Career Advice for Graduates: Finding Passion, Coping with Pressure, Fitting In

In this video, we had a discussion about career life for graduates with Maria Stella - a Professional Counselling Psychologist and a Life Coach.  Maria Stella offers online and offline sessions and counseling.

Here is Maria's website:




Hello and welcome to the Fashion Potluck Blog! My name is Una and I'm here with Maria Stella, the counseling psychologist, here in her office in The Hague. Una - Thank you for being here. Maria - Thank you for having me.

Una - We are all recent graduates, not all, but me. And, I always have a lot of doubts, also as our viewers, about which career to take, how to stay focused, how to deal with pressure, to really have a happy life. And luckily I'm here with Maria and she's going to help us answer these questions. So, the first question I have is how to cope with family pressure, friends. Once you choose a specific career, they might be disappointed in you or they want you to go in a different direction. How to cope with that?

Maria – Well, ever since we are born we want to please our parents. And, this actually never stops. As we grow, we always seek their approval even if we are going through a rebellious time, during our teenage years. We always secretly seek for their approval. So, what happens there is they play a big role in our decision making about our studies or our careers. But even though they have our best interests in mind, they are not always right. Their perspective isn't always right. Sometimes it is. But, making a decision about your career is about taking responsibility for your life. Because there are a lot of people who have studied what their parents wanted them to study and then after a decade they blame. You don't want to end up blaming other people even if they're your parents because of your decision making. It is your decision and you have to take responsibility for that decision.

"...you have to take responsibility for that decision."

When you do have a position at a university and you are following what you want to be following which is against your parent's wish, then you need to prove to them that you are indeed responsible for studying, for passing the exams, or thriving even.


Una – Yes. Also what I think one of the struggles is that we often, from a young age, have a certain passion. But, on the other side we also have people who don't really have any passion in life and sometimes they feel a bit lost once they start with their career. And, I wanted to ask you how can someone find their passion?

Maria - Some people know their passion from a very young age and some people realize it while they're at university. So, I would have to answer for the people who haven't yet found their passion -never stop growing. And by growing I mean never stop developing as a person or as a professional. Learning new skills, reading books, trying new things. We keep updating our phones, but we forget to update ourselves So, it's very important to be on that search because it is a search. If it's not obvious, then we need to find it and the best way to find it is to look for it. We can't be looking for it watching Netflix or being on Facebook.


Una – Do you feel that choosing your passion as a career is a good idea?


Maria - It could be.


Una - Even if you're not good in something you're passionate about?


Maria – Well, I wouldn't say no from the beginning because there are examples of people who have pursued their passion and they really succeeded. Even though they weren't very talented. You know, they had this goal and they had this image of themselves succeeding on whatever it was their passion. So, they worked really hard. And they did it. On the other hand, a very good question to be asking oneself is – “What am I good at?”. Because we keep forgetting about our own talents. Which could not be related to our passions. Something that we do effortlessly. Something that we do, and it comes out natural and it brings the satisfaction of having accomplished something.


Una - It feels like at the beginning of a career you definitely might be a bit lost. But do you have any advice on how to be at least less lost?


Maria - As I said it is exploring and asking the question where do I want to be. You have to have a vision, and by creating this vision in your head. Then you can actually make the goals and start one-by-one. So, if you have a vision of yourself becoming a doctor then you start one-by-one setting up your goals. What do I need to become a doctor? Why do I want to become a doctor? It's very important “the why”. Asking yourself the right questions you get great answers. You really have to be focused on who you are and that, of course, requires experience and requires knowledge of oneself. So, when you focus on yourself and you have the ability to believe in yourself instead of what others believe of you, then you really know that where you're going is the right way. It's very important to understand that someone else's opinion doesn't define us. And even if you have a group of people believing something different, again it doesn't define us.

"Someone else's opinion doesn't define us"

Una - How can you actually learn more about yourself? How can that help you find a career?


Maria – Well, this is by growing and this is by asking yourself the questions of what you want to be in the future. What skills do you want to develop? What talents do you have? As I said, “What do I do, and I like it and it's effortless?”. Reading books, going to seminars, keep developing, be obsessed with developing. And that brings you into a self-awareness, where nobody can tell you something that you don't know about yourself. Of course, we keep on growing. But, you know enough about yourself then you have the self-confidence to stand by it and to move on.


Una – Maria, a lot of people feel lonely at a workplace. Is there a way to cope with this? How can they improve that, or how does that affect them?


Maria – Yes, I've heard a lot of people feeling very lonely at work and it is a common thing to be happening. And yes, it does affect their work because the only thing that they can think of is when is it five o'clock so I can get out of here and go home. And that is not healthy of course.


