Secrets to smart decisions when you graduate from college

, ,

The transition from college to adulthood might be the hardest one we make in our whole lives. After we spend twenty years learning how to get good grades, we go into a workforce where those skills are largely irrelevant.

In fact, the skill that is most important in adulthood is self-knowledge—knowing what you like, what you need, and how you make decisions based on that information. Self-knowledge is hard, though. Even for someone who’s been in the work world for decades.

To make matters worse, Dan Ariely, behavioral economist at MIT and the author of the book Predictably Irrational, finds that we are pretty bad at making decisions based on what we want, and we are easily influenced by extraneous issues. So here are some mental potholes to look out for when you’re steering your own path.

1. Taking action is more important than taking correct action.
I’ve written before about how the soul search is not a good thing for a job hunt. This is because when we are job hunting and we perceive that everything is available, it’s nearly impossible to make a decision. So we don’t. We tell ourselves we’re figuring things out, but really, when presented with tons of choices, our preference is to do nothing:

Ariely describes a study someone did about buying jam in a chic-chic grocery store. Researchers gave free samples of twenty-four jams one day, but only six samples the next day. More people took samples with twenty-four jams to choose from than when given samples of only six. But when researchers gave people a coupons for buying jam in the store, 3% of the people bought jam on a day there were twenty-four jam samples, but 30% of people bought jams on a day there were six samples. “It’s just sugar and fruit,” says Ariely, “but twenty-four jams is just too much to choose from.”

In a job search, if you tell yourself you have a gazillion choices, you do yourself a disservice. Instead, force yourself to just take a job, any job. Because after a week or so on the job, you learn to naturally limit what you would consider next—you see things you don’t like about your current job and you say I’ll never do this again. So the best way to zero-in on what you want to do is to force yourself to do something—to do anything.

And if you are reticent to take this advice, pretend you’re at the jam counter, and you should arbitrarily knock 18 jars on the floor.

2. The worst time to go to graduate school is when you don’t know what you want to do.
One of the biggest problems with grad school is that people graduate into the work world, which is an open, undefined road. It’s scary to see that you will probably go through your twenties having no idea what you’re doing and trying a lot of stuff.

The worst time to go to graduate school is when you are facing this problem of feeling lost, because the confused feeling of going through emerging adulthood makes you very likely to instead take what used to be a default course for life after college: Law school, business school, getting a PhD.

Ariely found that if you are confused but you have a default choice, you’ll take it. He makes this point by showing the rate of organ donation among people in various countries. At first blush, the chart makes no sense. Less than 10% in Germany and nearly 100% in Austria, for example. Or about 20% in Denmark and nearly 100% in Sweden. These are culturally similar countries with drastically different donation rates.

It turns out that it depends on the form that people got about organ donation. In countries where you have to opt out of donation, there is nearly 100% donation rate. In countries where you have to opt in, there is typically less than 10% donation rate.

The tendency to choose the default option is not because people don’t care about organ donation. In fact, they care so much—because it deals with their own death and also with ethics—that they don’t want to think about it. Ariely says that if there is a difficult decision and a default option, people go with the default.

So back to grad school. When your parents were graduating, grad school might have been a safe choice, but today, it’s actually a really risky path. This makes it even more dangerous that people have a proclivity to choose grad school because we naturally look for a default in the face of confusion. To make a good decision about graduate school, do it when you are feeling safe, focused, and certain about what is right for you in life.

3. Take pride in making bad career moves.
The truth is that even when we think we have a good understanding of our preferences, we totally overestimate our ability to control our lives in relation to our preferences.

So now it makes sense that most of us have made terrible career decisions. It also makes sense that people who have not made some terrible decisions are not living, not trying to find what’s best. The only way to have a perfect, straight and narrow path is to not open yourself up to your own irrational decision-making process. And if you are not making decisions for yourself, then what are you doing in this life?

So today, let’s celebrate all the times we went down the wrong path. That’s our nature. That’s how we know we’re really guiding our own careers.

56 replies
  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Spot on Penelope!
    I have personally learned far more from the bad jobs I’ve had than I ever learned in school. I had a job so bad that I would come home in tears. The moronic thing is that I kept going back.

