As a part of the Class of 2020, I’m lucky to be a college graduate with a job right now. Back in March, I wrote a post about some of the ways that college graduates handled the recession back in 2008 because at the time, a lot of them were facing the same changing job market, hard money issues, and layoffs much in the way my class currently is. While there was a lot of advice offered from past grads, I ended up taking one key piece bit to heart:

Readjusting my mindset with a more open-ended plan.

It was easier said than done, I know. But it doesn’t just apply to me or to people in my situation.

For me, I took a job that wasn’t exactly a dream of mine because I knew I could use it as a learning and growth experience. It was a place to start. For those of us entering the workforce, continuing education, or changing our lifestyles to fit the current realities we’re facing, I think finding that is something we’re all struggling with these days. 

It’s hard to re-adjust to the end goal without knowing exactly what that end looks like; it’s also difficult to rearrange expectations when the status quo suddenly begins to change. All of it involves a bit of extra… flexibility. Here’s what I mean.

Working in a field I wasn’t trained in is difficult; there’s a lot of side work that comes with the job. Sometimes—a lot of the time—I find myself tripping on acronyms or trying to remember where I heard a term before just so I can use it correctly in a report. By the time I do recognize it, I’m lost again.

It’s a game of cat and mouse, one that we all end up playing at some point, in the sense that it takes time to figure out where the pieces fit together. In my case, I’m chasing down information and learning how to play as I go. Sometimes that can be one of the most effective ways to learn but in all honesty, it also seems like the rules to this game just keep changing.

Photo by John Doyle on Unsplash

A lot of people in my graduating class either struggled to find work or had jobs set up before graduating. Unfortunately, some of those offers got rescinded and others of us may have gotten offers later on. None of us, however, ended up quite where we expected and yet all of us are still learning to navigate what our lives are supposed to look like outside of undergrad. We’re at a stage in our lives where there are a lot of expectations on us and there is no longer a roadmap on how to stay in line with those expectations.

The world around us is shifting constantly regarding work or school, with less socializing, higher stress, and several other factors that we don’t have any say in. So, how do we adjust?

Like I said earlier, we work on our flexibility and  adjust around the rules where we can.

Though I know I am sometimes out of my depth in my job, what I can control is how much I know or learn about what I’m doing. It’s up to me to put in the time outside of work to do a little extra reading or catch a few YouTube videos on my field because it’s worth creating my own foundation in order to build that control. I mean, did you know there are podcasts and videos on basically everything out there? When I first started my job, I believed by doing the work, asking questions, and staying attentive, I would keep up with the learning curve. 

If only it were that simple.

You see, if I were still in school and solely learning for the advancement of my own skills, doing all of this would have me set to go. Now, however, I’m learning both for myself and for the advancement of what I can contribute to my team.

That is one concept I have to consider that I didn’t before; what I learn applies not only to myself, but also to my team and how what I know fits in with how I can help us reach our goals as a group. I’m working within cyber security, something I can learn more about on my own. That being said, jobs are usually not just about what we need to do for ourselves.

What we do impacts other people— compared to undergrad, we’re no longer getting a grade for ourselves and doing better the next time to reach the diploma or certificate at the end of the tunnel. Depending on your field, there may be several other people impacted by both your decisions and actions. This could be through teaching, teamwork, mentoring, caregiving, even researching; our actions have direct impacts on those around us within our teams and beyond. 

As a learning curve most people transitioning from school to work face, it seems easy enough to ease into over time if there is the space to do so. For those entering the workforce these days, however, that space looks very different. 

With remote work, the rules have yet again, changed.

As important as teamwork is, it’s harder to make that happen when contact is more limited or done differently than before. The learning curve is in many ways, steeper. I am noticing that people need to communicate more clearly and be more organized in order to get work done with one another, otherwise too many ideas get lost and tasks don’t get done.

In some ways, I feel like my class just got thrown into a workforce that was forced to adapt very quickly in ways that we may be capable of, but weren’t quite ready for yet either.

As a result, the newest working class is very much at a crossroads where we’re still in learning stages of what it means to be a part of the working world. We have to find what works for us, figuring out the rules as they rearrange themselves before we can find adjust to find better ways to get things done over time.

Call it adaptability and flexibility 2.0, I guess that’s where class of 2020 is going to thrive. Because much like 2008, graduates have a lot to learn in a short period of time and though it was may be difficult, we can learn how to figure things out on the go and do so while the world around us keeps shifting. We can adjust–we have to.

When it comes to my job, I’m learning a lot on my own but also I’m learning to find a better balance in knowing when to ask where the gaps are for the rest of the team rather than just myself. The more time I spend on different tasks and material, the more I’m coming to understand just what kind of changing world this next generation of workers might be up against. I don’t know how long many of us will continue to work remotely for, but I do know that things will always move just as quickly and oftentimes, with at least a little precedent for what comes next. The rest is up to us to set.

Maybe instead of playing the game, sooner or later we will learn to be the ones to make the rules. Until then, you can catch me chasing down information and doing my best to find a balance in this learning curve. If anyone has any tips on what it’s like to be new in the working world or how to juggle new jobs, I know some grads who would appreciate the words of advice. Otherwise, stay safe and I hope you have a good weekend.

Happy Friday everyone.

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