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Advice To The Class Of 2014: 10 Things They Won’t Tell You At Graduation

Traci Taylor

I remember the day I graduated high school.  I was high on life and had stars in my eyes.  I had grandeur ideas of how awesome it was going to be to finally be free of my parents and on my own.

Finally!  I was an adult and could make my own decisions.  Nobody could tell me when to get up or make me do chores.  Nobody would ask where I’d been the night before or make me sit down and tell them about my day. And then I was slapped in the face with reality.  Not only was I a new college student, but I was responsible for paying my own rent and bills and holding down two jobs and driving a beat up old car that died in the most inappropriate places and my diet consisted of ramen noodles and days old leftover pizza.

The next few days are big days in the lives of several people I love who will be closing out one chapter in their lives and opening a new one.  So, I thought it only fair to share with them some things they need to know before they walk across their high school stage.  Not to scare them, but to prepare them.

  1. Life only gets harder– school tells you where you need to be and what you need to do. In real life, there is no set path. And, there’s nobody motivating you. So, brace yourself because you’re in for a rude awakening.
  1. Network now– you might have heard that your network is equal to your net worth. This is true, so make sure to meet as many different types of people in different industries as you can. Use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to your advantage. Do it now.  Don’t wait until after you graduate college.  And on that same note, please do yourself a favor and don’t post stupid things social networking site.  What you and your friends might think are harmless funny pictures of you drunk on spring break could end up hurting your future employment if the wrong person gets their eyes on those pictures.
  1. You’ll keep in touch with friends, but not the ones you thought- of the friends who were so obviously friends for life that just before graduating you lovingly tattooed the name of each other on your bodies, some will stay in touch and others won’t. But this is okay. That person from middle school that you never talked to will wind up in the same city and turn out to be one of your best friends. I speak from experience.
  1. In life, no one rewards you for performing mundane tasks- you don’t get gold stars for cleaning your shower.  Don’t expect a pat on the back for doing what’s expected of you. It’s not going to happen.  If you want that pat on the back, you’ve got to raise the bar.
  1. Being young isn’t everything, but it’s a good thing- life can be divided into two sections: the years when you know that if you fall over you’re unlikely to break a hip, and the years when you’re not so sure. Enjoy your time in the first half because trust me, getting older means more inhibitions. Love your young body while you’ve got it.
  1. Read obituaries- obituaries are just like biographies, only shorter. They remind us that interesting, successful people rarely lead ordinary lives. For example, John Holden of Lancaster, PA passed away and his obituary reads just the way I’d want mine to. Read his obituary.  Mold your life into what you want it to be.  Don’t let anyone mold it for you.
  1. There is no magic job fairy- nobody is going to pound down your door to offer you a dream job. Just because you graduate with a college degree doesn’t mean you’re gonna land that perfect job the next day.  Turns out you actually need to do things in college so you can meet people to help you get a job after you graduate. Real people, like ones who already have good jobs and can help get you in not that cute guy you met sitting at the college bar. Not sure where to meet real people? See #2.
  1. Work on your people skills- technical skills are what will get you hired in or after college. People skills are what will keep you employed.
  1. Try not to add to the issues of the world- you’ll be advised to do great things, but maybe you should first learn to accomplish the smaller goals in a great way. Giving back to those who gave to you should be included in your master plan. Become a volunteer, mentor youth, get involved in a church or school. You’ll learn that changing yourself is way more important than changing the world.
  1. Graduation is happy, but the tough stuff is just around the corner- you’re going to face times when circumstances will require tough choices that put you to the test. It’s those times that will define your character much more so than the “happy days.”

And one last word of advice:

Don’t be a snob- Live cheap. Don’t turn your nose up at ramen noodles and mac and cheese. Drive an old paid off car, rent a cheap place, work smart and hard, pay off your debts, and play nice. You are owed nothing, you must earn it. Trust me when I tell you that being humble and living simply will pay off in the end.

Traci Taylor

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