  2. tinyhands
    tinyhands says:

    I have two books to recommend on the subject (to which I have no connection):
    — “Stumbling on Happiness” – Daniel Gilbert (2006)
    — “The Art of Happiness” – The Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler (1998)

    I hope you will learn something about decision-making by learning about yourself.

  3. david rees
    david rees says:

    I had no idea what I wanted to do in my 20s. I took so many different jobs to “try out” all sorts of things. Most of the jobs were horrible, but working for bad bosses on crummy jobs really made me appreciate how important it is to work with and for good people.

    This was an important time because I had usually had a job when I was a teenager and often I was terrible at it. I got fired from a fast food job because when I used the grill scraper after making hamburgers, I created some metal shavings in the next batch of food. I was also slow at the mass production of uniform hamburgers. At the time I felt like such a loser – to be so bad at an “easy” job like that was embarrassing. Other kids were able to make the whole process happen flawlessly.

    I am trying to be really careful not to sound like I thought I was too smart to make hamburgers. That was not the case at all – there were plenty of really smart kids who “got it”. The lesson I learned was that we all think differently and some people like their jobs very well defined (I find it suffocating) and some people like their jobs with a high degree of ambiguity.

    There are probably 5 or 6 different defining situations where I learned something important about myself. Yet if I had analyzed every job before I took it to make sure it would be a good fit, I would have missed out on a lot of valuable self discovery.

    Maybe that was the most important thing I learned – that it is OK to make a mistake and how to extract value from a situation that is less than ideal.

  4. JC
    JC says:

    This is an excellent post, particularly the last 2 points: I always noodled on grad school, but I had vague notions about what sort of investment to make for the sake of my career.

    However, through networking & gaining a few mentors (which is really contrary to my nature – it was hard!) I found that my contacts were guiding me down a certain grad school path, one that would help me get where I wanted to be. They know me well enough to discourage the MBA-for-the-sake-of-the-MBA path.

    That said, I’m grateful for the really horrible jobs I’ve had as well. I always tried to tackle the tasks at hand with great enthusiasm, but when I went home at night I knew something was very wrong about the situation…knowing what I didn’t want has been invaluable as well.

  5. Tiffany Monhollon
    Tiffany Monhollon says:

    I am copying bullet point one and making t-shirts. I know several people who need one.

    What I think is interesting about your point about people going with the default when they are confused about their options is that it illustrates so perfectly that NOT making a decision is, in fact, making a decision.

    For example, I’m all for people having freedom to do what they want, for our generation having time and opportunity to explore the world, their optins – it’s great! But it always cracks me up when new grads tell me they’re “taking some time off” after college to travel across Europe, or volunteer, or whatever, to find themselves first, before they make a career choice.

    First, I want to ask them, taking time off from what?! Then, I want to remind them that those things are great, I’m glad I studied abroad during school, and took time to invest in my community, but those weren’t a path to avoid making a decision about my career – they helped shape who I am, and what my career is now.

    The most important point of this post is that you have to have the courage to embrace each choice you make as a valid and worthwhile part of your personal and professional development, otherwise, you get to a point where you feel like you have to hide your experiences rather than celebrate them.

  6. mamaworker
    mamaworker says:

    I am a graduate school dropout after 12 credits, but while I was in the program, I discovered two things: 1) the field was at the same time antiquated and in my geographical area, saturated with graduates with little jobs, and 2) everyone in the program was a dislocated English or history major with degree on top of degree. Grad school should never be used to delay life, because life is way more fun.

  7. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    This post really strikes a chord with me. But what I actually want to comment on is organ donation. I live in a country where organ donation is opt in. I support organ donation however I am not opted in. It’s not because I don’t want to donate my organs, nor is it because I haven’t thought about it.

    I’m happy to donate but I’m not happy to be on a register of organ donors when it’s only 10% of the population. I’m also not comfortable carrying ID or a drivers’ license identifying me as an organ donor. I’m not saying doctors would knowingly do the wrong thing by me but I don’t want to give them any incentive, whether conscious or subconscious, to give up on me until the last possible moment.

    If, heaven forbid, something were to happen to me, the doctors would ask my next of kin about organ donation. In all likelihood, my organs would be donated since I have let this person know that I support the concept.

    If I lived in a country where organ donation was opt out and we had a 90% organ donor rate, then that would be fine, as I would no longer be a special case.

