So you come to the end of a college degree. Congratulations!
College is a really important part of life. But the great news is that now you get to start your next chapter!
After I finished college, I stumbled through my twenties, confused with myself in the world. I didn’t understand myself, and I DEFINITELY didn’t understand the role that my degree could play in my success. I had to figure it out the hard way.
My hope is that that won’t be the case for you. I started this website because I knew that college grads often don’t figure out how to use their degrees until they are well into their adulthood.
So if you’re just graduating, about to graduate, or even if you have already graduated, is my advice for college graduates.
1. Don’t expect your degree to be enough
I’m going to start here, and this is sort of the depressing part. It’s a piece of really counter-intuitive graduate advice.
Your degree alone will probably not be enough to guarantee your success. A lot of research shows that people with college degrees, in many cases, still aren’t earning enough to justify what they spent to get those degrees.
And when you’re paying off thousands of dollars in student debt decades after you graduated, it’s a special type of hurt.
Your degree probably won’t be enough. But it’s a foundation. Use it as a springboard into your life, but never stop learning.
Never rest on your laurels. Keep improving yourself, keep going, learn new skills, educate yourself.
In short–before this sounds too much like a motivational speech–get obsessed with figuring out how to create the version of yourself that will let you live the life you want to live.
Your degree is probably not enough. But it’s a start.
2. Learn personal finance
Do you know how much I knew about learning and growing my wealth when I graduated? Next to nothing.
I came from a working-class background, and we didn’t really talk much about it.
Plus, people in my parent’s generation assumed that they would get a pension from the company to retire.
So they banked on that and didn’t spend much time learning about wealth.
Educate yourself on personal finance! There has never been a better time to learn.
The advice is everywhere: money blogs, wealth management apps, YouTube videos, and books. In fact, the reason most people won’t learn about personal finance is just plain laziness.
And I get it. Especially if you aren’t the type of person who would like to think about numbers or money, they can be like pulling teeth.
I’m creative, I struggled to think about money.
But here’s the reality. You will live a longer happier life if you have financial stability. That doesn’t mean you need to be loaded, but it does mean you need to figure out how to sustain yourself.
Start educating yourself.
Read some posts on personal finance!
3. Talk to everybody
I talk a lot about networking on this site. Because it’s the foundation for modern careers.
But the much bigger part of this isn’t just about career-building. It’s about life-building.
Talk to everybody. Don’t be too good for anybody. Don’t write anybody off. You can do that to be a decent human being, of course. But you’ll also be amazed at how much you will learn from people.
And, coming back to the career thing, I’m always amazed at the opportunities that pop up from the most random conversations. Connections for jobs, funding opportunities, collaboration, and Lord only knows what else.
The truth is, people who are open and engaged with the world, genuinely curious about what others want and need, tend to stumble into all sorts of interesting things.
Learn more about networking
4. Figure out what you’re good at and how to monetize it
in general, college degrees give you a little bit of exposure to a lot of things. This can be really great for building a general knowledge of the world and making you a better citizen. But in my humble opinion, the greatest success comes from mastery. And there’s some research that shows that the greatest career joy comes from mastery too.
Don’t try to be good at everything.
As you go through your career, you will have lots of opportunities to learn and grow.
Make sure that you pay close attention to the stuff that you’re really good at. Choose something to dive deep into, and try to become the best in the world at it. Whether it’s public speaking, project management, or using Microsoft Excel, mastery over things is the way you get paid more.
And as you’re mastering it, pay attention get how you can monetize it.
I really love blogging. While I feel like an imposter saying it, I’m probably approaching a mastery with it that a lot of people don’t have. I know content. I’m great at SEO, and my digital marketing ain’t half-bad either. Now this skill makes me money, both on my own blog and through consulting with tech companies to help them with content strategies.
I don’t care who you are, travel will open up the world for you.
As I write this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Travel is pretty hard right now.
But there will once again come a day that we can explore the world. Some of us have the privilege to be able to do this. But even if you can get on a train and go to the next town, you’ll find your world expanding.
Travel opens up our minds.
When I’ve lived in different cultures, learning new languages I grew to become a different person. I had to step out and try to order food in a foreign language and fail miserably. I had to gesture and point my way through important financial transactions.
All this made me a lot less self-conscious, and way more confident.
6. Keep a loose hold on your plans
I’m all for building a career plan. I’ve written entire posts about setting a vision and choosing your path.
But at the end of the day, best-laid plans fall apart. And maybe what’s behind those broken plans will be something more interesting anyways.
Some people hate this. If you’re a type A, who loves to be organized and have all the answers, it just might drive you up the wall.
But rest assured, all of us will have our plans foiled sometimes. All you can do is get really good at rolling with the punches, and not let it destroy you.
7. Use your career to learn and grow
College marks the time in your life when you have to pay a shit ton of money to learn.
Ideally, from here on in, you will be constantly getting paid to learn.
Look for jobs that stretch you and grow you. If you fit 100% of the job description, run away screaming. Those things are just wish lists anyways.
Try to find job descriptions that match you about 40 to 60%. The gap is where your learning will come from, and that’s what’s going to help your career grow.
I always thought about college as preparation for work, and the work itself as something you spend the rest of your life acting out what you learned in college.
That’s wrong. As I said above, college is really just a foundation. You will get paid to learn for the rest of your career.
8. Don’t be hard on yourself,
Nobody has this thing called life all figure it out. I don’t care if they’re 30 or 70.
Be kind to yourself. Know that you are not going to instinctively have life figured out, and wrap that knowledge in a big bear hug.
You don’t have to feel the least bit bad about this. Don’t you dare be hard on yourself. Life is about learning, not about having all the answers.
9. Give yourself the gift of self-worth
I spent years of my life not believing I was worthy. As a result, I was constantly trying to perform, trying to prove to other people that I was worthy of respect and love.
It’s a terrible way to live. And the answer didn’t come from me finally getting to a place where I felt that I was worthy of others’ respect. It came from me giving myself the gift of being worthy, just as I am.
You are a human being. That comes with a certain amount of fuck ups. But it doesn’t mean that you need to be hard on yourself or strive to show people that you are worthy. You are worthy right now.
These are my nine pieces of advice for college graduates.
They’re built on a lot of my own failures, which are many. I’ve learned a lot of these things the hard way, and I hope that you don’t have to.
So turn on the Pomp and Circumstance, and get your gown on, because here’s my final advice to you. Go do some great shit.
Figure out what makes you have fun enjoy, and lean into that. Don’t be afraid to learn, whether it’s from books or from people. And choose to have an impact on this world. Go!