An Open Letter to College Graduates - 8 Things You Must Know


Congratulations, after four years of hard work, hard partying and a slew of life lessons, you now have a fancy, crisp, very expensive piece of paper! Sh!t is about to get real my friends. You are either still dazed and confused from all the graduation parties or you are starting to panic because this thing called “adulting” is right around the corner and it is merciless. The good news is you have tons of people in your life that have been where you are and they have all the guidance in the world if you are just willing to listen. So don’t be a know it all and listen to your elders who are willing to offer you free advice!

Here are some simple yet, not so obvious morsels of advice we would like to share with you:

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. If you go into every situation with an open mind, a longing to learn, and gratefulness for new exposure and perspective, you are winning at life. You musn’t close doors that haven’t been opened out of fear or ignorance. You can always disagree or choose not to take a certain path, but do yourself a favor and ditch the narrow mind. As a new grad you should be a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge you can from the people around you.

  2. Self-awareness is your best friend. Figure out who you are and own it. Knowing who you are will not only help you land the job you want, but it will also help you in your personal life. Ask yourself, what are your personal core values? Know what you are great at and know what you suck at (this is modern day terminology for strengths and weaknesses). Always be true to yourself and your values, it will determine what situations you end up in and how you walk through life, the sooner you figure this out, the easier the ride will be.  

  3. Be deliberate about your career search. This is the part of “adulting” where there are no excuses. You cannot just spray the internet with your resume and hope something sticks. Do yourself a favor, write down all the companies you want to work for and why. Write down all the companies you do not want to work for and identify what it is about those companies that are non-starters for you. Go back to your dream company list and get to work. Track down friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends of your parents who work at these organizations and ask for an introduction to HR or a hiring manager. You should have a clear path mapped out, do your research and it will pay off.

  4. This interview game has changed. You did your research and landed an interview with one of your dream companies, now what? Remember that interviewing is a two way street. You are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. It is your job to turn the interview into a conversation and ask really well thought out questions to the interviewer. Come to the interview ready to ask questions that will give you a glimpse into the company culture so you can make an informed decision about whether this company is a perfect fit for you. Consider adding these questions to your arsenal:

    1. What do you love about this organization and what would you change?
    2. What are the short and long term visions for this organization? What does it look like in five years, 90 or 120 days?
    3. Tell me about the culture here. Describe “a day in the life” here.
    4. What do you do to help your team members grow professionally? 
  5. Clean up your social media. College is over and it’s time to grow both personally and professionally, that also means being very careful about what you are putting out into the world via social media. It’s true what they say, once it’s on the internet it can always be found. Do you want your future employer to know that you were the beer bong champion of your dorm sophomore year? Probably not. If you choose not to clean up your social media, at least lock it down (check those privacy settings) so that future employers can only see what you want them to see. Use your social media to your advantage in your job search, follow the companies you admire, share relevant articles, join LinkedIn, search for jobs on Twitter.

  6. Work harder than everyone else.  Be proud of the work you do. Give 110% every day. Wake up everyday and write down your goals for the day. Put together a plan that is ever changing, but lays out how you will proceed to kick so much ass that your peers cannot keep up. Hard work and perseverance pay off, so start this habit early.

  7. Choose your friends wisely. It is true. You will end up like the five people you hang around with most. As you grow in your career, try to find a circle of friends that share the same morals, and values as you. Try to surround yourself with people who you are constantly proud of and who keep you on your toes. There will be a time when you need to ditch the negative people who just want to get by in life. We know, it sucks to hear but there are a lot of folks who just won’t make it to the next chapter of your life, and that’s okay. Remember you can always make more money, keep your values and morals in check, always.

  8. Find a mentor. Believe it or not, there are so many people out there that want to help you. Finding these folks is not hard. Look at who the thought leaders are in your industry. Reach out to them and ask them if you can buy them a coffee or a beer. Let them know you are looking for a mentor and more times than not, people will respond positively. Always give back and make sure you understand the value of other people’s time.

Remember that fancy paper you got at graduation is not a ticket to a new job, it is a platform you will stand on to showcase yourself to a company.

You’re welcome and good luck!