I’m sorry to say, but the best years of your life might be over! For the past four to five years, you’ve been living in a comfortable bubble where the worst part of your day might be getting a C for a mid-term you didn’t even study that hard for. Or maybe you feel like you’re having a tough time fitting in. The truth is that once you graduate, nobody really cares. All the time you spent in college learning how to assimilate with others will now be put to the test!
If you don’t have a trust fund or parents who will pay for your rent, mortgage, transportation, and food as an adult, then here’s some advice for all you college graduates looking to make a name for yourself in this great cruel world.
Advice For College Grads
1) You’ll be surrounded by privileged people. The system is stacked against you. The people who get the best jobs are the ones who are not only smart, but who are well connected. The system is institutionalized to take care of people who are rich and powerful. Everybody else has to compete only on merit, and merit doesn’t really matter when you can’t even get your foot in the door. The best way to compete is to try and build relationship with people who are in power.
2) Nobody will care what you did in college after the first several months. Your GPA and awards don’t matter once you get your first job. The only thing that matters is that you show up and provide value more than your salary.
3) Face time is imperative. Because you will initially provide minimal value to your employer, face time is extremely important. Face time means your boss always seeing you at your desk by the time she comes in. Face time also means your boss seeing you at your desk when he leaves. Your colleagues and bosses all want to see you put in the EFFORT to try and do well.
4) Work sucks in general. College is amazing due to the flexibility of doing many sorts of interesting things. At work, you’re essentially a production line worker whose sole objective is to do one or two things. The standard vacation package is two weeks, and you’ll probably stop learning new things after a year. It’s important not to confuse work as a place of joy. Only the lucky people can say with all honesty that they truly love their job more than 50% of the time. Take comfort in knowing the most people don’t like their jobs. Watch the movie The Matrix and wonder whether you’re living a real life or not.
5) If you think you’re so great, then take lots of risk. The people who aren’t able to last in a corporate setting are those who have an amazing sense of entitlement, or who are truly talented individuals. It would be a crying shame if you were stuck in an environment that suppressed your genius. Hopefully someone senior can recognize your abilities. And if not, hopefully have the courage to seek an environment that allows you to flourish. Taking lots of risk when you don’t have lots of money or responsibility isn’t really that risky.
6) They couldn’t afford it on their own. Within five years out of college, you’ll start seeing so many people your same age drive expensive cars and purchase even more expensive homes. You’ll constantly ask yourself, “How can they afford such things?” You’ll then start becoming miserable with what you have because you’ll feel like you’re not where you’re supposed to be. All you’ve got to do is do the math. A lot of your peers are not buying houses and expensive cars on their own. They’ve got the Bank of Mom & Dad hooking them up. If you try to keep up with them, you will lose because you’ll be competing against TWO balance sheets, your peers and your peer’s parents. If you aren’t lucky enough to have parents who still pack your lunch and do your laundry at age 27, then focus on building your own wealth. Be proud of doing things on your own.
7) Take care of your body. Life is kind of messed up because our bodies are in the best shape of our lives in our 20s. Yet, we kill ourselves by trying to get ahead in our careers. I gained 20 lbs by the time I was 24. The weight gain was accompanied by plantar fasciitis, severe allergies, and lower back pain. Life was bad, and I was burning out. Finding time to exercise on a regular basis is imperative to prevent burnout. Burnout is what makes you irrationally quit a job with nothing lined up when you have little experience and no money. Burnout is a wealth killer. At the very least, negotiate a severance package if you plan to leave.
8) 30 will come way sooner than you think. Hopefully, you’ll have either made it by 30 or know that you will make it at age 30. The good thing about turning 30 is that your confidence will probably soar. Greater confidence will help you do better things.
9) It can get very expensive to wait to have a kid. Kids are expensive, but waiting until you’re in your mid 30s or later to have kids could literally cost you $20,000 – $30,000 to try and conceive. What’s worse, you might not even be able to have a child after spending all that money. Having children is obviously a personal choice. Just know that your odds for having a baby decline the older you get.
10) It’s much more rewarding doing what you enjoy, than making a lot of money. After 20+ years of not making money as a student, it’s natural to want to make as much money as possible after graduation. Those who spend years after college going to graduate school or medical school should be commended for being able to delay money for so long.
Because most of us live in a developed country, life is not too hard. Therefore, we really don’t need that much to be happy and experience a life quite similar to some of the wealthiest members in society. There’s a lot of evidence that says a normal $75,000 a year income is good enough for maximum happiness. The figure is closer to $150,000 – $200,000 in expensive cities like NYC and SF.
After you reach these income figures, there’s a drastic DECLINE in the amount of incremental joy from making more money. There might be an outright decline because making more money generally means working more hours with a lot more stress.
It’s worth living a life you enjoy over living a life to make more money. If you regularly save, but the time you reach retirement age, Social Security will make you an automatic millionaire.
Don’t Look Back With Regret
Regret is going to be one of the worst things you’ll have to deal with the older you get. The key to counteracting regret is to try your very best at all the chances you will take. That way, even if she says “no,” or you fail spectacularly at a new endeavor, you will never regret having ever tried. You’ll make peace knowing that such and such was not part of your destiny.
Readers, any new graduates out there who want to share your thoughts about the future? What do you plan to do with your one and only exciting life? Any older readers out there want to share what you think you should have done differently right out of college? My biggest error was not listening to more to my colleagues. I thought I knew so much, when in reality, I knew so little.
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I’m excited about the future, although, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do with it! I start my fist post-college job next week. I did have an internship there last summer- which was amazing! I have a direction I would like to go in my career but am still developing the details (ie I know what area I want to be in but not necessarily how far I want to go with it. I think that some of this will become clear after spending time on the job and experiencing the industry), I probably will be for a while! I appreciate everyon’s advice and will be working to follow it in the coming months/years! Thank you!
Financial Samurai says
Best of luck Caitlin! It’ll be a great ride. Just remember that we’re all dispensable.
Wonderful post, this line is my takeaway…“The key to counteracting regret is to try your very best at all the chances you will take.” Wow. Nice~!
As a more seasoned *ahem!* reader, I have tons of failures and missed chances. And if I could go back and tell myself one thing when I got out of school, it would be: Commit! Embrace it, and try your best at everything. My perspective at the time was that 90% of the things in life didn’t seem worth breaking my ass over. I recall the struggle just to get a job (10.8% unemployment at the time, I drove a truck nights, strung tennis rackets, and lots of low-wage hourly work) where I could wear a tie. I asked my Dad, “is the rest of my life going to be this, waking up to an alarm and going to a job filled with problems and competition, where I’m weighed, measured, and found wanting?” My Dad laughed, and told me when he was starting out as a CPA, he was working late one night closing books and had a similar thought. The main thing I remember from the conversation, was my Dad saying he calculated over 400 monthly closings and 38 tax seasons in his future. He studded out, and learned to love it.
And if I had one piece of advice to new graduates, it would be to make money for your employer and yourself. In college, everybody is equal, even the C students and A students. Life is all ‘potential’, and the real competition for money, skills, status, and happiness has not begun. But the only competition that matters, is what you expect from yourself. It doesn’t take a lot of money to be happy and live a fulfilled life, so don’t get hung up in other people’s games or competition with them.“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt
NZ Muse says
So true about 1 and 6. You really start to see the effects of the class system.
Financial Samurai says
IT’s up to all of us to break that class cycle and make a great life for our own! But man, some folks have a lot of advantages that many others don’t!
This was a fun post to read. Brought me back to my memories of young adult life. College was a blur for me because I crammed in more credits than the average student and graduated in 3.5 years. I actually looked forward to getting out of school and going to work because I was so burnt out of classes and homework. I definitely had my fair share of long hours and grunt work once on the job, but I had a good momentum going in my early 20s. Perhaps what I would do differently if I did it all over again would be to expand the horizon of jobs I applied for. I thought I wasn’t worthy of applying to some jobs so I didn’t try. Things worked out fine in the end, but I shouldn’t have been so stubborn.
Paul @ The Frugal Toad says
I would recommend to any student currently in college to plan on getting an internship or summer job in your field of study. I worked in the university’s controllers department for 3 years while going to school and took a semester long supervisory position running the student aid accounting office. The experience was great and gave me skills that most graduates did not have.