7 Things They Don’t Tell You at Graduation

Class of 2012: you’re either about to hear a really inspiring speech, or be forced to listen to an executive from a Fortune 100 company drone on about real world topics you don’t yet understand. Either way, I’m willing to bet your commencement speaker isn’t going to give you all the facts.

Here are 7 things they won’t tell you at graduation:

Your Diploma Alone Won’t Get You a Job

That’s right: Your diploma is not even close to enough to guarantee you a job.

Sure, having that little piece of paper is nice, but people in the real world care less about your degree. What they do care about is your relevant experience. If you don’t have any – get some, quick – because this is how you will be judged.

You Don’t Have to Have Life All Planned Out

If you leave college as an under-employed 20 something, don’t freak out. Your career is not going to be linear. What’s the fun in that? Take away some key lessons from each position, and bring more soft skills and value to your next career stepping stone.

You Do Not Get Rewarded for Being Average

If you do what your boss tells you to, you do not receive a gold star. You might, if you’re lucky, get a “Thank you”. Your high school teacher may have stopped using red ink to correct your papers to protect your feelings, but your supervisor will happily use all the ink in an entire box of red pens to make sure your work is acceptable. Don’t be average.

In the words of Steve Martin, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Your Path is Yours… Everyone Else Can Shut Up

Your path is just that – yours – and no one can tell you how best to navigate. Your parents will try to give you advice on next steps. You will read career blogs that tell you “exactly” what you need to do to get your dream job. These guides will help, but they are just guides – they won’t do the work for you. Life after graduation is different for everyone, so create your own rules… and enjoy the ride!

Nothing is More Important than Networking

Yes. The time you spent at fraternity parties and hanging out with friends was well spent.

Connections are everything, and you build valuable relationships while in college. It’s true what they say – you’ll never look back and remember class or an A on an exam. You’ll be reminded of the times you blew off your 6pm lecture to catch happy hour on Wednesday. You’ll remember the theme parties, barbecues, and slip-n-slides. Who knows? The guy who (less than half) dressed as Superman and ran across the field at halftime may become a new co-worker, or become an important component in your network.

Life Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better

You’ll have to navigate through some sticky situations in your career before that corner office is yours. This may include coming to terms with the fact that some of your friends are moving faster up the corporate ladder – this doesn’t make them more accomplished, it just makes their path different. And without warning, your friends will also become less “fun” as they begin getting married and having children. You’ll have to adjust – and grow.

You Must Keep Learning

You simply have to continue learning outside of college! Believe it or not, those classrooms and professors didn’t teach you everything you need to know about your craft. You will need to find resources to continually learn about your industry – webinars, blogs, the news, and books are generally good places to start. Don’t get left behind.

Congratulations, class of 2012! You’ll go on to greatness – just don’t try to get there in a few short steps, or in a straight line. Some things will happen to you that are completely out of your control… quickly learn to roll with the punches. Take the reins on everything else.

This is the advice they should give us at graduation – but probably won’t.


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