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  Age: 23 Graduation Date: 2013 Major: Psychology School: George Mason University Current Position: Office Manager  

Q: What was your biggest fear about leaving college and entering the “real world”?

My biggest, most violent fear was being unable to pay my bills, pay my rent, and end up back in retail at the local mall and living in my parents house. I have a fantastic relationship with my parents, don't get me wrong, but the level of independence I desired was including a salary, one that reflected the completeness of a degree.

Q: What five words would you use to explain your job search as a recent grad?

Exhausting, Constant, Wide-ranged, Hopeful, Reflective.

Q: What is it about your situation now that makes you a happy grad?

I am very fortunate to say I have a solid, challenging job with the perks of a steady paycheck, the confidence of my employers, and the responsibilities of a real-world office worker. I have the solidarity of a 9-5 work schedule, and the familiarity of my job cycle: I know what is expected of me, I can complete my work and go above and beyond what is expected of me.

Q: What are the best things about your current role?

I love being entrusted with many of the important things that need to be completed in order to run a business. For example; payroll, invoicing, accounts payable and receivable are all components of a business that require meticulous handling. I am young and see the potential to grow into my role and earn more responsibility as the business grows. It's also a wonderful feeling when you're opinion holds water in the work environment. There's nothing like proving yourself and then reaping the benefits: being trusted.

Q: What advice would you give recent grads today about leaving college, and finding a career and life they love?

My best advice: do not limit your opportunities. I graduated with a psychology degree and at first when I was job searching I had a difficult time finding the one specific job I wanted. Did I ever imagine becoming an office manager? No. I was stuck on the perfect psychology related job - but I soon became discouraged.
There are many stairs on the staircase to our dreams.
I learned in order for there to be any hope of finding a good job, I needed to realize "Ok, my first job may not be my dream job, or my career, but that doesn't mean I can't gain great and valuable experience doing a job that utilizes my strengths and also getting my foot in the door." There are many stairs on the staircase to our dreams.

Q. What are some of the best things about being a recent grad?

Some of the most exciting things I've experienced in the last year is just that: experiences. I am able to say I have been fully supporting myself for a year now. Financial independence has been wonderful. With that, I have been able to plan for the future: my goal is to go out of the country on a trip to Paris in 2015. Last year, I was able to afford to go skydiving, among many other things I will soon be crossing off my bucket list. I feel accomplished, successful and making my family proud while contributing to the success of a company.  
Learn how to land a career you love

Everyone needs to feel their voice is heard and their contributions are important. Something as simple as sharing a drink the last hour of the day on a Friday with the team to recap wins and give praise can build camaraderie within the team.

All of the above are fairly simple to implement but can make a huge difference in morale and motivation. Have any of these tips worked well for young the past? Do you have other tips to motivate your creative team? If so, please share them with me!

Encourage curiosity. Spark debate. Stimulate creativity and your team will be better at handling challenges with flexibility and resourcefulness. Create a safe space for ideas, all ideas, to be heard. In ideation, we need the weird and off-the-wall ideas to spur us on to push through to the great ideas.

Sure, there are a ton of studies done on this, but here is my very unscientific personal take. When team members can make decisions about how they work on projects, they are more engaged and connected to the project outcome. When they see how potentially dropping the ball would affect the entire team, they step up. When they feel like what they are doing is impactful and valued, they are naturally motivated to learn more, and be even better team members.

Rarely does a one-size-fits-all style work when it comes to team motivation. I have found that aligning employee goals with organization goals works well. Taking time to get to know everyone on your team is invaluable. What parts of their job do they love? What do they not enjoy? What skills do they want to learn? Even going so far as to where they see themselves in five years career-wise. These questions help you right-fit projects, and help your team see you are committed to creating a career path for them within the company.

Most designers I know love a good challenge. We are problem solvers by nature. Consistently give yourself and your team small challenges, both design-related and not. It will promote openness within the team to collaborate, and it will help generate ideas faster in the long run. Whether the challenge is to find a more exciting way to present an idea to stakeholders or fitting a new tool into the budget, make it a challenge just to shake things up.