Dear College Graduates,
I’m sorry to say, but the good times are over! I know making a living on your own might sound scary, but heck, millions of people have done so in the past, so have some faith.
From a physical standpoint, you’ll probably only get flabbier, grayer, and more stressed. Don’t be surprised if you start experiencing chronic back pain, elbow pain, shoulder pain, sciatica, and plantar fasciitis. The common cold will visit you more often than a good friend will on Facebook. Meanwhile, your face will likely start breaking out as if you were going through puberty again.
If you think you don’t look good in pictures now, just wait five years! You’ll look back and realize how good you looked all along.
The real world is tough no doubt about it. Globalization has made competition a nightmare. Housing costs in major job centers has become prohibitively expensive. And student debt level has never been higher. What’s a young adult supposed to do?
Here’s some candid advice for new college graduates and 20-somethings trying to make it in this great cruel world.
Candid Advice For College Graduates
1) Create a massive professional network. If you’re not one of the privileged, the system is stacked against you. The people who get the best jobs are the ones who are not only smart, but who are also well connected. The best way to compete is to build relationships with people who are in power. Even if you don’t respect them because they didn’t have to hustle as hard for you, swallow your pride and break into their circle. Drink where they drink. Play where they play.
2) Forget about your college degree. Once you have a job, nobody will give a crap about your grades, what school you went to, or where you spent your summers volunteering to help eradicate malaria. All your employer will care about is whether you can add more value than you cost. Always remember this! They’ve already made a decision to hire you. Now prove their decision correct. The only people who always talk about where they went to college are too insecure to show what they can do now. Where you went to college is only a reflection of how well you did in high school.
3) Live like a college student for as long as possible. There’s no need to live in a nice place the first 5-10 years post college. Instead, try and live exactly as you did in college by sharing a room or finding housemates. You should be spending most of your time at work and on your side gig instead of at home. Nobody cares if you live in a hole in the wall. It’s to be expected. Only if you’ve found a partner with a nice income or you want to start a family should you spend up on housing.
4) Play a forever sport: tennis or golf or both. Surprise! Unless your job is in research, you don’t need a brilliant mind to get ahead. Instead, you need to learn how to connect with people. Common interests bring people together, no matter what age, sex, seniority level, or race. By playing tennis or golf, you increase your chances of spending time with other people who enjoy the two sports. For some reason, tennis and golf are two of the most popular sports enjoyed by people in positions of power. If you can spend one-on-one time with a person for 1 – 5 hours, you will inevitably build a better relationship. If you have no athletic skills whatsoever, learn as much as you can about golf, tennis, football, and basketball so you can smoothly participate in all the small talk. Go Warriors!
5) Always be building your brand. The resume is going to be a thing of the past. Instead, every single employer or prospective client wants to get to know as much about you as possible through your online profile before doing any business. Yes, have a LinkedIn profile given it’s the largest professional network today. But also have your own website where you can shape your brand. You will find more opportunities due to your online presence thanks to the law of attraction. A strong brand is imperative for achieving maximum value.
6) Give as much face time as possible Because you will initially provide minimal value to your employer, face time is extremely important. Face time means your boss always sees you at your desk by the time she comes in and when she leaves. Your senior colleagues all want to see you put in the effort, even if you aren’t adding much value yet. They are betting on your potential.
7) Know your place. Please, for the love of God, stay humble and hungry in the work place. The first people to get fired are the know-it-alls who aren’t willing to listen or learn from others. Respect your elders, do what you’re told, and always ask whether you can help others when you’re idle.
8) If you think you’re so great, go out on your own. Only a few lucky people can say they truly love their job more than 50% of the time. Either find another firm that recognizes your abilities, or start your own company. It would be a crying shame if you were stuck in an environment that suppressed your creativity. Even if you fail, at least you’ll know you tried. You’ll also become more appreciative of having a day job once you fail as an entrepreneur. Take more risks when you have less money and zero dependents.
9) Let go of comparisons. Within five years out of college, you’ll start seeing many people your same age drive expensive cars and purchase nice homes. You’ll constantly ask yourself, “How can they afford such things?” 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. Its the Bank of Mom & Dad hooking them up. If you try to keep up with them, you’ll lose because it’s two balance sheets against your one. If you aren’t lucky enough to have parents who still change your diapers at 27, focus on building your own wealth. You’ll feel a far greater sense of pride.
10) Take care of your body. Life is 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. Having a proper mind / body connection 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. If you burn out too soon, you destroy your wealth creation potential. Do not join the majority of Americans who don’t care about their health.
11) Save early and invest often. You’ve got to get in the habit of saving a painful amount of money each paycheck. If you aren’t feeling pain, then you’re not saving enough. After years of developing a savings mindset, you minimize the risk of financial ruin because you’ll always be spending less than you make even if you start making the mega bucks. Further, your savings / investments should grow mightily after 10+ years thanks to the power of compounding interest.
Related: How Much Should I Have Saved By Age?
12) Passive income will be your best friend. The whole point of saving and investing is to develop passive income streams. And the whole point about having passive income streams is so that you have the optionality to do something new once you hate your job. I don’t care if you work at Google or McKinsey, you will eventually not want to go to work anymore. Passive income will allow you to take that leap of faith.
13) 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 – $100,000 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. There’s also the psychological trauma you may experience due to miscarriages and false hope. It’s not easy being a working pregnant woman in America. On the flip side, it can also be very expensive to have a kid early due to the time a kid takes away from work.
14) Do something that matters. If you have to, sacrifice for the first 10 years of your post college life in order to shore up your finances and give yourself experience and optionality. After 10 years, if you aren’t doing work that’s meaningful, leave. You will absolutely regret not taking a chance at doing something you love when you’re much older. Keep searching for that something you’d do for free. I guarantee you will find more joy making $50,000 a year doing something that matters versus making $1,000,000 selling sugary drinks to kids.
15) Perseverance is the key to progress. Some call perseverance grit. Either way, those of you who can keep on going no matter what will fulfill your dreams. It takes grit to stay awake from 10pm – 6am taking care of a baby while also trying to do some work. It takes grit to work out at 6am every day before going to the office. It takes grit to work on a side business while working 60 hours a week at your day job. But if you do, success is an inevitability. When you do achieve your goals, try to stay as humble as possible.
BONUS: Embrace criticism. You will be annoyed at older people nit picking at all your flaws. But older people have already been where you want to go. Therefore, spend as much time as possible with the people who want to give you feedback. Keep and open mind and take some of their advice. Stubbornness will get you in a lot of trouble. “Your critics are the ones still telling you they love you and care,” Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon professor. “Tell the truth.”
Don’t Look Back With Regret
30 will come way sooner than you think. Hopefully, you’ll have either made it by 30 or know that you’re on the right path by 30. If you mess around in your 20s, you’ll probably play catch up for at least a decade because success begets success. The cacophony of bitterness you hear is from the ones who decided to YOLO a little too much. Please don’t waste your youth by trying to keep up on appearances with people you don’t like.
You will regret more of the things you don’t try than the things you do. I’ve found this to be true after 40 years of living. Even if you fail, you’ll find peace knowing that at least you tried. Please think about how great your life will be based on the things you do today.
Readers, any new graduates out there want to share their 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 they should have done differently right out of college? My biggest error was not listening more to my colleagues. I thought I knew so much, when in reality, I knew so little.