The Ten List: 10 Pieces of Advice Every College Grad Should Receive Before Entering The Workforce
Every May my social media timelines are filled with pictures of excited new graduates and their parents. Clad in cap and gown and a well-earned sense of achievement, we release this new crop of the best and brightest into the workforce with a piece of parchment paper adorned with their name, a mountain of debt, and very little else. Below are ten of the best pieces of advice I wish I’d gotten on day one in my career.
1. Online Identities Are As Permanent As Tattoos
I won’t lie. I’m prone to saying things I regret (something I’m sure my wife would agree with). And while my wife is forgiving, your future employer very likely won’t be so patient. Over the past decade, social media has seamlessly interwoven itself into our daily lives and has been medium of choice for the digitally native generation to express itself. Be advised that every time you make a post you are providing a pool of employers with a real-time portrait of who you really are. Your online reputation is a digital permanent record for the world to see. Make sure they see the right you.
2. Never Stop Learning
Although you may have finished your traditional education the truth is you can never stop learning. Your growth throughout the rest of your life and career will be fueled by your appetite for curiosity. Read for the sake of reading and never stop asking questions.
3. Don’t Spend Your Refund Checks
Of all the universal mistakes made by the majority of college students, spending the “free” money of a refund check is by far the most common. While it may be tempting to take a break from ramen to experience the finer things in life, understand that your once a semester luxury comes at a cost of about 6.8% interest on average. With the average student refund being anywhere from $2,000 – $4,000 per semester, you could easily find yourself on the hook for repaying the equivalent of a brand new Honda Civic after graduation! Instead of racking up unnecessary debt to splurge in your dorm, try saving your refund and give yourself a headstart on repaying the large loans that will follow your throughout your career for the next 10-15 years.
4. Live Like A Broke College Student
You’ve lived like a broke college student for the last four to five years and now you have your first job. Now it’s time to start spending that new check you’ve worked so hard to earn, right? Wrong. While there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to the spoils of your hard work you must take this time in your life to build a strong financial foundation. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and for many very wealthy people and the secret to their wealth is simple – live as far below your means as possible and save the rest. This is the special time in your life where you are an adult but are saddled with as little of those responsibilities as possible (no house, no children, etc). Take this time to start building your financial nest egg. Get an apartment with as many roommates as possible and keep driving that old car. If you live like a broke college student now you won’t have to be like many others who are forced to live like a broke college student later in life.
Bonus Tip (Read The Millionaire Next Door and learn how the real wealthy men and women of America live)
5. Cherish Your Friendships
College is one of the last times in your life that you will be in an environment densely populated with people your age and at your same stage of life. Once you leave those halls of higher learning making new friends becomes especially difficult. This is one of the greatest times of your life and the people you meet on campus will be some of the greatest friends of your life. Cherish the memories you’re making today and plan to make more tomorrow. If nurtured, these bonds will last a lifetime. Don’t let them disappear.
6. Choose Your Mentors Wisely
Over the course of your life, you will have many mentors. I feel it is important to tell you that very few of those will have actually been your boss. Strive to find mentors who have been to places you want your life to go and who display the characteristics you aspire to have – not just those who get paid to tell you what to do. Accumulate strong voices that challenge your views as well as soft voices that can help you navigate difficult situations. Above all, make certain the mentors in your life have positive things to offer and you truly LISTEN and ACT on their advice. A lesson learned is always easier than a lesson earned.
7. Reputation & Results Beat Resume Everytime
In 2016 I turned 30 years old. By that time I’d held management positions with companies for the better part of 8 years. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve probably never been the most qualified candidate on paper and that my experience – especially early on – paled in comparison to others. Where I’ve found success is by relentlessly building a reputation as a competent leader who accomplishes the objectives of those working above me. Fewer people are finding work from applying for jobs posted online and it is increasingly becoming a game of networking and building your professional brand. While it takes years to build a strong resume, it only takes one job to build a strong reputation.
8. Plan Big
At the last graduation I attended the commencement speaker urged the graduating class to dream big. I looked around the room and was shocked to some find parents and other family members nodding in agreement. Let me say this in all bold: the time for dreaming is over! No one has ever achieved a dream because dreams aren’t actionable – that’s why they’re done in your sleep. Instead, make big plans with small goals and even smaller tasks. If you are completing tasks in line with your goals each day you will soon accomplish all those big plans!
9. You Are Not Your Degree
You likely started the path that led you to your new degree when you were 17 or 18 years old. When I started college at 17, I was a film major who thought I’d make my living on camera, marry my high school sweetheart, and live in California. By 22 I was managing a sales team, had not seen my high school sweetheart in 4 years, and lived in Chicago. My point is that a lot can change in a short amount of time and you very well may not be the person you are today. If you wake up one day and realize that you hate economics but love teaching children, don’t waste a moment of your life feeling the need to “be your degree”. I know many friends and colleagues who never took the chance to be who they really are because they’re living a life they planned at 18.
10. Cherish “The Beginning”
This is beginning of your career, and for many, the beginning of your twenties. You’ll embark on adventures that will teach you countless lessons about who you really are. And while you’ll have other beginnings in other chapters of your life, you’ll never be here again. Take full advantage of this moment in time. Say yes to new experiences, ideas, and people. Before you know it, this chapter in your life will close and it will be you guiding a new generation of young people author their own stories.