I have many cousins graduating from college this year and many that will be graduating in the coming years. As I put together their graduation gifts, I can’t help but think about the advice I want to give them. It has been 8 years since I walked that stage and my life has unfolded in a way that I didn’t plan but I wouldn’t have wanted it any different. If I were to give any advice to college grads, it would be these 3 things:
Your degree is not the one thing that will make you successful, you need experience.
You have your degree, now what? You have to go out and conquer the world, the world will not come looking for you. I see more and more students graduating with the mindset that they will land a job instantly – that their degree is the ticket to endless opportunities. Not exactly so. A degree can qualify you for a position but not guarantee you for a position. A degree also validates the fact that you have the discipline to start and finish something – that’s it. I am not underestimating the degree because it is a huge accomplishment! Trust me, I worked 40 hours and took 18 hours of college courses my last semester – I was determined! It just doesn’t guarantee you success in the real world – you’ve got to go out and earn it.
Go out and do things with purpose, not because it is expected of you.
You have lived all your life up to this moment trying to please your teachers, your parents, your coaches, your mentors. I am not saying that you didn’t want to go to school but let’s face it, you want to make those that supported you through the years proud, right? You are accustomed to meeting everyone else’s expectations. Now, you can use what you’ve learned to do things that have personal meaning to you. Things that will change the world in a positive way – whatever that may be. Always ask yourself “why am I doing this?” before taking on a challenge. Yes, we all need to earn money to cover your basic necessities but make sure you find a way to love what you do and find a greater meaning to your job than just a pay check. This will bring you happiness and relieve unnecessary stress.
Save your money now, treat yourself later.
You finally land a job and start seeing that paycheck come in. What? You now can treat yourself to dinner and not eat ramen noodles in your dorm room? That’s right. I know it’s hard to look into the future but your future can mean bigger responsibilities like supporting a family. Right now you have no responsibilities so you can spend all that money on yourself for immediate pleasure. I would advise saving first and then spending what you have left over on things you want. This will make your life that much easier once you decide on moving on to bigger responsibilities. Although I started my 401K early and was able to purchase my first home when I was 25 before I was married, I still wish I would had saved more money than spending it on a bunch of silly things that now mean nothing to me. (For personal finance advice, I always recommend Suze Orman books)
Please note: This is advice based on my own experience. I am just a manager in the business world. My advice isn’t meant to be the best advice, it’s just based on what I have learned. If it can help you, great! If you are a college grad and have other advice, please leave it in the comments.