Susan Tomasky P’17 shares her post-Kenyon advice.
A. To be fair, this question is probably better answered by my daughter than by me. But what I hope has been useful is my advice to her as she began her first job search, which is to remember that the first job you take out of college is important, but it won’t answer all your questions about where you are going in life. It’s not what you’re “doing” forever; it’s just what you’re doing next.
Most students graduate with ambitions for meaningful work and financial independence, which means a job that pays enough, is in a location you’d like, and provides opportunities for you to hone your talents and succeed. A handful of you will have a clear path in mind, and you will snag a first job that feels like a perfect step forward on that path. But for most, you are headed into a laboratory — your next life — where nothing is clearly marked and you are responsible both for defining the problem and devising a solution. You will be making choices without all the information you’d like; you will have to take risks and make mistakes, and you will find yourself navigating unfamiliar social structures.
You will have some fabulous experiences and you will be bored and frustrated, too. (These things will also happen to the “Clear-Pathers,” by the way.) I encourage you to think of all of this as the good news! Believe it or not, this stage of professional self-discovery is an amazing gift. Use it to learn what you’re good at (and what needs work), what excites you, how you like to work, and how and where you want to live. Don’t be afraid of uncertainty and risk; accept — and celebrate — the fact that each next step will present new choices and opportunities.
And don’t get mired in expecting to make “perfect” decisions every step of the way. Expect twists and turns, welcome them, and have some fun while you’re doing it. And if this doesn’t help, embrace the words of my daughter: The first six months after college will feel like the longest six months of your life. But then it’s over and you realize it was just six months. What comes after isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty darn great.
Susan Tomasky P’17, a Kenyon Parent Trustee, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School. She served as former president of AEP Transmission, LLC and is director of board at Marathon Petroleum Corp., and a trustee of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA).