Graduation is weighing heavily on my mind this week. Like many of you, we are celebrating as my oldest graduates from college on Saturday.
It’s one of those moments where you reflect back….for me to her high school graduation. Thinking of who joined us to celebrate, how I bargained for tickets to the ceremony, and all the hopes and dreams we had for her college experience.
So much changed in four years, things we never expected to happen. We lost people, we found people, changed schools, changed jobs, we failed, and we succeeded. My daughter changed her major and her college. We wondered, and she wondered, if that was a good idea. She trusted her gut, switched her school and her major, and has been so much the better for it. And with thinking about all of that I wondered, if I could go back to my college graduation and have someone give me really awesome advice, what do I really wish someone, anyone, had said to me. Because honestly, it’s not all about the job you land. And it’s certainly not all about your resume. They seem to be of paramount importance because of the pressure you feel. But you’re in this for the long haul and need to make the most of the time you’re part of the world’s workforce. Life advice, work advice…here it comes. In a nutshell, I wish someone had said to me…
1. Pay yourself first. Create a 401k account as fast as you can and always, always contribute the max. Never borrow from it, not ever. Look for employers who provide a match.
2. Health is everything. Take care of yourself.
3. Do good. All of us have a charity that means something to us. Give them your time. When you’re old, you can give them your money.
4. Getting married? Learn to live on one income and bank the other.
5. Travel. See the world. Get some perspective.
6. Persevere with your job search. No one expects you to land your dream job immediately. Pay your dues and do the work. It will take time, eventually, you will be where you want to be.
7. Culture is king. You absolutely want a job that you enjoy, and that pays well. But if you don’t respect the company, like the people and want to get up every day to do your best for the good of the company, you’re in the wrong place.
The only expectations that we have to live up to in this life are our own. We’re not competing against anyone but ourselves. Enjoy what you have, be present and save for the future. And the one piece of advice my dad gave me decades ago that I still hold true, live with no regrets.
And by all means, congratulations!
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.