So you're in your final year of college and getting ready to graduate. Get a job, you slacker! Wait until you see reality if you think reality TV is insane. A career, a home, a family—you're looking at a lot of long-term commitments. During your graduation ceremony, you will hear a lot of motivational speeches about how you should pursue your dreams because the future of our world is dependent on you. I'm not here to fill your head with fairy-tale visions of becoming the next leader of the free world. I'm here to tell you the truth. Here are five things no one tells you about graduating from college that you should know…
1. Grades Aren't Important
You worked hard and received straight A's throughout your education. That will get your foot in a few doors, but in six months, your grades will be meaningless. You're no longer in school. Nobody cares how many practice points you get. When you become a professional, you are only as good as your most recent project. If you mess up a data import that puts the company behind schedule and costs millions of dollars, the 24-hour on-call IT and accounting managers who have to fix your problem aren't interested in your ability to answer true/false questions correctly. Don't be content to sit on your laurels.
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Continue to work harder to avoid falling into this trap. Expecting to be hired for an executive-level position right out of college is unrealistic. You'll almost certainly have to start at the bottom somewhere. Don't let the fact that you'll be working for someone with a lower degree than yours bother you. Continue to put in extra effort. In the real world, people grade you by giving you money. Continue to do your homework and strive for high grades, and you will eventually see a payoff.
2. You're All, “A Loan…”
Dude, you got ripped off. First and foremost, I hope you noticed that the vast majority of your textbooks were not available on Kindle. When Reddit founder Aaron Swartz noticed that educational information was not publicly available and attempted to rectify the situation by downloading and releasing educational databases, he was prosecuted to the fullest extent permitted by outdated digital laws. That's a sign of a massive swindle that refuses to change. To make matters worse, you're stuck with a $100 History of Ancient Rome textbook that you'll never open again because a new edition has been released with new information about something that happened 3000 years ago that is relevant enough to warrant a new edition. If that wasn't bad enough, you borrowed money to pay for all of this nonsense.
Stafford and Sallie Mae are diseases that were transferred to your social security number when you were nailed by your school. The debt incurred as a result of financial assistance never goes away, and it is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. If you do not treat it, your pay will be garnished to cover the costs (which may or may not leave you with enough left over to continue living your lifestyle). The only option is to treat it as a monthly payment.
3. You Ought to Have Dropped Out
I never received a college diploma. It's not that I didn't have enough credits or intelligence; I just didn't want to give some university credit for all of my future accomplishments. I couldn't bear the thought of being haunted for the rest of my life by letters from the alumni association asking for money. Despite the fact that I dropped out, I've had a pretty good run so far. I was working at Bank of America with people who had degrees. I even had some of those people report to me. Since leaving the bank, I've worked to establish a career as a writer, and my work has been successful enough that no one has ever asked if I have a degree.
Aside from anecdotes, there are many people who are successful without a college degree. You may not be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, but you still have a lot more options if you don't graduate than if you do. Even if you don't give up completely, give up for at least a year. It will only cost you a year up front, but the experience and wisdom you will gain from traveling, pursuing a dream career in the arts, and simply living life will more than make up for it. When you're ready, come back and get that albatross of a degree to wear around your neck. There is no harm, no foul.
4. Employment is not a given
Once you graduate, you will be placed in a position that you enjoy that is related to your degree, and everything will fall into place. If you believe that last sentence was true in any way, you are mistaken… However, you are not alone. Many of us thought life worked that way at some point – I know people in their 50s and 60s who still believe they are entitled. It's not your fault; people all over the education system were drinking the Kool-Aid, and we trusted them because they were educators. It turns out that you can never trust anyone in life.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, over 1.7 million people will graduate with a bachelor's degree in 2013. You may have heard the phrase “one in a million” used to describe you in a positive light, but when you're one of 1.7 million people vying for the same jobs, the odds are stacked against you. You may be forced to accept a job you dislike or believe is beneath you. Make sure you only do this if it is directly related to your dream job. There's no shame in working in a call center or doing manual labor, but those “transition jobs” you take while waiting for your dream job can quickly drain your time. You'll be a career McManager before you know it. Be prepared and willing to think outside the box. With this Lifehack, you can learn more about how to effectively search for jobs.
5. Don't Forget What You've Learned
Someone will tell you to “forget everything you hear” when you start your new job. They're trying to tell you that your classroom knowledge won't help you in the real world. To some extent, this is correct, but it is a bit misleading.
True, you will learn a lot of proprietary information on the job that you could never have learned in school. There are also classes (Computer, Accounting, etc.) that you may have taken once, twice, or even every year but will never use. Just because you took an accounting class doesn't mean that any company in their right mind would let you touch their accounting data if you aren't a certified accountant. What you learned in school is important, and you should be aware of any discrepancies.
If you worked at Enron, Worldcom, Countrywide, or another company during their demise, there's a good chance you had no idea you were doing anything illegal. Even if you were aware, you almost certainly did nothing to stop it. This is due to the fact that you forgot what you learned in school. Ethics are important, and you won't always learn them in the real world. All of the fundamental foundational skills and facts you learned in school are critical; never forget that… no matter what anyone tells you.
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