    I guess the point is that a) I think organ donation is interesting and b) that there are often more reasons for a trend than might otherwise be assumed. It’s not necessarily the case that people are ignorant or haven’t thought about it. I know people within the medical or healthcare profession who are not registered for the same reasons as me.

    * * * * * * * *

    This is such an interesting (if cynical) take on donating organs. Thanks, Caitlin.


    • Letitia
      Letitia says:

      For your information, I’ve spoken with several of my friends who are doctors or med school students. Rest assured that doctors in the United States will not reduce their efforts to save you just because you are an organ donor.

      Firstly, the doctors are professionals and do their jobs as best they can.

      Secondly, they know that if people think this will happen, the number of organ donors will sharply decline. The big picture would be that overall fewer lives can be saved.

  8. Lilavati
    Lilavati says:

    I’d emphasise the fact that more experience gives you a larger view of the world and that personal growth is a value in itself.

    I have enough interests to make at least five careers: I write songs, build websites, speak 3 languages fluently, am getting master degress in math and computer science. I used to be afraid that spending time to learn something or work on something unrelated to my career would be a waste of time. But there is no career where I could use all of the above at once. Plus, I worked one summer as “customer service professional”, where all I needed was the ability to write in French, and even if it doesn’t sound impressive among my computer science school mates, I’m really glad I did. I revised that French and saw a bit of the world, I know now how customers e-mails are read and replied to.

    I know that what I want most to be is a cryptologist. But I also know that I have an entire lifetime for that (well, I hope so, it’s not at 22 that you think about death a lot) and I can do loads of other things too. So last summer I took an intensive Arabic course and now, I’m applying for a programming internship that has nothing to do with cryptology.

  9. Arlene
    Arlene says:

    Outstanding post, Penelope!

    Today, people have a LOT of career transitions to manage. Though this is bewildering right out of college, it’s not any easier for 50-somethings who end up on the wrong side of a downsizing, because real or imagined age discrimination adds even more confusion. Nor for 30-somethings, up to their eyeballs in family pressures, who have to do something (ANYTHING! But it will look horrible on my resume!) to pay the bills.

    Managing your emotions about settling (or not) is THE key piece of emotional intelligence for 21st century work.

  10. Mark
    Mark says:

    Being the objective scientist that I am –

    What if that extra 27% put off buying jam and had it on their shopping list for that particular trip to the store? Maybe there is a direct correlation between the consumer's supply and demand of toast for that week?

  11. Thais
    Thais says:

    It´s cool to hear that being kind of lost is natural and even healthy!
    I´m 22, live in Brazil and I´m facing all the facts described above… I just graduated and had to choose a job in corporate life or to get back to business school. The more confortable choice was going back to school, where I knew all the rules and was used to it. The most scary and challenging was to take the job! So, I took the job! And everyday I learn from my experiences, what I like and dislike!
    Thanks for the post Pennelope! :)

  12. Jim Eiden
    Jim Eiden says:

    I graduated from college during a recession. This was before the internet, so I had to wait for the Sunday paper with the jobs ads. I would send out my resume and wait for the phone to ring the rest of the week. I would also follow up the next day with phone calls. I would even go out and get the Sunday Paper on Saturday night to try to get a jump on my competition.

    I got tired of waiting for the phone to ring. So I put on my suit, made 100 copies of my resume and went to Oak Brook, Illinois. In Oak Brook there were a ton of corporate office buildings. I went to the tallest building, all the way to the top floor, and went into the first company I saw, and handed the receptionist my resume. Then I went to the next company.

    As I went, I started to do get smarter about my approach, what companies are located there, what to say, etc. Several times, a Manager would be near the receptionist and he/she would give me an interview on the spot. Many of these companies were not hiring, but they interviewed me to give me practice and put me on a list when openings did come up.

    That summer, I canvassed my resume to all the industrial parks and corporate office parks in the Chicagoland area. I was passing my resume around in downtown Chicago when I finally got a call. This was from a company where I actually sent my resume to. But I did something, and I gained some excellent people skills. When approaching a company with my resume, what is the worst they can say? They can say no or yes. If they say no, then you move on.

    The last recession, I worked 5 jobs at once. I worked at my cousin’s plumbing supply company, I taught college at night, I wrote freelance articles, and I caddied on a golf course. Caddying was the perfect way to network. You get 5 hours one on one with a professional business person, and you get paid for it. I made $100 a day as a Caddy. The people golfing on this course were rich and influential, those are the people you want to be around and network with. If they can afford to belong to a private course during a severe recession, maybe I can learn something from them.

