Advice to New Graduates 2016: Be Happy. Today.

 By Matt Conforti

Flux, Boulder, Colorado

One of the most discussed topics within our community is the desire for people to find their purpose and find their passion. I love the topic, as it can lead to great things. But far too often I see people develop a mentality of “I’ll be happy when….”. With a certain mindset, happiness does not have to be contingent on landing your perfect job. Here are some things I learned early on in my “not-my-dream-jobs” that helped keep me energized, motivated, and present as I worked toward my future “dream job.”

Prioritize Mastering Skills: Wherever You Work

More important than the name and industry of the first company you work for are the skills you will be learning. There’s no better way to learn new skills than to be assigned or volunteer for special projects. Get hungry and put yourself out there. For example, my role is focused around business development, but I often put my name in the hat for new challenges . . . including writing this post. Questions to consider about any prospective companies: does the company value cross-departmental collaboration? Is there a rotational leadership program? Will I be able to take on challenging projects outside of my day-to-day duties?

Build an Interesting Life Outside of Work

More than ever, organizations are encouraging employees to follow their passions outside of work. Companies here in Colorado -- and across the U.S. -- understand the benefits of recruiting well-rounded talent to their teams. You’ll thank yourself later for volunteering, learning a new outdoor activity, showing up to that club, showcasing your art. Building confidence outside of the office will spill over into your work. It’s contagious. Before you know it, you’ll be meeting new people, having more interesting conversations, and developing a broader sense of fulfillment.

Your Title Does Not Define You

Your actions define you. Don’t judge yourself by your current title, industry or employer. Through your day-to-day interactions you have an equally meaningful impact on the lives of others. It’s time to stop wishing you had your friend’s job and start being a change-maker where you are right now. Know that if you’re taking action and growing, don’t fret your next-step -- it’s never been easier to change roles and industries, especially if you follow my first two bits of advice. 

Don’t Forget to Climb That Mountain

Literally or figuratively. Regardless, go on an adventure before you turn 30. Now is the time to dream big and check off the things on your life list that, for many of us, will become harder to plan as you get older. I recently returned from a 1200 mile bicycle journey through South America - the journey changed my life in ways that would not have been possible if I remained in my day to day comfort zone. Don’t fear a “resume gap”. Good hiring managers will respect a good story.