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11 Tips For The Class of 2017 – What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me

Graduation is a joyous time full of accolades and recognitions, serious reflection, and great anticipation. By all means, enjoy graduation – you worked hard to reach this point. That said, my advice is don’t get too caught up in the pomp and circumstance – real life is about to hit you in the face. Following are 11 tips for jumpstarting your future that I wish someone would have shared with me.

Just as graduation releases you from one competitive world (academia), it also catapults you into another (the workforce). Moving from the security of university life to the insecurity of life as a job seeker in a uncertain economy is well… daunting. Let me help you make it easier by cutting through the noise and clutter:

1. A Little Perspective Goes A Long Way – Regardless of outward appearances, no one escapes life without enduring tragedy, hardship, and ridicule. The truth is, life is messy and people get hurt. The difference between those who overcome challenges and those who succumb to them is largely one of attitude and perspective. Embrace challenges and setbacks as not just refining moments, but also as defining moments. Don’t fall prey to challenges; learn from them. Remember, the perception of failure through one lens can often be a springboard to success when viewed through a different filter.

2. Keep The Faith – Don’t fear life. Don’t allow life’s numerous and inevitable obstacles to impede your progress. Don’t let someone else define possible or impossible for you. Here’s the truth; the plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability with the disappearance of faith. The world can take many things from you, but your faith is not one of them. Only you can surrender your faith. Never lose hope.

3. Life Is All About The People – Relationships are the biggest asset you have. Your world will be greatly impacted by those whom you choose to include and exclude from your life. Be kind to others, but most importantly, be intentional in building into others. While some short-term success can built at the expense of others, or on the backs of others, any sustainable achievements are built on the success they have created for others. Think “selfless” as opposed to “selfish.” Family and friends are worth more than job titles. Life is about people – not things. The funny thing is, if you do right by people things will never be an issue.

4. Stand Out From The Crowd – The world despises a cheap imitation and loves an original. Conformity to the norm will merely sentence you to mediocrity, obsolescence, and irrelevance. Everyone has unique gifts and talents, and the earlier you discover and develop yours the better off you’ll be. Build your personal brand, become a subject matter expert, and guard your reputation. Everyone has a personal brand – the question is will it be built by default or by design. Everything you do should enhance and reinforce your story.

5. Any Job Is A Good Job If You Don’t Have One –There is no such thing as underemployment if you don’t have a job. No job is beneath you if you’re unemployed. Every day you don’t put money in the bank, you’re unnecessarily lowering your water line. It may not be much fun selling shoes with your freshly minted law degree in hand, but it’s a start – it’s a step in the right direction. The most important life skill you can develop is leadership ability. You don’t have to be in charge to lead – you can lead in any capacity regardless of the position you hold.

6. No Job Is A Good Job When You Can Work For Yourself – The world has changed, and more importantly, it’s continuing to change at an ever accelerating pace. Just trading time for money is not a way to get ahead. Once you have a source of income (code for job), make the transition to entrepreneurship as quickly as possible. 80+% of people want to start a business, but less than 10% actually will. Purpose to be part of the 10%, not a part of the 90%.

Most of the world lives according to the 40 – 40 – 40 law: they work 40 hours a week, for 40 years, to retire on 40% of what they made while they were actively working. In today’s world of social commerce where literally anyone can start a peer-to-peer business, any excuse for not starting your own business is exactly that – an excuse. We live in the sharing economy where the “uberization” of everything is not simply a trend, it’s the new reality. The first thing every college graduate needs to do is to find their own virtual franchise and launch their business. If you don’t know how to do this, contact me and I’ll help you at no charge.

7. Be Serious About What You Do, But Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously – Humor can provide needed relief when times get tough. What many fail to understand is sometimes in order to find the humor you actually have to look for it. If you want others to take you seriously, the first thing you need to do is to get over yourself. The most important barrier to overcome is the barrier of self.

8. Success vs. Significance – It’s important to realize there is not just one definition of success. Success means different things to different people, and that’s okay. It’s not other’s definitions you should be concerned with, but your own. The funny thing is, your own definition of success will likely change more than a few times as you experience more of life, and that’s the key – experience life. As you continue your journey of personal and professional growth, it’s my hope your sights will shift from the modest pursuit of success to the passionate pursuit of significance. My counsel is to find something bigger than you, and become a passionate, committed servant of whatever that cause or endeavor may be.

9. Learning Doesn’t Stop When You Graduate – Learning is a life long endeavor. The minute you stop learning is the minute you cede opportunities to others. Always look to challenge and refine your thinking. View everything through the lens of learning. Life is about learning and unlearning, and developing and growing. Don’t waste your experiences – view them as learning opportunities.

10. The Difference Between Happiness and Joy – I can remember watching my kids grow up, and naively praying for their happiness. Sure, I still pray for their happiness, but I know happiness is the wrong goal. Happiness and joy are not one in the same – happiness comes and goes – it’s fleeting at best, it’s most often deceptive, and at worst the pursuit of happiness above all else can lead to ruin. Joy however is something that can be found in any circumstance or setting. It’s the joyful people who stand out to me. They are the lemonade makers – the ones who see the best in people, not the worst. Regardless of the hand they’re dealt, they don’t complain or become bitter. They remain joyful and continue pushing forward in pursuit of their dream.

11. Live Below Your Means – Debt is not your friend – it’s a plague, and I’d suggest you avoid it as such. If you want to become indentured to creditors then by all means, live the high life. Purchasing something you can’t afford won’t seem like such a great idea as you watch it get repossessed. Liquidity and cash flow give you options, which will afford you the ability to work through tough times. You place everything at risk when you become over-leveraged.

Now it’s your turn – if you have any tips or advice for the Graduating Class of 2017 please share them by leaving your comments below.

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