    But again, I went and did something. I did not wait around, I tried to make things happen as much as possible.

  13. Jen Jacobs
    Jen Jacobs says:

    Great Points! As a career coach I often encourage students to pursue internships or contracts jobs in the field they are interested in before rushing back into school to get an MBA (just to have it on the resume). Most of my friends did this because they said, "If I don't do it now, I never will". However, now I am seeing colleague who went right into the field after their undergrad degrees and they have excelled to the point where their companies are now offering to pay for their MBA's if it's really necessary for them to advance.

    On a personal note: My husband went to school for his BA in Finance but he didn’t know that he truly wanted to be a Financial Planner so he went to get his MBA. After struggling for almost 10 years to find fulfillment in the banking industry, he decided 6 months ago that what he really wanted to do is be a chef. So, now he is in culinary school. Go figure.

    I wish he would have just gotten a job as a line cook out of college to pay the bills to explored his secret passion. At least then we would not be knee deep in school debt for a degree he didn't need and hasn't used. But often times we don't get the courage to explore our creative passions until we are old enough to not need to do what our elders say we "should".

  14. Lori
    Lori says:

    Great post! I completely agree with the graduate school comment, particularly with MBA’s. In my field, an MBA is an asset when you have experience and it is perceived as screaming “I couldn’t get a job after college” if you don’t have experience.

    I also feel that if you’re not going to a top business school, you should go part time and get your company to pay for it.

  15. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    The first line of this post makes an interesting distinction between “college” and “adulthood.”

    Almost all college students are over 18, so they are legally adults. But many of them don’t act like adults.

    Having gone to a university where students were required to declare a major in the first semester of the Freshman year, and at a time in history when male students had to finish in four years (because draft deferments only lasted that long), I am still amazed at the aimlessness of many college students nowadays.

    People, if you are going to spend gobs of your money or your parents’ money or go deep in debt to attend college, you really ought to have a goal in mind. Otherwise the money is being wasted, as is your time. You’re legally a grown-up; act like one.

    That said, the rest of this column is also very good.

    Make a decision and do something — choose a job. If it’s the right decision, so much the better, but at least you will make a living and learn something about the real world.

  16. Miriam Salpeter
    Miriam Salpeter says:

    Self knowledge IS hard (a life-long process for some), and making important decisions is probably the hardest part of transitioning to adulthood. Let’s face it, how many “big” decisions have new college grads really made? Most people aren’t great at doing something they haven’t had the chance to practice. Since we’re always told, “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal,” there is a lot of pressure to make the “right choice.”

    However, since statistics suggest that most of us have multiple jobs and careers during out lives, the pressure to make the “right” choice should subside. I like your focus on the idea that we learn from our less-than-perfect choices what the next best thing may be.

    I also appreciate your philosophy about taking action instead of waiting to figure out “ideal” action. “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” If we all stand around waiting to make the “perfect” choice, no one will ever make a choice at all!

    Having led the career center at a (not cheap) private graduate school, I can tell you that, professionally, there is nothing worse than trying to help someone about to earn a graduate degree who went to grad school because they couldn’t think of what else to do. Some students still didn’t really want to do the work they trained to practice. What a waste of time and resources on their part.

    Miriam Salpeter

  17. Charles
    Charles says:

    Excellent post! These are very important lessons that many people (myself included) learn the hard way. Experiential knowledge is just as valuable as philosophical foundations in career choice and development.

    First: unlimited choices make the choice impossible, but before you can chose, you need to knock out those choices that don’t fit. As much the alternative to “just taking a job” is to do a systematic analysis of those ideal career qualities, more often than not we find out (in our organization) that people often don’t really know what that ideal career is. Just taking a job is often the wisest course of action because it takes the individual out of philosophizing about an ideal career and places the individual into an environment forcing them (upon reflection) to figure out the conditions they enjoy and excel at. This is the reason why medical schools require extensive experience (volunteer or otherwise) in a healthcare setting. Many individuals discover that while they excel in the math and science needed to be a physician; they cannot stand the actual work environment or routine tasks needed to be effective. Taking various jobs fulfills the same role and actually makes you a stronger candidate because when you are asked in an interview why you left you last position and why they should consider you for the position: you can answer that question from a career development perspective, you found out X about yourself and be able to articulate why this makes you an asset for their organization.

