16 Tips for Making a Go of it in The “Real World”
What Comes Next After College?
It was John Mayer who famously sang, “I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world. Just a lie you’ve got to rise above.”
Easy for a multi-millionaire rock star who’s dated people like Jennifer Aniston, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry to make such a statement, but what about the rest of us.
Yes, there is a real world. And if you’ve just graduated from college, you just entered it. No, it’s not an evil place. It’s actually quite nice and we think you’ll like it. There are just a few things to keep in mind as you move forward.
#1 Your education isn’t done
Sure, you graduated and everything. You’ve got your diploma (which we selfishly hope you’ve protected with one of our hand-crafted frames from Framing Success) but in life your education is never finished. Now that you’ve entered your field of calling be sure to stay up to date on everything that’s going on in it. More than ever, business is constantly changing and evolving. Most new grads don’t realize that many companies will pay for you to take advanced training. Seminars are great for not only learning but networking.
Ask your managers and HR what courses are available. Self-selected training serves as a strong signal of employee drive and can be the springboard to a thriving and fulfilling career. Just because your formal education might have ended doesn’t mean you should stop learning.
#2 Remember, Your First Job Isn’t Your Last
Job hunting can be stressful. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll be locked into the same job forever. Don’t get stressed out about the type of position it has to be. Be sure to look at a variety of jobs and industries. Ironically, it will actually help you focus more on what really matters. Your first job will probably not be what you thought it was going to be, but the same can be probably said for the heads of many major corporations.
#3 Read Biographies of Successful People
Speaking of the heads of major corporations, many of them have written about what helped make them successful. The best way to walk in someone else’s shoes is to read their biography. What does Elon Musk do when he first wakes up? What was Steve Jobs thinking when he unveiled the iPhone? How did Benjamin Franklin respond to adversity? So, get off social media, start reading a biography, and learn first-hand from your role models.
#4 Be Ready to Work
Sounds silly, but one of the issues managers who hire recent graduates complain about most is how they have to spend a lot of time teaching them how to be employed. Show up on time, dress the part, prepare for meetings, complete work by the deadline, collaborate, communicate, etc. It may seem basic, but if you’ve mastered these skills, you’ll start at the top of the class.
#5 Be Ready to Relax
Growing up, schools dictated vacation time. Everyone was off together in the winter, spring, and summer. You had no choice. It was easy. In the real world, it’s harder to take time off, regardless of your company vacation policy. You must pick, plan and protect your vacation. Your rest ethic matters as much as your work ethic. Yes, rest ethic. Knowing when to rest and recharge is what separates the good from the great.
#6 Show Your Employer You’re Hungry
Take the time to learn your role well and ask for more. Show your new employer you’re hungry by kickstarting your learning. Offer to assist with projects, stay late, come in early, take on extra challenges or even propose a project. Even if you get shut down or told to go home, it shows you are excited to be part of the organization (and grow with it) and grateful for the position. Always go the extra mile.
#7 Find a Mentor
One of the best ways to accelerate your career growth is by finding a mentor who can help guide you through your early career and beyond. When interviewing with companies, be sure to get a feel for the leadership styles of those you will be working with. Is there someone who seems willing to help you get and stay on the fast track, or will you be relegated to finding your way alone? While it’s easy to focus on the money or the name of the companies you are interviewing with, don’t forget that your career is going to be constantly evolving. Having a person you can trust to help you navigate the twists and turns will be invaluable.
#8 Show Some Patience
While most of these tips are all about how to accelerate your career, you need to still keep things in perspective. You’re not going to be made boss your first year. Or your second. Or your third. As talented as you may be, one of the things employers look for in employees is knowing when to show some restraint. The “annoying kid” who keeps pushing for advancement before his or her boss thinks they deserve it can become a squeaky wheel. And while the old adage may be, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” it can just as easily be said that the squeaky wheel gets replaced. That said, if you’ve been patient and think you deserve more but aren’t getting it, then talk to your boss, have a conversation. If it feels like there isn’t a future with that company, then move on.
#9 Experience trounces all
Getting a degree is great. But it isn’t everything. As Brian D. Evans, founder and CEO of BDE Ventures has noted, many industries care more about your abilities than where you went to school. “Many college graduates think their degree means they can instantly get a job in Silicon Valley. As someone who took the Zuckerberg path and dropped out, I’ve learned that our society has moved to more of a ‘what have you accomplished’ than a ‘where did you go to school’ mentality. A degree is nice, but you need to show real-world skills in competitive fields,” he said.
#10 Put Your Phone Down When Talking to Someone
Nothing says “I don’t care what you’re saying” like staring into your phone when you’re having a face-to-face conversation. Want a simple way to build the kind of character that will serve you well for a lifetime? Ignore your phone instead of the people you’re with.
#11 Don’t Ask to Work from Home Your First Week
Though more and more companies are offering options like this, it’s still a privilege, not a right.
#12 Be Confident, but Humble
Graduates are coming with new perspectives and learnings. Employers need to see a person who is confident in their skills and abilities. However, employers also want to see a willingness to learn and grow. The old may need the new, but the new also needs the old. While demonstrating all the necessary qualifications of the job, a graduate needs to show both an interviewer, as well as a new boss, that they have the humility to ask questions. Both traits go hand in hand.
#13 Choose Who You Associate with Carefully
Don’t spend all your time with idiots and then wonder why you can’t seem to find a nice person to date. Same goes with business as goes with your personal life. It’s just a fact that you will eventually run across someone in business who is either just a jerk or has few, if any, scruples. We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we will: Stay away.
#14 Keep up With the Paperwork
Taxes, 401k enrollment, healthcare, apartment contracts, bills. Prepare to be inundated. Don’t ignore the paperwork. As with anything in life, you need to stay on top of it. It doesn’t go away. Especially the bills. If you have to, set aside a specific time each week to make sure the paperwork of life doesn’t bury you. It can very easily get away from you and then it becomes even more troublesome, which makes you want to avoid it even more, and before you know it you’ve got an enormous paperwork snowball rolling downhill out of control.
#15 Pay Attention in Meetings
In college, you may have been able to tune out in a class of 400 people for an hour, but if you try that in a meeting at work people are going to notice. And no texting under the table either. We can see that.
#16 Don’t let grumpy people drag you down
Don’t listen to people in their 40s who act like the best part of your life ended the minute you got your diploma. Is the real world all cotton candy and unicorn rides? No. But sometimes, misery loves company and will even try to recruit it. When you start a new job there will inevitably be a group of people there who don’t like their job and don’t like being an adult. Avoid these people like the plague. They’ve bought into the cultural misconception that a “job is just a job” and that you should only work for the weekend. Nonsense. Your job can be meaningful. Your weekdays can matter.
So, welcome to the real world. We’ve been waiting for you. Sure, there are probably plenty more tips for success we could have provided here, but hey, then you wouldn’t have anything to discover for yourself.
And cheer up. It’s only about 45 years or so until you can retire.
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