? It feels weird, and almost uncomfortable, right? I recently was thinking about this, as I examined how I’ve approached my professional career, and realized there are a lot of similarities to driving a car and living in the post-graduation world.

When you’re fresh out of college ready to take on the world you think nothing can stop you. You’ll be nervous, of course, but you’ll still have a bit of that “I’m invincible” confidence you get when you’re in college and are able to succeed under most circumstances. The truth is, classes in college don’t prepare you for the real world. They teach you some necessary, and many unnecessary, bits of information that you may or may not need to remember at some point in the future. What teaches you most is experience. That experience can come from internships or jobs you may have held before graduating. When you hit the ground running after graduation and (hopefully) land that first job, you need to understand what you’re getting into. In college you can pass with flying colors just by going to class and doing assignments when they are given to you. You’ll get a “good job” from your professor if you really bust your ass. After college, this passivity will get you nowhere. You need to learn to focus and take the wheel (here’s the driving metaphor now).

When you’re in the driver’s seat of your CAReer (see?) it’s all about staying focused about what’s ahead. Sure, you’ll take a peak in your side and rear view mirrors occasionally so that you’re in control of the present situation, but you always have to be looking for what’s down the road. You need to stay proactive and alert. Do you see brake lights up ahead? Think of those as potential hiccups or obstacles you might encounter. Get a grip, change lanes, and bypass the problem by being prepared. Be sure to flash your left/right signals to let everyone know you’re changing lanes. Keeping people around you aware of what’s going on will keep thing running smoothly, rather than creating a bigger problem.

One thing I’ve learned is that it is very easy to fall asleep at the metaphorical wheel of your career. It’s easy to start drifting out of your lane, and it’s easy to not realize you can be more than just another person stuck in traffic. Don’t set your car on cruise control. It won’t help you, and it won’t get you anywhere faster. It allows you to become distracted from reaching your goals. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn, but an invaluable one.

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