It’s no big kept secret that recent grads are facing a lot of issues while they attempt to transition from the cozy constricting bubble of academia to the vast demanding world of grown-ups.
When we (so-called millennials) are applying for jobs, we don’t seem to have what companies are looking for — namely “real world” experience. We are passed over, or offered jobs that don’t pay. We can make some money, but when you’re underemployed, it’s hard to consider yourself a resident of grown-up world. We feel like kids, and by being kids, we are dismissed.
I’ll be honest with you: I used to call myself a “kid” all the time. It’s easy to call yourself a kid — it makes you sound friendly and approachable. But unless you’re discussing juvenile goats, calling someone a “kid” can get a little disparaging. All my life I’ve thought of myself as a theater kid, then a college kid, a new kid at a new job…
Then I became a Koru kid.
I was accepted into Koru’s business immersion program this fall, along with a couple dozen other young graduates. As far as I was concerned, I was the only Koru ‘kid’; everyone else was a “Koru,” what we call people going through the program. Calling the other Korus ‘kids’ just seemed inaccurate, condescending. My first couple of days in program I spent thoroughly intimidated by everyone else. They all seemed so extroverted and high functioning and impressive and smart and quick and accomplished.
Early in the program, a UPS guy walked into the space and poked his head around the corner to find someone that could sign for a package. I was the first human he found.
“I need someone to sign for a package?” He said. I don’t remember his face, I only remember staring at the beige box, the reception of which I was underqualified to oversee. This guy was going to need a more important signature than mine.
“Sure!” I squeaked, wanting desperately to be helpful. “Just let me find…” While I trailed off and began to frantically wander about the building, he followed me quizzically. What he doesn’t know is that I was about to say, “Just let me find one of the grown-ups.”
Immediately I began to criticize myself. After all, this UPS guy doesn’t know I’m not a grown-up. I could totally pass for a grown-up! I have a college degree, a long-term boyfriend, I speak three languages, and cook my own food. How come I still thought of myself as a kid? What was I missing before I could gain my own respect?
The quickest answer is, I didn’t have a job.
I was living at my mom’s house, not making my own money, and thus I was a kid. I did an entire loop around the office looking for someone in charge before I realized I was on my own. Someone had to sign for this package, and Korus do what needs to be done.
“Is it really- I mean- can anybody sign for this package?” I stammered, still unable to look this man in the eye. That package stared right back at me, sighing at my ineptitude.
“Yes,” and the man thrust his remote at me so I could sign. He had gotten a full tour of the Koru space, and his truck was running outside. I signed for the package, and off he went. I didn’t get his name and he’ll never see me again, but he watched me learn a very important thing.
A director once told me, “Don’t dismiss yourself, there are plenty of people who will do that for you.” For as long as I’d worked so hard to be a respectable human, as long as I was thinking of myself as an easily dismissible kid, I wasn’t ever going to get there.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I am far from wearing skirt suits, drinking dry martinis and bringing a briefcase to work. I drink chocolate milk if I want to, Istill cry when I watch “Pokémon: the First Movie,” and I wear my college backpack to work. The biggest difference between me before Koru and me after Koru is the respect I allow myself.
So if you’re just graduated from college and life’s getting you down, remember that there is a place for you in the world. There’s plenty of evidence that the job market doesn’t want us, and I won’t spend any time disputing that. However, if there’s one thing I learned from Koru, it’s that you can become who you want to be as soon as you allow yourself to be that way. You’d be amazed at what you can do once you trust yourself enough to do it.