5 Success Tips for College Graduates – What I Wish I Knew

tips for college graduatesJust graduated from college?   Congratulations and welcome to the workforce!  Do these words excite you or scare you to death?  If you are anything like me when I graduated from college, it’s probably both.

Transitioning from college to work can be a huge change.  It’s okay to feel exhilarated and nervous. I still remember how much I looked forward to starting my first full time job.  I was excited to finally make money and be part of the “real world”, but I also clearly remember my anxieties.

  • I was afraid that I really didn’t know anything. I knew how to study, work the curve, and get my A.   My short term memory was fantastic, but I would promptly forget everything I learned after the grade was earned. When I graduated, I didn’t feel like I was good at anything.  I remembered thinking: “What if other people thought I don’t know enough? Will I be fired?”
  • I didnt know how to succeed at work. College was good at teaching me how to excel in the classroom, but there were no lessons on how to excel in a full time job.
  • I didn’t know my passion – It seemed like everyone around me knew what they wanted to be when they graduated, but I had no idea what I wanted. I ended up applying for jobs in five different careers and left it to fate to tell me what I should do next.

If this sounds anything like you, then read on.  Here are 5 success tips for college graduates that I wish I knew when I graduated 20+ years ago.   I hope they can help you as well.

Tip 1: Relax! No one expects you to know anything.  Companies know they need to groom you to who they need you to be, so all you need to do is learn as much as you can from them.   All you need to bring is the following:

  1. Great attitude and humility – You will be the most junior person in the company, so do everything that is assigned to you with a smile. Everyone loves working with and teaching a positive person.
  2. Be ready to learn quickly – Every company will expect you to be capable of learning quickly. Don’t beat yourself up for having limited knowledge on the job.  Instead, have the confidence to know that with 16 years of education, you know how to learn anything quickly and apply it.
  3. Ask questions often – Don’t assume you know the answer. It’s okay to ask questions so you can understand what is expected of you. Managers appreciate those who proactively  ask questions.  The more questions you ask, the sooner you get all the stupid questions out of the way,  Yes, you will ask stupid questions, but that’s okay because you are new grad.  Sometimes, start your question with something like this: “I may have a stupid question, but what is…..?”  Nine out of ten times, other people had the same questions but were too afraid to ask.

Tip 2: Find mentors who will guide you at work.   Work will not have a class syllabus to tell you how to get that “A” or “Exceed expectations” on your performance review.   On top of that, every company and manager you have will assess your performance differently.  Regardless of where you work, there is one thing you absolutely must do: Find a senior person in your company to help guide you.  This doesn’t have to be a formal relationship, but it is the key to helping you figure out how the whole evaluation process works. Ask for guidance and advice on how to succeed in your role.  Most people would be flattered and will make the time for you as long as you are considerate.   Read the following article for more details on getting a mentor: How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor

Tip 3: It’s okay to not know your passion yet.  Just keep searching.  The journey is more important than the destination.  Don’t worry if you haven’t figured out your passion.  You are not alone! Most college graduates actually don’t know what they want.  Even some who seem to know may actually be following their parents’ dreams.  Use each job you have to figure out your passion.  Even job that turns out not to be great will help teach you what you don’t want in your next job or career.  As long as you keep exploring and learn from the journey, you will find your passion.

While you figure out your passion, dont lose your gut!  I was desperate to figure out what my passion was coming out of college, so I just started convincing myself and others that any job I was in was my passion.  I was so good at convincing myself that I sort of lost the gut feel of whether I really liked something or not.  Convincing myself that I liked a job helped me excel, but I don’t recommend doing this.  It’s okay to not like jobs that your parents or society say you should like.  Use the first few jobs out of college as experiments to find out what truly drives you and makes you happy.

Tip 4: Unlearn your perfectionist tendencies – Ask for feedback early and often.  School taught us that we have one chance to turn in our work and be graded, which led many of us to become perfectionists.  You can’t do this at work, though. It’s impossible to know clearly the right answer at work the first time you are assigned something.  Waiting until your work is “perfect” before you get feedback will hurt your performance, especially if you have limited experience in the field.

Managers appreciate regular updates on your work, and you should use each update as an opportunity to get feedback.  Get the first draft done as quickly as possible, and then give it to your manager to receive some feedback. There are three immediate benefits to doing this. First, it shows your maturity. Second, the feedback you get will take your work to the next level and in the right direction.  Third, it will save time for your manager, your team, and yourself.

Tip 5: Party more and socialize! Yes, I mean this!  Building personal relationships is key to succeeding at work.   People enjoy working with people they like, so don’t just be heads down, work hard, and go home.  Allow yourself to enjoy common hobbies and interests with your colleagues.

  1. Say yes when people invite you to happy hours or a weekend hiking trip.
  2. Organize social events based on what interests you and invite your fellow colleagues and senior folks.

You will have more fun and naturally build a network with people who are already influential or will be vice presidents, politicians, or start up founders in the future.

I am so excited for you!  You have a college degree and you will have a job!  The sky is the limit, so enjoy yourself, explore, and dare to dream!   You will make mistakes but you will also achieve.  As long as you are learning and growing, you are on the right path.

Many thanks to ladders.com for reaching out to me to write this article on career success tips for college graduates!

Your comments: Do these tips for college graduates help you?  What else would you like to know?  Share your comments below and let’s have a discussion!

New to My Site? Then start here and learn all about soft skills and how developing them throughout your career can accelerate your success.

Best wishes to your success and happiness!


3 thoughts on “5 Success Tips for College Graduates – What I Wish I Knew”

  1. I’m a 10+2 qualified student and these days i’m appearing in BCA classes from IGONU which provides distance learning classes. I took admission only and only cause of financial problems. Anyways, that’s another thing. I actually want to ask with you that I’m too much confused with what sector should I choose to build my career into? I mean I’m unable to find out what interests me. I don’t know what I like the most. it’s really a complicated thing for me these days. Because I like everything and that’s why this problem has been occurred. For example, if I’m learning web designing then for that moment of time I’d think of building my career in Web Designing career, and just like this some times it’s software engineer, sometimes it’s scientist, sometimes it’s mathematician(i’m quite good in maths), sometimes it’s businessman, and lots more thoughts, in fact it’s pretty hard for me to put all those in words. And the interesting thing is, I’ve the ability to accomplish all the things i’m thinking of, and i think this is why i’m confused about my career. For instance, I’ve chosen Software Development(IT sector) to build my career into. But sometimes a thought comes up, that I’ve chosen a wrong career option.
    So it’s my personal request to you…please help me out here to find out which career should I build my career?

    Thank you very much in advance….

    1. Amit,

      Thanks for your question. I was like you early in my career and can convince myself to like any career. Just stick with software development for a few years and develop some skills – the soft skills developed will be transferable to other careers. 90% of graduates are like you and me so don’t worry. not knowing what you want is natural and common. Your job now is to develop skills and also discover what you don’t like. After a few jobs and finding out what you don’t like, you can start narrow down what you may love. It took me 15 years to figure it out so you have time. 🙂 As long as you are learning and challenging yourself, there is no wrong career path. Each step in whatever career and job you are in will bring you closer to understanding what you really like and don’t like. Be patient and do you best in each job. The answers will come over time. Best wishes.

      1. Thank you very much for your suggestion…Now I’m feeling like I’ve some plans for my career.
        This is one of the best website I’ve ever visited, and i know it’s really gonna help me for developing new skills…

        Again, thank you very much….

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