Here is some advice for the class of 2015 that you may not have heard during graduation ceremonies.
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“What you’re hearing at graduation sounds great, and never forget it, but don’t be afraid to listen to what’s really going on in front of you,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor. “As you progress through your career, make sure you pay attention to what’s around you to guide your decisions so you can live the best life in and out of work.”
And if you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed, then you are normal.
“Relax and appreciate the fact that what you’re transitioning from is a big deal,” says David Srere, co-CEO and chief strategy officer of Siegel+Gale. “Step back and realize the reason you’re feeling all this stress and anxiety is because you’re transitioning to the real world.”
Here are more tips from business leaders and career experts on how to master life after college graduation.
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Success comes from being able to prioritize what matters. “You can do a few things very well in life, and you have to choose them,” says Beth Schmidt, founder and executive director of Wishbone.org. “If you’re choosing family and career, you can balance those equally. When you throw in other things like friends, health, travel, to do them all well, that’s not realistic.”
Value your time in your daily life, and set boundaries since no one else will. “If you set the precedent that you’re available at 2AM to answer emails, that’s what people will expect of you,” says Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media.
Think Through Problems
In school, “you’ll know the outcome [of problems] and it’s usually very clear based on a professor’s guidance, but in the workplace, there aren’t these recipes,” says Schmidt.
Real world problems don’t have textbook answers, experts say, but your grit and work ethic to develop a solution are what will propel your career.
Success Takes Time
“[Commencement speakers] tell you to conquer the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the formula for conquering the world doesn’t happen overnight and is a multistep journey for most people,” says Dobroski.
There are exceptions, but more often than not, an idea becomes a successful company after years of refinement and improvement.
Take a Risk
“There are many hungry, driven people around the world, and recent graduates will have to compete harder than ever and take more risks to ultimately reach their goals,” says Charlie Peters, senior executive vice president at Emerson.
This means that you may have to challenge yourself and take that overseas assignment, for example, go back to school or make a financial investment. Not all risks pay off, experts caution, but sometimes you lose more by not taking the risk.
“There’s only a handful of people who will be successful at any given point, but [to quote hockey player Wayne Gretzky], ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of Human Resources at career website Indeed.com.
Innovate and Be Open to Change
“It’s important to be inspired — if a certain percentage of recent college grads don’t try to change the world, we’ll be stagnant,” says Wolfe.
Many of today’s companies exist because someone took a risk and tried, and it often took many attempts. Industries and companies will continue to change as businesses look to grow in new economies.
“There are business and job opportunities that will exist 10 years from now that people won’t expect — no one has a crystal ball,” says Dobroski, “but the one thing we do know is that it will evolve forward so be open to new opportunities.”
Hustle and Learn
“The people who we find are most successful will pick up any work that no one else wants to do,” says Schmidt. “They’re a team player, and eventually, everyone relies on them. They climb the ranks very quickly.”
There’s an element of paying your dues too. “As an entry-level employee, expect to have a manager who will teach and mold you in a way that’s best for that company,” says Dobroski. “You may also have to do some tasks that are outside that job description and that’s OK.”
As you learn the ropes, constructive criticism can be hard to hear. But “it’s very, very important to be open to feedback and to change,” says Zuckerberg. “A lot of how you respond to feedback and how maturely you handle it sometimes matters more than your actual performance.”
Love What You Do
Knowing yourself and what you like is key to finding a job you love, and once you do, you’ll be more successful. “Be honest about what you’re looking for,” says Wolfe. “We spend way too much time at work and you can’t be miserable — that will bleed into your personal life. You have to be happy at what you’re doing and there has to be a purpose to it, that’s a big part of the happiness factor.”
Everyday won’t be bliss though, and you won’t always like your job or company. Understand why you’re unhappy, and then “do something about it and make a change,” Wolfe adds. “You have complete control over your destiny.”
Your Career is a Marathon
While looking for that first perfect job in the right career, oftentimes, life happens. “There are economic factors and other things that can have a direct impact on your career trajectory — even falling in love can have an impact,” says Dobroski. “Be open to twists and turns in the road because these might take you to where you’re really supposed to go.”
Recognize that your career may span 50 years too. “Get yourself in the general area where you want to be in and in a company where you can learn something,” says Srere. “[Your career’s] a journey, and no one remembers who started the race — people only remember who’s there in the end.”
“The wrecking ball of life is going to whack you — there’s no doubt that it’s going to get you,” says Srere, “but what are you going to do when it happens?” Adversity affects people differently, but no matter the situation, get up and keep going. “That often is the stick-to-itiveness that counts for a lot.”