Three reasons I can think of why someone would feel lonely at work are:

  1. Either it's a very toxic environment at work.
  2. They are working alone. There are a lot of people working alone.
  3. And, three, they are very shy to socialize with others. They feel intimidated by others.

So, to that, what I would say is to put a microphone on your thoughts. And what do I mean by that? I mean when you observe your thoughts going into a situation like that, you will hear yourself talking in a very bad way to yourself – “Nobody's going to like you. What are you going to say? You're going to say stupid things, so it's better if you don't say anything.” We don't talk nicely to ourselves. Most of the times. When we are aware of how we talk to ourselves, then we are able to change it. Then, we are able to see others as we are and have the courage to walk up to them and say good morning, how are you, how was your day. Smile. Be helpful. That always works - be helpful to make friends. So, this situation requires a change not coping. Actual change. We can't expect the environment to change, and everything will 

change in our lives.

"Put a microphone on your thoughts"


Una - But what if actually, it's a toxic environment? What would you recommend?

Maria - I would recommend change, again.


Una - In terms of the environment? Leaving?

Maria - Yes. If the environment is toxic, then there is never going to be growth.

Una - I think sometimes people might think, ok, it could improve, the environment could improve. But if it's toxic do you actually think it can improve?


Maria - Very rarely.

Una – Interesting, but we were talking about when people are shy, but then we also have the other case. For instance, if you're really an extrovert and if you like talking to people and then you come to a company where it's mostly shy people. What to do then? As an extrovert, you'd like to talk to people.

Maria – Yes, extroverts like to socialize a lot and introverts don't appreciate that as much. What I would say to the extroverts is to respect the introverts. And you can walk up to an introvert. And speak to them. It's not that they won't talk back to you or ignore you. They're not rude. They're just introverts that don't enjoy socialization, like in big groups. They could talk to an individual. So, there is not going to be a lot of difference. Trying to engage a whole group of introverts into something very exciting or loud, I don't think it’s going to work.

Una - Good to know. But it's interesting because sometimes when you start a career you also really want to create good impressions and a lot of graduates they ask themselves – “How can people start liking me?”. But I have another question. Do they actually need for people to start liking them? How can you deal with that thought that is not that important?

Maria - Right. It's a very important question because a lot of people kind of lose themselves in trying to be liked by people. So, what they are doing is forgetting all about themselves and trying to adapt to each person's likes. Ok, you like ice cream and you invite me for ice cream, and I say yes I like ice cream. And, someone else hates ice cream and I go Oh no no yeah I hate ice cream as well. So, this is a small example but it shows how much we ignore ourselves, we ignore our likes and dislikes, and our ways of thinking, our ways of being just to please other people. If we relax a little bit and say – “Who am I? What do I like? How do I feel comfortable?”  And then start becoming aware of yourself. This is very important and not being afraid or ashamed to go out and say it. Everybody's going to the party. I don't feel like going to the party. And I’m cornered. I have to please the others. I have to become someone else to please others. And then you end up losing yourself.

Una - That's true. But would you suggest some kind of balance, or to always go for what you feel like? What do you think is better?

aria – Well, yes. Balance is always good. But, we are talking more about being liked by others right. And, not to be polite. So, being polite and being nice to others doesn't necessarily mean that I'm ignoring myself. We are talking more about decisions, which are to please other people and to be ignoring ourselves. So, what works for instance when you are a newcomer - saying good morning, being polite, being respectful, being helpful. That always works and that doesn't mean I'm not being myself.

Una – Yes, definitely. A lot of struggles from graduates is that they sometimes feel invisible at work. So, you would suggest that's the right way to change that actually?

Maria - Yes. And it's not to be taken personally when they feel invisible, because as newcomers and as people who have junior positions tend to be a little bit ignored. But, it's because it is a process, that is a learning process. They are still learning, they're still adapting. And, their skills, the soft skills as we call them, that they have to still learn, being in an environment as such.

Una – So, at the beginning of your career it might be difficult to deal with authority figures because as young people we always used to mainly having parents and teachers as authority. But what would you advise to a young person, how to deal with authority figures in a company?


Maria – Well, an authority figure is not necessarily someone bad, it could actually mean someone very inspiring, because it's a person who has worked a lot of years to be in the position that they are. They have a lot to teach us. The first thing that comes to mind is to approach them with respect. And also self-confidence. And that shows that – “I am here to learn. I don't know everything but I'm here to learn”. So that makes a big difference in how this person sees you and as you come off.


Una - Yes. And we have come to an end. We hope that by now you have a lot of great insights about career life. This was Maria Stella and thank you for being here.


Maria - Thank you for having me.


Una - You're welcome. You can check her website. And she also offers online sessions. But are we going to provide everything in our article. Thank you. Bye!

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