10 Real World Tips for the Class of 2014

The class of 2014 is about to graduate. These students will leave campus with an abundance of skills and new perspectives from the many experiences they had in and outside the classroom. However, there are always a few things that don’t necessarily “fit” into a workshop or make it into a classroom discussion. These concepts and tips are the things many of our students end up learning the hard way.

While I am all for the “live and learn” school of thought, I believe our students need a heads up on what lies ahead in TODAY’S “real world” as it relates to life and their career. So, I am sharing my 10 tips, and I hope they give the class of 2014 some new things to think about as they proceed on their journey of life “post-graduation.”

1. Don’t settle until you’re happy. Especially in your careers, relationships, or a project your working on.

2. Become a linchpin within your organization. What happens when a linchpin is removed from a grenade? An explosion. On paper, anyone can do the work written in the job description. But if you want to be irreplaceable, you must understand you need to bring a unique personality, intangible skills, and something new to your organization.

3. Always be launching. This tip is from the term rapid prototyping a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a physical part. It’s easy to get so wrapped up into perfection, procrastination, or fear of what others will think. If it will take you to the next step, launch it. You can always tweak it later.

4. Skip the new car and the fancy clothes.  At the very least, most of you will have student loans to payback. Bills can add up quickly, but if you are looking to make a pivot in your career or take that job you love with little pay, now is the time to be frugal and not get wrapped up our “consumer-centric” society.

5. There is no gatekeeper. It’s 2014 and every bit of information is at our fingertips and on our smartphones. There is no longer an excuse that you can’t find someone’s email, unable to connect via twitter, or find out who to address a cover letter to.

6. Find a way to standout. Using tip #5, you must spend more time standing out than trying to fit in. Want to land that dream job? Then spend a week focusing on 2-3 companies you want to work for rather than 20 and figure out who you can network with, who to talk to, and creative ways to get your name to the top. A great book to pass along to your students is Bold: Get Noticed, Get Hired.

7. Meet new people in your network. Find someone in your area of work or something you are passionate about and contact them. Set up a time to grab coffee, a drink, lunch or dinner and see how you can each add value to each other’s endeavors. Repeat this tip at least once per month.

8. Create a boutique career. Last year I heard the term “boutique career” when I interviewed Alena Gerst and she said that it should be common for Generation Y to have jobs, projects, and careers outside of their “day” job. Enter the term boutique careers. With the resources we have available and low cost of entry, it’s easier now, more than ever, to start an Etsy shop, freelance, or become a part-time entrepreneur. At the end of the day, this helps your students build their personal brand, work on something they believe in, and open up new doors. Side note: More organizations need to support this new concept.

9.  It’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out. We’ve all heard this saying before, but it needs to be said over and over again, especially to recent graduates. Unfortunately, many of our talented students are going to have a long road ahead of them to find a job, let alone find a job they love. Society and academia put so much pressure on college graduates to have it all figured out come May 15th of their graduating year. The reality is, it is going to take time, life experiences and relationships that pivot our students in several different directions. Just let them know, before they recieve their diploma, that everything will be “ok” as long as they stay motivated and work hard.

10. Write your own rulebook. If your students don’t have it all figured out or if they have something they are really passionate about, tell them to go after it full-speed ahead. Generation Y receives a lot of pushback  and criticism from older generations, but look at some of the amazing start-ups, non-profits and young leaders we have all under the age of 30. It’s their time pave their own path and write their own book.

Those are my tips for the class of 2014. What would you add? Which ones resonated with you the most?

4 Comments

  1. Reply

    Duane Huff

    April 18, 2014

    Great post, Kevin. I resonated with tip #1 the most. It’s so easy to get stuck, especially in a career that others believe to be ideal for you. When we have a vision for something more meaningful to us, we should not settle for anything less. This has never been more true since, as you stated in tip #5, “there is no gatekeeper.” We truly can #10! Thanks again for such an insightful and relevant post.

    • Reply

      Kevin OConnell

      April 18, 2014

      Duane,
      #1, #5, and #10 is what I tell every 18-22 year old. It’s 2014, there is no longer an excuse that “you can’t knock down doors” or “hustle.” What would you add if we add #11?
      Thanks for reaching out.

  2. Reply

    Duane Huff

    April 18, 2014

    Thanks for asking, Kevin! I’d say #11 would have to be:

    Never find something to fall back on! Instead, find something to “fund the path to your dreams.”

    That’s what I’ve been telling students since 2006. Keep up the great work.

  3. Reply

    Duane Huff

    April 18, 2014

    #11 Never find something to fall back on. Instead, find something that will “fund the path in your dreams.” Thanks for allowing me to weigh in. Keep up the great work you are doing!


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