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If Only I Knew Then, What I Know Now: Advice to New Graduates

Written By: Karen Magistrale

I didn’t know what to study in college. I only knew that getting an education was important, the avenue to make my way in this life. I picked something and two years into that decision, I regretted it. But after a gap, I was led to a program that lit a fire in me, and I resumed college and got my degree, never knowing what I would do with it, exactly.

Thirty-five years later, I can look back and see the navigation of a successful career and often reflect on the interesting ways it evolved and came together. The ways it weaved together make perfect sense to me now, and had I just trusted it would all work out, I could’ve saved so much energy on worrying. That’s helpful to me, even in my current job search.

I know that at the beginning of your career, you may not have a job that is a perfect fit. Perhaps you love 10%, maybe 20% of it, and the rest of it drains you. You might be money conscious and don't want to “waste” your college education making a pivotal move. You apply to jobs, then revert to the security of the benefits your present job provides. It makes sense to me. I was there. I put up with so much work I resented and couldn’t get from A to B fast enough. It was scary to risk, to potentially make another mistake. What if this next job sucks just as bad?

But what if it's better? How do you reassure someone who is on the front end of that life experience that it works out? Would I have listened and trusted a parent giving this advice, or a mentor, a sage imparting this message? And how do I know that it will be true for you as it was for me?

The answers are: I hope so, you do it anyway, I did, and I’m confident it will.

The truth is, I’ve come to know there are no mistakes. There are only choices. And if you are intentional, your efforts will take you places that are meant for you. It’s in the process of the pursuit that you obtain the validation that making change can, and will, align with your enjoyment.

There are innumerable publications about finding your passion. Aligning your career with your purpose. I’ve read many. If you have any sort of network at all, there is undoubtedly a person who has an inspiring story to share of their triumphant journey in gaining clarity that led to their success. Probably several people. Career advice on social media, and popular figures to follow. Methods, formulas, experimentation, and checklists.

Is any of that helpful? Who has time for those things? In the end, will doing any of that truly provide one with the answers they seek?

Speaking strictly from my own experience (which is all I have to share, anyway) the answer is yes, it will, and it is worth it! I don’t mean right away, as self-discovery is a process. When you don’t know, getting to the answers, the truth, the knowing- it may take a lifetime. But it doesn’t have to. My work history is peppered with events that correlate to moments in time where I learned more about myself and acted on it. In that process, I talked to people who knew me, and who didn’t know me. I read books and wrote journals. I went to workshops and presentations. And I’ve meditated and spoken to Spirit. I even went to a psychic!

What I did in my twenties compared to what I do now to help guide me in my career decisions is not that different today than it was then. I think the most important lesson I’ve gained is to trust the process of being inquisitive, to look within, to be still for periods of time. Then open up to information, people, signs, and indicators to point you in a direction. It may not look at all like what you expect, and that is the critical part of all of it . . . to allow yourself to be guided, rather than to guide. To flow rather than force. Be inclusive to all external messaging and encounters. Stimulate connections with people you know and see where that leads you. The most unsuspecting can be the most valuable. And by the way, it doesn’t always happen on your time schedule. There could be a reason for that too.

Ultimately, we each have our own journey. Although we are each charting a different course, as women, we have a shared experience in terms of challenging belief systems, working in less than inclusive environments, learning to trust our intuitive thoughts, leveraging empathy, and the importance of self-care. And though our paths are different, know that my path going before yours allows me to share hope. There are better days ahead. If nothing else, being reminded that nothing is forever and the greatest power we have is that of choice. We can choose another path.

So my role isn’t necessarily about wisdom. By sharing my experience, I hope I can provide validation, acknowledgment, support, and modeling what is possible. Sharing my experiences adds to your awareness and is a way of expanding your thoughts. I’m but one component in the whole mix of things cultivating and fostering an expansion of a new world view that you will gain over the years. There is no lack of intellect with you . . . the only thing you don’t have that I possess is the gift of life experience. The knowing what I know now that I didn’t know then.

This post supports Woman of Wonder, a college scholarship program to advance women into better and more fulfilling careers.


Meet the Author

Karen Magistrale is a native of the Pacific Northwest and obtained her bachelor’s degree in communication. With a career that began in the ‘70s, she has reinvented herself several times as a business development professional, to a high tech global recruiter, and then an advertising and marketing consultant and leader in the healthcare industry. She is proud of managing a career, her marriage of 28 years, and raising her two adult children with amazing careers ahead of them.


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