The Important Advice Every New Grad Needs To Hear

Over the next few days, some of you will be walking across a stage, shaking some hands, and graduating college. When you have the privilege of experiencing that moment, let it sink in. You’ll look across the crowded auditorium, and for a second, you’ll feel very connected to the people around you — even the ones you’ve never met — because you’ve all accomplished something important. But, your excitement will be short-lived. Before you’ve had time to take a beat and celebrate, you will be worrying about life after college: the job market, your future earning potential, and whether you even picked the right school in the first place. The truth? It really doesn’t matter where you graduate from. I graduated from the University of Central Florida, the second-largest school in the country. At my first job, I sat next to a guy who graduated from Harvard. Sure, he went to a more prestigious school than I did, but we ended up at the same place four years later. I also learned that it doesn’t matter how quickly you land a job. I had friends who left school with job offers in their hands, and others who didn’t get hired until months after graduation. Today, everyone is doing just fine. And, remember that where you work right after college doesn’t necessarily matter, either. It doesn’t set the tone for the rest of your career. Looking back, my friends and I spent so much time worrying about whether we were making the “right" first move. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to know where you want to work before you actually start working. So, what does matter the most in life after college? If you ask me, it’s how you spend your time. Looking back, I wish someone had told me earlier that time is the most precious thing we have. And as college graduates, if you want to be truly happy, I highly recommend you take a look at your time and the way you spend it very seriously. In the real world, everyone is stuck in their own “busy trap.” People don’t connect like they used to, because they are too busy being busy. We’ve started to create unrealistic goals for ourselves, plans we can’t keep, and ideas we can’t follow through on — because we’re too busy. I learned about the busy trap the hard way. I was stuck living in it. By the time I realized that I was guilty of bragging about how busy I was, my Google calendar already had the best of me. Over time, I had to re-plan, re-schedule, and re-prioritize. Today, I’ve learned that busy isn’t better. In fact, it’s the times when I’m not-so-busy that I enjoy life the most. As a new graduate, the best thing you can do for yourself is defy the busy trap. When it comes to your job search, set realistic, manageable goals that you can accomplish, and focus on your priorities. You don’t need to make a long list of to-dos every day; instead, pick a handful of action items — like sending a few cover letters or taking your mentor to coffee — and use the rest of your free time to hone your interview skills. Once you land a job, remember that it’s not the amount of hours that you work; it’s the results that you gain from the time you put in. You could technically “work” all day long, but if you don’t accomplish anything, what’s the point? The class of 2016, your class, has the power to change the way we work and the way we think about our time. You look for happiness at work, you push to find meaning in your jobs — you are different, and nobody knows how to handle it. But, guess what? The world is going to have to figure it out, because we need you at work; we need your expertise. You have the power to make a positive change and fix the busy trap. Show your employers that you care about not only your professional life but your personal life, too. Show your managers that you can achieve a lot by working a little. Focus on the results, be solution-oriented, and work efficiently. And so, I encourage you to forget being busy. Reject the idea that not having a moment for yourself means you're a success. Instead, go be happy. Go live the life you want, the life you’ve earned through all of your hard work in school. Because of this great accomplishment, the world is at your fingertips. Take a moment to let that really sink in. Then, go make something of yourself — on your own timeline, and on your own terms.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series