May 17, 2015

Advice for College Graduates



I love graduations. I love commencement, I love baccalaureate (and the fact that no one really knows what that is), I love the fact that graduates wear ridiculous hats (where else can you wear something with "tassels" and have it be totally cool) and even the black robes-thing (even when it's 90 degrees like it was for my graduation). I love the whole silly production.

It's three (or sometimes six) hours of nothing but celebration and basking in the glory of your accomplishment with 500 of your closest friends.

Then after going out to lunch your family leaves, you move out of your dorm and you stop and think...

"Oh &^*$% now what do I do?"

I remember that feeling. In fact, that feeling perpetuated throughout most of my first year out of school. I missed being able to play catch on the quad with my closest friends on a random Thursday in the middle of the afternoon. I missed being able to walk across the hallway in my dorm on a Friday night and immediately finding something to do.

For the record, I didn't miss homework or deadlines or 20 page research papers.

Truth be told, I figured I'd have much of my life figured out a week or two after graduation. I simply assumed I would either:

1) Have moved out of the country,

2) Started my own Fortune 500 company (we would only profit a few millon in the first year)

3) Cured cancer

4) Or at least solved the global clean water crisis.

Surprisingly, none of these things happened, and I had a really hard year. I was lonely, bored and just genuinely frustrated. My first job out of college consisted of ordering cookies for receptions and booking other people's flights for speaking engagements. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate having a job it just wasn't...well...curing cancer. 

Walking around a college campus yesterday reminded me how much I miss being around college students. In particular I miss reflecting with them on the last four years (or five...or six...) and dreaming about what they would do next.

So because my first year was so hard, I've compiled a list of things I wish someone would have told me when I graduated.

1. Find a church

I know I know, you're sorta done with church. But try again. I mean really try it. Like actually invest in the community a bit. Fair warning: it'll feel awkward. Your not a college student any more, but you're not an "adult" yet--most churches probably will have no idea what to do with you. Here's some practical advice--once you find that church that feels like a good fit, find an older couple that seems like they have their lives somewhat together and ask if you can have a meal with them. If you're not sure who to ask, go up to the pastor after the service and say, "I just started coming to your church and was wondering if you know of a couple I could have lunch with."

2. Show up 15 minutes early to work

Sure, this is based on the assumption that you've actually found a job. For the sake of argument, let's assume you're gainfully employed. Showing up 15 minutes before other people shows that you're disciplined and willing to work hard. 

3. Make a budget

If you don't, you'll wish you had. I'm begging you, please don't put this off. You're 25, 35 and 40 year-old self will thank you. Please, please, please, please do this. Don't know where to start? Try "Googling" "advice for making a budget." If your serious about budging/finances, follow this guy on Twitter. He's a good friend and passionate about helping people make good, solid decisions about their money. He might even respond if you tweet at him.

4. Buy a watch

It can be from the dollar store, but when you're sitting in a meeting and you want to see what time it is, it looks really bad to pull out your phone. 

5. Learn how to take a vacation, or at least read a book

Get in the habit of taking a vacation early in your professional life. It might seem odd in your first year--and truthfully you may not think you "need" to take a vacation. But you do and you will. You need breaks and mini-Sabbaths. I guarantee a few days away from the office will be shockingly refreshing. 

6. Don't compare yourself to your friends

Some of your friends might cure cancer or rid the world of poverty. But if you're like 99.9% of the world, you won't do either of these things. At least in your first year out of school. This shouldn't discourage you from trying to do these things--in fact, I'd recommend that you do try to do these things--even if it takes a few years. Which brings me to my final piece of advice...

7. Work as hard a you can in your current job, but always be thinking about your next

Confession--this is not a Keith original. I once heard this guy say it at an event. But I think it's good so I'm stealing it. If you working as hard a you possible can in your current job you'll keep your bosses happy but if you're always thinking about your next job, you'll keep your sanity (especially if that first job after graduating is less than desirable). 

If you're reading this and you're a recent graduate, congrats. And I hope your first year is way better than mine. I'm sure it will.


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