    Secondly: working in an area of the country where education is seen as the cure all for career setbacks, we often discourage people from pursuing a graduate degree with out a clear outcome in sight. "I want to be a lawyer because it pays well" is not a reason to become a lawyer. Hey, if you want to get a masters degree for personal enrichment or are passionate about a topic: more power to you. But if you are looking for a quick-fix solution and want to jump through the minimal number of hoops, you are pretty much setting yourself up for long term disappointment and failure. Oftentimes, noncredit professional development classes are more effective at moving up the career ladder as they teach skills that can be directly applied, increase your organizational effectiveness and leadership skills as well as require some degree of self-reflection on how to best use your skills. At some point you may want to pursue that master's degree, but having spent time in the workforce and gained experiential knowledge you are setting yourself up for success.

    As far as bad jobs: some of my greatest lessons learned were from those dysfunctional organizations. They allowed me to understand myself, interpersonal communications and relations as well as how to recognize opportunities for real professional growth.

    Once again: Excellent post!

  18. Missa
    Missa says:

    Another interesting book that I recommend:

    The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz

    It talks mostly about choices related to consumerism but can help us all think twice about limiting our choices in general. There are practically an infinite number of careers to choose from, and eventually you just need to make a choice to limit yourself. The hardest choice could really be choosing which small criteria to consider before whittling down the list!

  19. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    Terrific post. You definitely do yourself a service when you explore your outer world WHILE exploring your inner world. What draws you emotionally should drive your decisions about work and further education. Just remember that work that draws you in now may not be the same thing that draws you in a decade, and even THAT may change again in another decade. And don’t skip the self-examination. It’s easy to get caught up in putting together a career and a family, but while you are never really locked into a job, you may think you are and time will pass faster than you know. Checking in with yourself on a regular basis will help you create goals and action plans to serve future changes in both interests and careers.
    PS: sorry if this is a little disorganized – a sinus infection has made me dizzier than usual.

  20. Steve
    Steve says:

    Point one contradicts point two. A graduate degree is pretty much required for most entry level professional positions nowadays. It is not a risky path if you do graduate work in a field that is in demand, or get an MBA or law degree from a decent school.

  21. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    To Steve: What you describe is going to graduate school for a good reason. In that sense, you’re right.

    What PT describes is going to grad school for NO reason, i.e., as an alternative to finding a job rather than to qualify for a job. She’s right.

  22. Angie
    Angie says:

    If I had a nickel for every time my mother told me “take a job, any job” when I was in my early 20s… or if I had a dime for every hour that I spent analyzing my “self” and agonizing over my options…

    My experience lends me to agree with this post. Nothing tells you what you do and don’t enjoy doing like experience does. Five years ago, at 24, I had a list that read: 1) work as an editor for a publishing house or magazine, or 2) work as a reporter for a newspaper or magazine, or 3) go to graduate school to study one of the following: anthropology, linguistics, French, international development, migration studies, international affairs, conflict resolution, creative writing, or business. I drowned myself in self-analysis and research and wishy-washy rationalizations and counter-rationalizations for years before I finally just forced myself to take a step – any step – and move myself along.

    One year after taking that step (and 5 years after that original list), I can say that I have both broken the inertia and narrowed down my list. It’s clear to me that I haven’t found the “it” job (as if that exists!), but I understand more about what I am good at and what I enjoy than I ever could have through the self-analysis, aptitude tests and personality profiles that I was employing without end a few years ago.

    I’d like to second the recommendations of Stumbling on Happiness and The Paradox of Choice. Both positively impacted the way that I make decisions (esp. the latter).

