A Message for Upcoming College Graduates

By Zachary Clark, Account Coordinator 

Not long ago I was just like many other upcoming college graduates. In fact, it was just a year ago when I was sitting in a townhouse at St. Bonaventure with that scared feeling realizing that it was almost over. The “real world” was going to start soon enough and I’d have to find a job eventually and stop living under my parent’s wing (and credit card for food). 

Luckily for me I was going on to Grad school and could semi-delay that “real world,” even though I was going to be working here part-time at Cowley. Over the course of this year, though, I’ve learned some things that I wish I would have known and I’ve come across things that have helped me get to where I am now (going full-time at a job I absolutely love).

Here are five pieces of advice that I think every upcoming college graduate can use as they prepare for the “post-college” part of their lives.

#1: There is No “Real World”

Get rid of the notion that you were once living at college in a fantasy land that was some other dimension and now that you’re graduating you’re coming back to Earth. You’ve always been in the “Real World,” college was just a part of it that everyone wishes they could go back to. Sure, you’ll have the in-your-face challenge of paying bills and student loans that you didn’t have to worry about when you were at school, but half of entering the workforce is responsibility.

Responsibility is something you’ve already been working on and it’s a skill that is already there. You had to be responsible and go to class. You had to take your finals, study for your tests, and yes, get at least 2.0 to graduate and get your diploma. Although some are more responsible than others, the “real world” has already been here and you’re already living in it.

#2: Think Big

Never compromise on your dreams. Always think big and larger than life with whatever you want to do. Always set the bar high and aspire to reach the top. If you never set a goal and have a dream of where you want to be, then you’ll never achieve it.

There are so many times that caving in to the notion of “settling” comes about. But, giving up should never, ever be an option and if you want something go get it. Don’t let someone or something stand in your way. Use your college education to your advantage and enjoy the ride.

#3: Stay Hungry

Your first few years of a job are ultimately going to be less than you hoped. There is no sugar coating it. You might have to run the copier, teach someone how to email, or be looked at as some “social media expert” because you have a Twitter account. Take these opportunities to really excel.

If you have to make copies, make the best damn copies with a perfectly placed staple. You have to write emails and schedule appointments for someone? Be the best receptionist there is. You have to go flip burgers somewhere? Make the most delicious burger someone has ever tasted. Take pride in what you’re doing and eventually the people around you will start listening to the other great things you have to say.

#4: Invest

I’m not talking Roth IRA or 401K (even though that’s smart), I’m saying invest in yourself and your skillset. Many upcoming grads probably don’t have a job. You just spent tens of thousands of dollars (maybe even hundreds of thousands) on your education. Investing in creating an awesome resume or something that’s different than everyone else is just another drop in the bucket. 

Separating yourself from the pack will help you land that dream job. You can also take the time in developing new skills, even if that means having to buy computer software or some subscription for it. You just spent 2, 3, 4, 5 or more years investing in your future, you can’t stop now.

#5: Positioning

This comes back to the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And that’s not just for people who have parents who know everyone. This is about putting yourself in the right positions so it’s not just luck that something happens. Working hard, saying the right things, and shaking the right hands are extremely vital to success.

There is no way I would ever have the job I do now if I didn’t work hard, make good impressions, cultivate relationships, and seize opportunities. An opportunity might not always present itself now, but if you put yourself in the right positions, you’re bound to have one come your way.

This Isn’t the End, It’s a Continuation 

Don’t get caught up in the hype of “this isn’t the end, it’s just another beginning.” This is actually a continuation of everything you’ve been working for throughout college. You’re not starting something new, you’re continuing on with your passion and dreams towards your definition of success. 

Take the time to enjoy this moment and all the other moments that come across your life. There’s nothing wrong with stopping for a second on the climb of a mountain and taking a picture of the scenery.

I just have one last piece of advice: Life is what you make of it. Enjoy every single part of it you can. The struggles, the triumphs, the tears, the smiles. Enjoy it all because one day all you’ll have are the memories of once was. Make those memories last and make the most of what you have.

Congratulations to everyone graduating and good luck on your future endeavors!

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