Three weekends ago, I attended the last commencement ceremony at my alma mater for the foreseeable future. After listening to the advice imparted on the newly graduating students, I wanted to share my thoughts on the most important things to keep in mind when embarking on the journey beyond the school campus.
1. Maintaining Relationships
Maintaining relationships after college is tremendously more difficult. While you may have been one hallway away from your closest friends before, the same friends might not be in the same country, let alone the same city, after graduation. Fortunately, in today’s world, you have all kinds of technology and tools to be able to keep in touch. Don’t take it for granted – yes, you will be busy like everyone else, but make time to keep in touch with the important people in your life. Once you fall out of touch with a friend, it will be harder to reconnect. Remember, maintenance is easier than repair.
2. Performance Evaluation
Your life until graduation had a lot of structure – courses, grades, assignments, degrees and semesters. Everything was scheduled out and all you had to do was perform well within the criteria set out for you. You knew exactly where you stood in terms of performance – individually and among your peers.
But after college, those performance measurements become significantly obscure. There’s no single metric to truly determine whether you’re doing well in life and whether you’re on the right track. Sure, there will be some information and here and there – income, the ratings you receive at your job, etc. – but the determination of whether you’re on-track in your life will be completely an internal assessment and not against someone else’s criteria. This means that you have to be able to formulate and revise your own standards of what you want in your career and assess whether you’re working towards that goal.
3. Seeking and Grabbing Opportunities
During college, many things were within your reach and readily available. Need to meet new friends? Join one of the hundred student organizations on campus. Need an internship? Go to the career center. Need help with your assignments? Ask your friends or professors.
After college, the situation is a bit different. The opportunities are still out there, but not so close to your reach. You have to work to not only find them, but also prove that you deserve it. Before graduation, you were given a chance until you proved yourself unworthy. After graduation, you are frequently assumed to be unworthy before you prove yourself. But don’t let this dissuade you – the further along you are in your career path, the greater the opportunities and you’ll be deserting the people who aren’t up for the challenge.
The training wheels are officially off and things you may have taken for granted during your time as a student might not be so convenient anymore. But remember, the things worth having never come easily and sometimes, they’re worth more because you worked for it. Welcome to the real world.