  23. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    This post was right on the mark for me as well, which of course saw me cringing right through it. Ouch:

    After a humanities degree from a very prestigious university, I have had a couple of unemployed blocks, two dead-end internships, three different jobs, and I’m making 10 bucks an hour now. I started dabbling in everything in college and now I just can’t seem to stop. Instead I spend a lot of energy lamenting the fact that I like too many things….and seem to love nothing (waaah!). I definitely got sold on the dream job fairytale and really, it’s so good to get these whaps upside the head every now and then. I read about these twentysomethings on Brazen Careerist and get rather another one: yeah, I’m not pondering whether to buy my condo…more like whether I should wait until next month to buy new shoes…

    And now, I just took the GRE, ’cause, you know, that stuff is what I’m good at. But I still have no particular plan. I’m the opposite of you in that dyslexia post…I was told I could do anything, so I believed it, without really bothering to learn to put effort into one specific thing. “Discipline” might be another word for what I’m talking about lacking…I’m a hard worker; nevertheless, I have a bad habit of endless belly-button gazing. I guess I'll steer clear of the Masters in Procrastination degree for now and go get that paralegal class my parents have been pushing for three years now.

    I think I'm doing peeing potential down my leg. Not that you would know anything about that.

  24. Jessica Bond
    Jessica Bond says:

    Without action nothing happens…bad career moves prove you are capable of taking risks…without action and taking risk, success is not possible.

  25. sushi1869
    sushi1869 says:

    Wow, your words of wisdom couldn’t come at a better time. I’m in my mid 20s, I recently encountered a lay off and I have been searching for a job for the past few months. Well, I finally got a job, but after only a few days I fear I made a bad decision. After some inner reflection, I fear that I gave up on my search and just settled. Despite all that, this article has put a positive spin on my current situation. Hopefully it will be a valuable learning experience and I will look back and laugh at all this. Thanks!

  26. Susan Kennedy
    Susan Kennedy says:

    Interesting point of view. While I agree that you can most definitely learn from any job you do, I see clients on a daily basis who did not have a career plan in mind and are miserable soon after taking their first job.

    Establishing a career goal(s) is the key to success in any job search. When one looks at colleges, location, demographics and school culture are typically considered. When one buys a house, neighborhood, town and house layout are considered. When looking for a job, then, why wouldn’t you take the time to get to know your strengths, interests and passions? How else can you make a successful tranisiton to the working world?

    As a job coach who specializes in helping college grads and young professionals find the job that’s right for them, I see far too many unhappy clients who took the first job they could and then have to backpedal.

    My suggestion to anyone who is entering the working world is to take the time NOW to idenitfy the right job. It’s worth the investment.

  27. matt
    matt says:

    i think the choice is dependent on the field. as a scientist, a masters is a minimum for a highly rewarding (financial and social) corporate career. under most cases, persuing a masters or PhD after an undergrad is critical because the field changes so much and a scientist will loose alot of thier edge when competing with international student if you attempt it later in life. having a family to take care of while attending grad school in the sciences is a zero sum game. late nights studying for exams or working in the lab is not conducive to a healthy life.

    the other points made above seem to confirm the growing body of evidence between the psychologiocal profiles among boomers, gen-xers and gen-y about workforce issues are ingrained in an observable reality and no longer a pop-culture hypothesis.

  28. Alyssa Carter
    Alyssa Carter says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I think this is a great article, and one I totally relate to as a (semi) recent grad on to job hunt. I have been super picky in my job search and talk myself out of nearly every job for one reason or another because I don’t want to end up “stuck’ in a position that I hate. How do you recommend following this advice without being a. a job hopper (doesn’t look so good to employers) or b. stuck in a job you HATE for a year?



  29. Andrea Rice
    Andrea Rice says:

    Hi Penelope,

    These are good points. Colleges and their career services offices are not great at helping students connect their strengths and passions to career possibilities. With tuition costs escalating, competition for slots at schools and jobs afterwards intense, and a weak hiring environment, students and their parents are understandably focusing more on making sure they get a good return on their college investment.

    One suggestion I have for students and recent grads is to talk to more people about what they do, and get their help in helping you vet options you are considering and prepare for opportunities you are pursuing. Friends or recent alums from your school in areas that are of interest to you can be enormously helpful. Disclaimer: I’m passionate enough about helping more people get the personalized guidance that I’m launching a business in this space.

  30. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thought that I would just correct a really minor fact mistake. In Sweden you really do have to opt-in for organ donation.

    But I have to say it’s an interesting blog!

  31. Dale
    Dale says:


    I was with you for 1, then for 2, but you lost me on 3, “Take pride in making bad career moves.” I’m all for celebrating survival of a bad decision or two, but to actually celebrate the bad decision itself is not something I appreciate. This type of thinking could lead to sloppy decision making similar to that of the young who feel invincible and take unwise risks.

