Upon graduating college the possibilities are endless. And for some, the sheer idea of not having a predefined path forward can be terrifying. College students have been led down a predefined path their entire lives until the day they graduate. Then what? Debt, jobs, pressure from family. Congratulations here is your diploma.
The stakes are higher beyond just the thoughts that surround the decisions of graduates. They are living in the growing problem of student loan debt. The average graduate in the United States owes about $30,000. Americans as a whole owe over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt. That’s about $521 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt. Not only that, but only 27 percent of college graduates work in positions related to their field of study. So there is every reason for students to be stressed and overwhelmed.
But life after college can be amazing and great all in one. The trick is to continue learning. Learn from people who have been in the same situation. Find mentors, and connect with admirable people. It comes down to advice, not advice that states what to do, but advice that guides you in the right direction. The only problem is finding the right people and connect with them. Our platform is built on delivering college students and graduates with the best advice from leaders in business and life. We asked 11 entrepreneurs, innovators, and creators what advice they would give to college graduates. Here is what they said:
1.”The only thing you can gauge yourself by is your resilience.”
The worst phrase I can possibly hear in my profession is:
“What is the best practice for this type of thing.” I absolutely hate the phrase “best practice.” To me, that just means “second best.”
I’d prefer to be the one who is out there creating what others would deem as “best practice.” The only advice I can give is to just jump in and get uncomfortable. There is no way to plan or prepare for the experiences you will have in life. The only thing you can gauge yourself by is your resilience. Don’t run from failure and start messing up now. Because those are the lessons you will learn and grow from.
2.”Focus instead on developing rare and useful skills.”
No matter what job you start in, view yourself as building a body of work and a professional reputation from day one. And it’s not enough to just list your job description on your resume – handled accounts on the sales team, prepared monthly reports, etc. Think in terms of stacking up measurable accomplishments – increased sales by 30 percent, launched a company newsletter, named outstanding new employee in 2019, etc.
I don’t think “follow your passion” is great advice. I resonate with Cal Newport’s suggestion (in So Good They Can’t Ignore You) to focus instead on developing rare and useful skills. Then become passionate about being good at what you do.
3.”Put yourselves in the shoes of another person to understand their perspective and also what motivates them.”
My advice is to always put yourselves in the shoes of another person to understand their perspective and also what motivates them. This will help you as you negotiate and persuade, and as you interpret advice, feedback and guidance from others. For example, I’ve always been a bit suspicious of Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to “Lean In.” As a corporate executive, of course, she wants her employees to “lean in!” That would have been the very worst advice for me. I’m so glad I leaned out!
4.”Hard work and being kind to those around you lead to more opportunities than anything else you can do.”
Hard work and being kind to those around you lead to more opportunities than anything else you can do. Life is about relationships and no matter what you are doing those relationships can lead to amazing things. Value them, encourage them, and create them.
Advice to ignore is a little harder. I think more so not all advice is good advice. Just because someone is older and more experience doesn’t mean they are right. It doesn’t mean they are wrong either but take what you hear and filter it through your own lenses. Trust in yourself and take it all in but not everything has to be taken at face value. There are always things to gleam in others advice but it doesn’t mean you have to take it all, you are allowed to take pieces.
5.”Find your passion and keep doing it.”
Find your passion and keep doing it. If you are looking for success then it will happen. It may take a while but put your head down and keep working. If you don’t like what you are doing it will never work and no one around you, including you, will be happy. Ignore this advice: “Go to grad school”.
6.”Travel, take a road trip and get out of the college mindset.”
Travel, take a road trip and get out of the college mindset. Take a breather and go live life for a bit before focusing on what to do. Get perspective. You got to get lost to get found. Do stuff and then come back and start putting together your life. Follow your heart. Always. Also, my good friend Kristi Govertsen has a great philosophy when it comes to networking. These days it’s very hard to get a job applying online – think outside the box and go meet folks in your community. Go out for coffee, it’s cheap and a great way to connect face-to-face with another human being. Don’t just focus on what you are doing, learn from them and build your social capital. Try to find people that inspire you and listen and learn from them. I’ve met some awesome friends and business partners just these past few months, doing exactly like this. Find mentors, make mistakes, fail a lot and learn, grow, become.
7.”Do something to make the world better, now and for the next generation.”
Advice: Life is short. Do something with yours that you love. Be passionate about your work and it will rarely feel like work. Do not ever take a job just for the money – yes, I know the student-loan debt is crushing, but your SOUL will be crushed by taking a purely mercenary approach to your career.
Do something to make the world better, now and for the next generation. It is a far better, healthier, happier way to live than to be solely focused on amassing wealth and material things.
Also, travel. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – and he was right. Never pass up a chance to travel.
Ignore advice to take any job, just because it pays well. Same with majoring in a subject just because it will lead to a high-paying job – only do things you are passionate about.
–Susan Hay Patrick
8.”Your job is to find where that inspiration lies.”
Success is earned, not given. If you want it bad enough you’re going to have to scrap and hustle your way to where you want to be. My biggest suggestion is to find an industry that you love, be it outdoors, fashion, tech, etc. etc. and get a job within that industry. Any job. Just get your feet on the ground doing anything. Then start letting people know where you eventually want to end up and start asking people how to get there, what you need to do to be successful enough to get where you want to go.
There’s no utopia. There’s no perfect job and every single day won’t be amazing. That’s not how it works. So, you have to ask yourself the question: If I’m going to have a few bad days at work (along with a ton of awesome days at work) I may as well work in an industry, place or with people that inspire me. Your job is to find where that inspiration lies.
9.”The ideal first boss is a cross between Steve Jobs and a drill sergeant.”
The ideal first boss is a cross between Steve Jobs and a drill sergeant. When you get out of college you want to be pushed as quickly as possible to discover just how much you’re capable of. Work for a badass if you want to figure out what you’re good at and where you still need to learn. Ideally, your first few jobs out of school will propel you forward at the fastest rate you’ll experience in your life. Avoid safety. Embrace challenge. You can do it.
10.”Give yourself time…”
Give yourself time– it is one of the precious windows in your life where you could go anywhere and do anything– those times are few so take advantage of it.
What advice should they ignore? Anything that doesn’t sit right. Your intuition is really truly a valuable asset. You know you, don’t let anyone override that.
11.”Spend a year doing something “out there,” uncomfortable, and off plan.”
My advice would be to spend a year doing something “out there,” uncomfortable, and off plan. Europeans and Australians take a “gap year” and I think it’s something we’re really missing in the States. I went straight through from college to law school, and I think important life lessons came out of order because of it.
So, my advice to ditch? The pressure to plan too far in advance… I think ambitious young people have a tendency to plan out as much of their lives as possible. But, I think all that intense planning sets up expectations that you have more control of your life and the intervening variables than you actually do. I think it’s great to have goals and plans but be willing to change them and go easy on yourself when an avenue you had intended to take is no longer available