Graduation. It’s the scariest and most exhilarating time of your college career. All those late nights, all those early mornings, all those papers and all those memories have led you to this moment. You’re about to walk across the stage at the Prudential Center and accept that rightfully earned degree, and after that, the future is up to you.
. . . So, now what?
It’s pretty common to feel a little nervous entering the “real world,” so who better to turn to than the people who have not only done it themselves but have been there, guiding you along the ride for the last four years: your professors!
Naturally, that’s exactly who I turned to. I’ve been blessed with many amazing professors over my four years at Montclair State and I can honestly say that it’s through their guidance (and a lot of hard work on my end, I’m not going to knock my hustle here) that I’m about to graduate as a member of the Class of 2017.
So, when I asked a few of them for their advice for post-grad life, this is what they had to say:
Be Competitive, Embrace the Journey and Make Mistakes
“First, know that you are graduating with a degree, same as everyone else that is graduating with you that year so it’s important to be competitive. That’s where things like internship experience and an online portfolio become really valuable, so draw upon any experience you have whether that be skills picked up in college or skills picked up in other settings like a retail job – they’re all valuable and applicable skills.
Also, I think we all have this expectation that we’re going to land this supreme job now that we have a degree, so if anything keep a humble sense of entitlement because there’s still much to learn. Look for jobs with companies that want to make you better and that you, in turn, can make better – it should be a healthy partnership. Continue evolving and learning.
Set goals but embrace the journey. If your plan that you set for A, B and C doesn’t pan out, that’s okay. And when opportunities open up in fields you didn’t expect to be in, embrace them. Some things we can plan, but other things we need to just let happen. Make a path but be very flexible in your methods as to how to get there. That might mean working part-time for the first two years or, as I said, working in an industry you didn’t expect to be in.
Allow yourself to make mistakes. We prevent ourselves from doing the things that we want to because we’re afraid of failure. Failure teaches you what didn’t go well the first time, so you can try again. Make the mistakes, learn from them and please don’t repeat them – use them to better yourself as a person.
Have patience with life and trust it to lead you where it’s going to, you can’t plan everything. Life is the opposite of what you plan it to be.“
-Professor Dayna Arcurio
Don’t Doubt Yourself, Be Your Biggest Fan
“If I could build a time machine and meet the 22-year-old version of me as he sits down in his campus dorm room to apply for his first job, I would grab him by the lapels (or the collar of the T-shirt he was more likely wearing) and tell him this: You’ve got this and you have no idea just how good you are.
If there’s one thing that haunted me in my career, it was a foolish lack of self-confidence. I always felt I needed more experience, wasn’t “ready” for this job or that I was “out of my league” working here or there. I would be succeeding at whatever I did, yet feel as though I was failing at it, not realizing how good I was.
To some extent, it’s wise to know what you don’t know — but it’s folly to underestimate yourself. And tragic.
This stinking thinking was absolute rubbish. I knew deep down I had the goods to achieve whatever I wanted, but always found ways to undermine myself. It took years of mental anguish to power past this self-inflicted nonsense and get to a place where I was doing work I truly loved, with absolute confidence that I was excellent at it, and, indeed, brought value to all that I touched that others couldn’t deliver quite as well.
That may sound a bit cocky, as though I have overcorrected after escaping the morass of timidity that held me back earlier in my career. But healthy self-confidence projects a positive energy into the world, shaping your life in every way. Doors begin to open. Achievements begin to pile up. Goals begin to be met, then crushed. You get the idea.
Even if you have the hardest time doing it, even if the world is telling you that you’re crazy, even if your super ego is on a constant self-destructive tear, simply know that in spite of that noise, you’ve got this! You rock! Work hard and believe that! Rinse and repeat. Don’t give up. Ignore the naysayers. And you’ll get where you want to go in no time flat, and will soon set audacious new goals that you will crush, too.
Believe in yourself. You’re all that you’ve really got so be good to yourself by being your own biggest fan.”
– Professor Rolando Pujol
Work to Figure Out What You Really Want From Life and Then Go For It
“Instead of advice (which is easy to give, hard to follow), I will just briefly say that, when I graduated from my undergrad studies with a Bachelors of Arts, I took a PR job doing hack writing for a recruitment training firm. I worked in marketing and PR for five years, making decent money and I hated my job so much that it was a true effort to get to work every day and I left at the stroke of 5:00pm every evening (sometimes even earlier, if I could sneak out).
I took the job for money instead of interest, or instead of something that fulfilled me. One day, I had enough and just quit, with no plans and no extra income. I moved to Florida to teach for so little money, I had to waitress to supplement my income and pay rent, but it was worth it and it led me to where I am today. So, I guess the lesson is, sometimes we have to compromise and work to pay bills or even to just take the time to figure out what we really want to do with our lives, no matter what your degree says. But once we figure that out, whether it’s one year, five years, or twenty years after graduation, we shouldn’t be afraid to give up the things that don’t make us happy and pursue the things that do, even if it means sacrificing a big paycheck. In the long run, you’ll make enough money to support your life and you’ll be satisfied with yourself.”
– Professor Julie Dalley
Be Open to New Opportunities and Keep Going
“Be open to possibilities, be open to opportunity, keep learning and keep trying different things. I ended up meeting somebody at a class my wife was taking and he, in turn, was the editor for a publisher and asked me if I would be interested in doing some reviews. I did some reviews, I wrote some proposals, and that was just the haphazard, serendipitous connection that led to the first step in a series of books that came off of that just because one night I went out with my wife instead of staying at home.
Once you start doing anything new you find that there’s so much more to know than you had any idea about so it’s important to keep going. Put on your Nike shirt and just do it.”
– Professor Keith Slocum
Save Your Money, See the World and Always Be On the Lookout for the Next Way Up
- “Save your money. If you have savings it’s a real freedom. It’s hard to save money, but once you get into that groove just save as much as you can.
- Learn what a rolling interest rate is and understand it.
- Never keep a credit card balance.
- Travel west.
- At the first job you get, on the second day you’re working there start looking for your next job. Then, don’t take the second job unless they help you pay off your student loans.”
– Professor Martin Halo