This year marks the sixth year I’ve graduated from the university. I still get chills remembering the times when I thought I wouldn’t make it – or nearly did. My last year in college was riddled with messy break-ups that domino-ed to my poor class performance and slight estrangement from my family and friends.
That’s why it was such a relief for me to finally make it, and boy was it such a great feeling. No grades to think about, exams to study, (not until the board exam anyway). I was finally free and qualified to be on my own!
The happiness was just temporary. Know what they say about having a door close, then another one opens? That’s what it’s like when you graduate from college. Only that the next door is made up of bolts, nails, slithering snakes and other unnerving stuff that makes you not want to touch it.
So if I were to lead my younger, fresh-out-of-college self, these pieces of advice would be what I’d probably give:
1. Brace yourself for added financial responsibility. This is true, especially if you’re the first born in a middle-class family. My mom used to tell me that after I earn my diploma, everything I do and earn would be for myself, but try as I (and they) may, somehow, the family would be expecting you to ease some of the burden financially. Not 100% of your salary would be yours, not until all of your younger siblings finish school and all loans taken out while you were in school get paid. Think of it as a little payback for the people who painstakingly toiled for you to earn your diploma.
2. Don’t think you know everything just because you graduated from college. This is something that I had to learn the hard and disappointing way. When I landed my first job, I volunteered for almost anything I could get my hands on irregardless of whether I know a thing or two about it. Just as my enthusiasm propelled me to venture into the corporate realm, brandishing my college-grad-with-honors status contributed to one of my all-time humiliating work-related experiences, complete with facepalm moments.
You have to maintain a never-ending student attitude – one that always thirsts for more and more knowledge. Even if you know something about a certain topic or function, step back a while and assess if you’ve known more than enough to undertake it, lest you risking having your own i-wish-the-ground-would-open-up-and-swallow-me-whole moments when you face potential clients and/or board directors in a meeting. Humility is still a virtue that is needed through and through, even if you’re not a student anymore.
Do profile your prospective employers. See to it that you have combed through every job description posted in the hiring ad, and if you’ve decided to accept the offer, fine comb until the last dot of the document. If it doesn’t suit you, let it go. If it does, take it in only if you are absolutely sure that you wouldn’t compromise any of your values and other important stuff such as quality time with your loved ones in performing your work. Take job hunting as seriously as choosing a mate for life – like most people, the first time isn’t always a bulls eye, but at least you’ve given it all you have in choosing a good career for you.
4. Budget, budget, budget. This is not only for your family members that you need to spend on, but more importantly, for yourself. Once you’re out of school, chances are, unless you’re the type to break the class curve and land a job right after you take off your toga, you’ve got no means of income yet, nor are your parents still obliged to give you an allowance. Invest whatever savings you have on something worthwhile, like a chic corporate outfit that you can mix and match, or allot it as your “job hunting fund.” Trust me, budgeting is a lifelong skill to master, and the earlier you start, the better.
5. It’s okay to make mistakes. But not to dwell on them. Like I said earlier, keep a constant thirst for improvement. Getting better at something comes with a price – sometimes a very “expensive” price in exchange for experience. Make “calculated” mistakes – mistakes that would more or less place you on the safer side.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
6. Enjoy the little things in life. Now that you’re out of school, responsibilities get bigger and the burden of proving your worth gets heavier, and people expect you to become a more serious person. True, you’d have to look at life in a more mature way, but not to the point that you have to take every minute detail seriously. Toil hard and play hard. Experience life as an adult in balance – go out with friends, have coffee once of twice a month with an old college colleague, learn a new skill,play with your puppy. Not every waking minute is about work and finances. Oftentimes, we get caught up in the novelty of being someone important, we forget the things that are important.