5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Graduated College

5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Graduated College

As I’m writing this, it’s May. Graduation season. Every other post seems to be about ways graduates can find jobs, balance life, pay off debt, etc. Ugh.


Don’t get me wrong, that’s all important stuff, but that’s not reality. Most college graduates already have a job, have no clue what balancing life means (come on – they’re single with no spouse or kids, mostly) and already know they’ll be in debt for the next umpteen hundred years.


I graduated college 14 years ago. I had a wonderful experience and was excited to get into the business world. However, as much as my classes prepared me for the textbook stuff, there wasn’t anyone at school who prepared me for the real world stuff.


Here are 5 things I wish someone had told me when I graduated college…


Start networking early.


Much of anyone’s business success will be based on relationships – who they know. People know people. I wish I had started building that in college. Yes, I didn’t end up staying in the town I attended college in, but having those relationships with professors and other administrators could have really helped land a better job when I did graduate. You never know where you are going to end up, so having strong relationships at your school is a great starting out point. Attend local business networking events representing the brand known as YOU. If you go on to own your own business, these ties can really help when you have to seek funding and other help with a start-up.


Join more business organizations.


In college I was in the marketing fraternity, Pi Sigma Epsilon. I really should have leveraged that group more. Also, I should have joined one of the business fraternities as well. Getting active in organizations that can help further your career should be a no-brainer. Once I started my own business in 2011, one of the first things I did was join the local chamber. Businesspeople help other businesspeople – especially local ones. If I had done this from the get-go I could have probably started my business several years sooner.


Be patient.


We live in a time where everyone wants everything NOW. Success takes hard work and time. Rarely does someone ever get famous overnight. I started my business 10 years after I graduated. I knew that I would have to work my way to it, but honestly I didn’t expect it to take 10 years. I’m glad it did though. I have learned so much from just being in the business world – more than I ever did in college. This is more of an issue with millennials than my generation (Gen Y). With technology, everything is in the moment and at our fingertips. Career success isn’t (unless you do a naughty tape like Kim Kardashian).


Your first job won’t be your last.


It’s rare to see someone start and retire from the same job. My uncle graduated college in the 1960’s went to work immediately for Exxon and retired from Exxon-Mobil 30 years later. That’s unheard of now. Since I graduated college, I have worked for 6 companies since I graduated, not including my own business. Now we did move twice so that required a job change, but most college grads now only stay in a job 2 or 3 years. If you didn’t get the job you wanted right after graduation, be patient and work hard where you are – what you want will come along. I just wish someone had told me that.


You are going to get mad, get your feelings hurt and cry some.


Yes, guys too on this one. Nothing is EVER a walk in the park. My first job out of college was at Enterprise Rent-A-Car as a management trainee (don’t judge). It was one of the only offers I got when I graduated that allowed me to stay where I was (my now-husband was in law school and we were getting married – I couldn’t run off to Atlanta for a job). I only lasted 5 months there. No one prepped me for the stress and long hours (not to mention the crappy management team I got placed with). I cried before and after work. A lot. The week before my wedding, I quit. When you feel in your gut that what you are doing isn’t what you need or want to do, you have to leave. It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve been through that, you know what I’m talking about. So there I was – an unemployed newlywed with a husband starting his last year of law school. Was money tight? Yes. Was I stressed about finding a new job? Uh, yeah. But then 5 weeks later the right job came along and set me on the path that led me where I am now.


A lot of lessons are learned outside the classroom, and the hard way at times. Looking back I wish someone had been frank and told me all of this before I graduated. I’m not someone who likes surprises, so I’m always prepared. I feel like it’s my job to impart what I’ve learned to those who are just starting to (hopefully) save them a little grief along the way.


What about you? What lesson(s) do you wish someone had told you when you graduated?

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