Graduating from college may (or may not) give you certain job skills, but in may cases, getting a degree does not prepare students from their post-school career.
There are major holes in what most most students learn when it comes to handling money, networking, and actually getting a job. In addition, very few students graduate with a bigger picture view of their future.
Having a degree does not prepare you for the rest of your life any more than buying a set of skis teaches you how to ski jump. Many students enter the work world not knowing basic things, like how to interview for a job, while also lacking any sort of long-term vision for where they want to go.
Graduation means the world is in front of you, and the world is your oyster. That's very exciting, but it's also scary, and most graduates would be better off if they came out of school knowing the following three things.
Have a plan
Selena Maranjian: It's underappreciated how valuable it is to have a career plan -- and, ideally, to start it while you're in college. Those in college might think about careers they'd like to pursue and then be sure to take necessary courses for that.
They should think about how they will be supporting themselves after graduation and what path their careers might take. (This might seem obvious, but I marvel that I didn't think this all through when I was in college, and I know I wasn't alone. Many others and I were mainly just enjoying taking courses of interest and socializing.)
Once you graduate, it will be more valuable than ever to have a career plan. You needn't stay in the same career for your entire working life, but while you're in it, think about how you'd like to advance and find out what you will need in order to do so.
For example, you might need to take some more courses, get another degree, or pursue certain professional certifications or designations. You'll want to make an effort to make connections with others in your field, too, such as those at companies you might work for later or those who simply know more about certain aspects of your job or industry.
Finding a great mentor can make a world of difference, too, as he or she can guide you and perhaps even advocate for you. Look for one or two higher-up colleagues you greatly admire and ask whether they might be a mentor.
Never stop learning
Asit Sharma: At the beginning of your work career, learning is the governing principle. And at least at the start, that learning comes with its fair share of stress, as you navigate your new workplace, and grasp the ways in which you're supposed to build value for your company on a daily basis.
But after some time, you'll hit a comfortable rhythm, and the absolute onus to absorb new things will moderate a bit. This is a fun phase in any job, as the anxiety of the initial learning curve abates and you often fall into a state that feels something like play.
Those who are truly successful in their careers take advantage of this phase by transitioning from required learning to self-directed learning. They pick up new skills and certifications, industry knowledge, and insight into how their companies function. And they read avidly across a wide range of topics, simultaneously fulfilling and replenishing their curiosity.
If it were up to me, I'd make sure that all college graduates know that learning and career advancement are synonymous. You've heard of the phrase "life-long learner?" Try to be a career-long learner. Coupling new knowledge with hard work will really sharpen your odds of long-term fulfillment – and it will keep your career in that very fun but elusive state of play.
Don't fear change
Daniel B. Kline: Graduating from college brings about all sorts of change. You no longer live in the same place where all you friends are and the routines you built up over four years will all go away. That can be a shock to many graduates, but it's important to be willing to embrace change and be open to new ideas.
Too many new graduates take jobs or make decisions based on protecting their existing world. That may mean making decisions based on staying close to friends or being influenced by what a significant other wants you to do.
Those aren't bad things, but it's important to not choose familiarity over opportunity. Most people graduate from college with few ties aside from friendships or perhaps a romantic relationship. Because of that this is a period to try new things, to move new places, and to do things that you may never have the ability or freedom to do as you get older.
There will be plenty of time in your life to sacrifice or make a safe choice. In the years immediately after college seek out things that make you uncomfortable and go after dreams that might seem unattainable. Leaving behind the familiar is scary, but it will teach you as much, if not more, than you learned in the classroom.
Be adventurous and bold. Don't be someone who picks a mediocre life because it's stable and familiar. Change will happen whether you want it to or not. Steer into the curve and seek out something different and you will be many steps closer to finding out who you are, what you want to be, and what you want from life than you would be if you only choose to make safe choices.
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