Five Lessons I Learned after Graduating College
The Power of Networking: Since I've been old enough to work (age 15), I've had more than 20 different jobs. 19 of these jobs have been offered through referrals. This is a real example of how it's not about what you know, it's who you know. While in my graduate program studying organizational psychology, my school and teachers have connected me to the last three full-time professional jobs I've had. This is the power of networking. If you're on the fence about going to grad school, it's not about what you learn, it's about who you meet in school. The teachers, your colleagues, even random friends you make will all help you expand your opportunities for employment.
Find a Mentor: Every successful person has a mentor. They found someone who nurtured their strengths and gave them challenges to grow their weaknesses. The mentor gave them perspective, wisdom, advice, and connections to build their reputation. My personal mentor taught me how to be a good manager. He gave me insight to how my employees might need individualized motivation and supervision. And what I appreciated most was the feedback (both positive and constructive) to help me continue to grow. Finding a mentor is one of the best career-enhancing moves you can make.
Plan for the future (financially): I didn't know what a 401K was. I hardly had a savings account. Now that I'm 30 and starting a family, we're barely finding ways to make ends meet. It's important to start putting money away. The things I want now (home, car, vacations) are things that cost a lot of money. Money that I wasted away at nice restaurants and unnecessary shopping splurges. Set up a 401K and pay yourself first with each paycheck by putting it away in a savings vehicle.
Spend less than you make: What astounds me is that when I graduated college and got my first job, I went from making $500 a year to over $30,000 BUT at the end of the year, my bank statement was the same. How was this possible? I can't believe how much easier it was for money to flow out of my bank account when I was making money than when I was the typical poor college student. It's important to build budgeting skills when you get your first full-time job. This money will come in handy when you're ready to make a big purchase like on a home or car.
Do what you love: You have to find what your dream job is and go for it. Do it young. Don't take any crappy job just because that's all you can find. If you need immediate income, find a job that in some way will develop your skills and experience to pursue your dreams. Find a way to start your own company. Start small. What I have learned is that the rich don't work for anyone else. They work for themselves. Even if you don't start your own business, there are many ways to find a job that feeds your passion. This makes your job and life more enjoyable.