12 Career Advice Tips for Upcoming College Grads

Your life is going to change. It may seem like life is going to get less fun, but that doesn’t have to be true. Though, most of you will likely feel lost for a few days, weeks, maybe years. The important thing to remember is that this is all normal. One thing I would love to change about college is to provide a quick seminar to help in this adjustment from college to work life. Because I left college with the knowledge of sunk cost fallacy and opportunity costs and even how to build a nuclear bomb. I got a D in that class (Physics) so don’t ask me how. Despite all of that education, I was very lost with just normal daily tasks. On my first day of work at a Fortune 500 company, I did not know how to budget, eat healthy or do my taxes. Looking back over what I have learned, here is the advice I would offer any soon to be college graduates.

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It’s a Numbers Game

Don’t worry about your lack of experience. Exude confidence and focus on what you do have. If you don’t have a job, just keep plugging away. I went on 17 different interviews and only got my first job offer in March. I honestly can’t even remember how many resumes I sent out, but I know that I got a job out of college and was thrilled to have it. And if you hate your job, don’t sweat it. You’ll surely learn something and eventually move on to a different one. I spent a couple years at my first job and left it for something better when I felt I had learned all it had to offer.

Everyone is Winging It

On my first day at the job I was suddenly handling phone calls and contracts that were worth several thousand dollars where a mistake could be very costly. People would call in and immediately trusted my opinion. It blew my mind how quickly people are willing to listen to you and trust your advice if you have a job title. It’s also a little terrifying when you realize the person who might be setting your broken leg or worse, cutting your hair could be on their first day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always stay positive. Whatever your job may be, if people enjoy talking to you, they’ll want to work with you.

Living Alone is Jarring

I spent four very strange years with some very interesting people. We competed in the beer Olympics together, met hundreds of young motivated people, took a road trip to St Louis on a whim, broke 3 doors, played countless games of basketball together and occasionally ventured off to the library. After all the fun and games, suddenly I was alone. Living alone has a lot of benefits, but it took some getting used to after all the excitement, and I was fortunate to live across the street from another young coworker. Learning how to live alone takes some time. I found comfort in noise and would almost constantly have music or a podcast playing in the background. It also helps to join a gym or find some type of activity to keep busy. A bike trail or walking path can help when you need a change of scenery.

You Aren’t Alone

Leverage all your connections. It’s perfectly normal to ask for help or advice. For the first month or so, I was putting my laundry detergent in the bleach dispenser. My grandma told me she had a good laugh at my expense when she heard this. I would call other friends to keep in touch and see what they have been up to. A phone call is much better than checking their Facebook page as you’ll get a more personal account. Plus you can see how your friends are dealing with their new job.

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Move More

One of the biggest struggles for me was going from a lifestyle of walking almost everywhere to sitting in a chair all day. This is why so many adults gain weight. Take walks every day. I could barely sit still through class, so the work day was literally impossible for me. Work culture loves their emails, but I use them only when it is a necessity. If I can talk face to face with someone instead, I use this as an excuse to get up and move around. It will help with your energy levels too. My boss used to run throughout the day when he had to talk to someone. At first, I thought it was an emergency at work, but apparently, he just liked to move. He was in better shape than me and ten years older than me so it works. Whenever possible get outside and take a break from all the noise. Taking a break here and there will help with productivity and your sanity.

Stay Active

You should join a gym. This can be a great way to meet people, especially if the gym offers classes or has a basketball court. My second apartment out of college had a sand volleyball court. Occasionally, a group would be short a guy and asked if I wanted to jump in with them. The gym is a good workout, but activities like volleyball or basketball are a much more fun way to stay active. If you can’t get out to the gym, don’t sweat it. There are plenty of other good options like yoga. It can help unwind after a stressful day at your new job.

Sweaters are the New Hoodies

I loved wearing my Illini hoodie to class all the time. It was comfy and I didn’t have to wash it every time I wore it. Well, invest in a couple of simple sweaters and you have a work appropriate sweatshirt. It looks great, and its comfy. As for the hooded sweatshirts, save them for time at home or working out. You’ll look more mature if you know when to dress up just a bit. Just don’t overdo it on the clothes. A few basic interchangeable pieces can go a long way. You don’t have to show up looking like a GQ model every day.

 A big step up in the taste game from ramen noodles.

A big step up in the taste game from ramen noodles.

Learn to Cook

This is one of the most important skills anyone can learn. What we eat makes us who we are mentally and physically. Food is fuel and you need a few quick and easy recipes. For years I got by with just chopping up some stuff and tossing it in a skillet. The real game-changer though is the slow cooker. If you invest in any kitchen appliances, this is the one. I would throw a pork loin in there with some onions and sauce and eat a tasty meal for a couple days. Leftovers usually became the next day’s lunch. Eating healthy will do a lot more than trying to run off the extra calories. And if money is tight, try some vegetarian meals. It will save you money and calories. I often would make a soup out of my random cans of beans and veggies. Spice with salt and pepper and you are good to go.

Network             

This is your last chance to really connect with people in your major before heading into the real world. All your classmates will be the next crop of professionals in your industry. It helps to know people and it will never be easier. Connect with your friends and professors through social media. You are about to lose your college email account so don’t depend on that. Staying in touch with college professors can be beneficial if you need advice or want to follow industry news.

Start Cleaning up your Social Media

It’s time to at least start acting like a professional, even if you aren’t one yet. Take down all the pictures where you are noticeable drunk, drinking or smoking. Employers will look through your social media accounts whether you think it is fair or not. Create a LinkedIn account if you haven’t already as this can be a sort of digital resume. If you are unhappy with your current job, this can be helpful in finding the next job.

Write

Get yourself a journal and start writing. Its cathartic. It will help you get comfortable with your words and can help with your professional life too. Anyone who can feel comfortable writing has a huge edge on those who don’t. But more importantly, it can keep you sane. There is something magical that happens when you take all the thoughts and worries in your head and express them through a word document or pen and paper. It frees the mind of all that stress and can help you get organized.

Find Three Hobbies

One that will shape your mind. One that will shape your body. And one that can potentially earn you money. It may take time to figure out what hobbies are best for you, especially that last one, but it will improve your life. You have to find ways to enjoy yourself and keep that work life balance. It may be long hours at first, but everyone has days off and needs time to decompress. Life is a lot of fun as long as you can maintain the right perspective. Enjoy it!

If you have any concerns or questions, don't be afraid to ask. Leave a question or comments down below and I'll do my best to share what I have learned from my transition from college to career.