Now what? Commencing a new life plan

graduatesI was recently interviewed on advice for new graduates. Here’s how I answered. What other advice would you offer?

1. What do you wish you had known back then and now do know? When I graduated from college, I still didn’t know myself fully. I thought I did, of course. But there were still many particular discoveries to come about my own personality traits, temperaments and inherent gifts and talents. Like many at that age and stage of life, I needed to realize that although I now possessed an education, there was so much more I didn’t know.

Being teachable helped me build an innovative business that supported my family for nearly 20 years. But in the process I became isolated from others within my own profession, as I became too busy to both contribute and associate on a regular basis. Only after I sold the business and reinvigorated my career in parallel track, did I discover how much I had been missing of the tremendous  benefits, both personally and professionally, in developing and sustaining  interactive, meaningful relationships with my peers and community. Being independent is a good thing, I’ve realized, but not to exclusion of ongoing engagement with others who, by the way, have even more to teach me! 2. What other advice do you have to offer the newly minted college graduates? It’s rare that a recent grad lands the dream job in the corner office with the company car and stock options. But while you are not where you want to be, and it is not comfortable where you are, do not expect things to just fall from the clear blue into your waiting lap. That “Standard Rich and Famous Contract” just for showing up? It only happens in movies and fairytales. Instead, look for productive things to do. Volunteer for more duties. Develop new ideas. Keep busy. Be persistent and consistent. Seek out what’s next. Partner with others in team dreams for mutual goals.

Such are the things that lead to others that help you get where you want to go. Determine organizational needs and seek to fill them. Do what you can. Then do more than what you can by enlisting the synergy of others. You’ll be surprised how well you’ll thrive.

Look for ways to maximize your value while adding value to others and your organization. Develop that website, podcast, book, feature, or publicity campaign. Research. Experiment. Volunteer to help with a colleague’s/boss’s/ professor’s project. Write. Design. Partner. Scheme.  Learn. The strides of progress may be incremental at first, and barely noticeable—but taken together help fulfill your dream.

3. What one thing should I buy with my graduation money that will make a difference? “Things” are never fully satisfying. After you’ve got your basic needs met, the stuff you surround yourself with is always temporary—as it inevitably wears out, breaks down and becomes obsolete. Many “things” are merely purchases that do not and cannot make any ultimate difference in your life. So choose wisely about such things.

If you want to make a difference in other people’s lives, your workplace, or even the world, however, begin by investing the resources you now have in yourself, to improve your mind, body, spirit and relationships. Join a professional organization and network with your more advanced colleagues. Subscribe to a specialized journal and devour its peer-reviewed contents. Take continuing education classes for personal and professional enlightenment. Attend seminars and workshops to become proficient in a new skill or hone an existing talent. The resultant transformation in developing your own potential, expanding your own possibilities, and enabling your own difference-making future is the shrewdest of all investments.