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25/05/2013

After Graduation, Keep Your Friends First, Career Second.

Adapted from The Harvard Business Review Blog: Community is the heart of university. Students mix with other similarly aged people in an environment ripe with social activity, friendship, ideation, and discussion. It's the most powerful element of college or university— and also the most nostalgic to leave behind.
Social isolation often follows graduation. Many graduates find themselves unfulfilled, lonely, and restless — struggling to rediscover the community and connection they’d taken for granted when they were in college.

A publication recently lamented the difficulties in making new friends as a person enters their mid 20s (the age at which many are leaving college or university), largely because the three essential ingredients to forging friendship are lacking or harder to find post-university — "proximity; repeated, unplanned
interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other." And this is exacerbated when young professionals take jobs that find them on the road three to four days per week. It becomes difficult to forge new friendships or romantic partnerships, or connect with old friends or the families.

This is tragic because community is so important — perhaps even more important than career. But all of these — family, friendship, community service — are connected to our ability to limit our working schedules and firmly plant ourselves in a place for a period of time.

So why do so many of us so consistently deprioritize these things after graduation? We simply fail to focus on it. Career success is visible and easy to define. We can measure it in raises and promotions. And it has urgency because it's what allows us to pay our bills. Community, meanwhile, is something soft and seemingly without urgency — we tell ourselves there will always be time for friendship, family, and community service just after we've mounted the next hill of career success. But this skewed prioritization — done with the best of intentions — can lead us to sadly kick important relationships, and our own happiness and well-being further and further down the road.

Career is important. But community conquers all. 

So, for all the new graduates out there, I won't spend time reciting the ways in which to make community — through romantic partnerships, involvement in religious or civic organizations, dedication to existing friends or carving out time to make new ones. At some level, we social human beings all know how to do those things. I'll simply offer this advice: Remember that the most powerful part of your educational experience was social. And use that knowledge to build a life after graduation that's happy, balanced, and fulfilled.

1 comment:

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