    No, we should celebrate survival after making incorrect decisions, but only where all the variables cannot be known and we choose to make choices instead of doing nothing. This is the ultimate in entrepreneurial living, and is preferable to gambling with one’s life.
    Just my two cents worth:)

  32. Shravan
    Shravan says:

    haha … lol …lol .. i read ur post for the first time … and you have completely described my state of mind in this post … i just graduated from college … i dont know wat to do .. i got many options … to study further … study in a different country … work in my own country … etc etc … i sometimes just think everything is good for me … so randomly select one alternative and do it … wat say

  33. asman
    asman says:

    I think we also have to consider that everyone has different personal situations that push them one way or the other. For example, I have a friend who comes from a traditional indian background, where her parents are planning to get her an arranged marriage 2-3 years out of college. She doesn’t mind the arrange marriage but she realizes that with marriage comes added responsibility, perhaps kids, etc. Therefore, she decided that pursuing her masters right now after college and taking advantage of internships and networking embedded in the graduate program is what’s best for her. Some may not agree with rushing into a masters, but it does provide a sense of security.

  34. rc
    rc says:

    Alright, #1 and #2 are good… but #3 is brilliant! Making mistakes is the quickest way to learn, and it wasn’t until I learned this that I started to have real success. Before that I was frightened of making any mistake, and tried to everything at the “perfect” time in the “perfect way”. It was paralyzing and would stop me in my tracks. I just wouldn’t make a move for fear of getting a bad rep.

    Things are different now… I realize that risks are a part of the game. Those who don’t play the game don’t reap the rewards. Sure I’ve made my mistakes, and that’s left me with a bad reputation with some. But there are others who think my work is absolutely stellar… and the point is that people know my name either way.

    I’ve read that some of the most successful people in the world failed time and time again before they struck gold. Now I see how that is possible.

  35. Medical Helicopters
    Medical Helicopters says:

    From the time I was 18-25 I had 20+ different jobs. i was trying to find a job that was challenging & rewarding. THe search was worth it and every job I had taught me some kind of lesson. In fact I learned the most after I had found the job I wanted. Luckily my degree in business management helped me out in numerous ways BUT everything I ended up learning was specific to that job. Great post here.


  36. Susan
    Susan says:

    Your first point is so smart. Yet, I still have problems actually following what I know is good advice. I wonder how many more times I will have to hear before I actually start doing it.

  37. Asher Visola
    Asher Visola says:

    Nice post! One thing, the organ donation research actually by Eric Johnson and Dan Goldstein: Johnson, E. J. & Goldstein, D. G. (2003). Do defaults save lives? Science, 302, 1338-1339.

  38. printable grocery coupons
    printable grocery coupons says:

    I agree with this blog post wholeheartedly. As a recent college graduate I have been faced with all of these decision making situations within the past year. You have outlined them all very accurately. When faced with important decisions, the recent college grad is overwhelmed and cannot handle the situation. I like your advice of making a quick decision in order to figure out how to base your next decision. Great blog, I look forward to reading more about this topic in the future.

  39. Celene Robbins
    Celene Robbins says:

    So you recently graduated from college or are near doing so, and the pressures to find a job are mounting? Don’t worry, you are not alone. As a graduate from the University of Southern California, back in 2001, I too faced a tumultuous uphill battle landing my career after the tragic events of 9/11. The economy was in the dumps and no one really knew when things would get better. I began writing my book, I Graduated From College, Now What? in 2001 and compiled all of my life lessons and experiences of getting into a career and not just a job. The book also offers advice on transitioning into a totally new career. My book is currently available through Amazon Kindle or PayPal for $10.95.

    For more information, please contact me directly at

  40. Hubert Diaz
    Hubert Diaz says:

    I agree with the author that one needs to know what they want to do in life before enrolling in a graduate degree. College education is expensive and requires commitment and hard work. To dedicate that kind of time and money to something, you need to be entirely sure of it. That's why many colleges these days help students choose the right program for them. I found the career assessment tools provided by California College San Diego pretty useful in that regard.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Lawrence University Career Center says:

    Sex and the City Career Lessons…

    Whether you are a SATC fan or not, there are career lessons to be learned from that well-dressed foursome and their tumultous relationships. (Warning: Spoiler alert.) 1. Get to the point. At over two hours, the Sex and the City……

Comments are closed.