What New Graduates Need to Know to Survive After College

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Last weekend was graduation weekend around the country. Smart young kids, optimistic, yet often disillusioned, about what to expect in the “real world.” Political undertones ran rampant in commencement speeches and I think, in many cases, the graduates’ best interest was lost to the speakers’ agendas. I was on the radio earlier this week – my regular Monday morning spot on WVMT – and the host, Charlie, and I started talking about these speeches and he asked me, if I had given a commencement address over the weekend, what I would have said.

Well, I can tell you, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with politics and it wouldn’t have had anything to do with hopes and dreams. I do not believe that people deserve participation trophies, but I do think that they should be encouraged to show up and fail! I believe in hard work, in the grind, in the struggle. And not everyone wants to hear that. My companies interview a ton of young adults, some fresh out of school, and while this may be a generalization, this next generation of our workforce is largely entitled, devoid of any knowledge of common business etiquette, and lacking the work ethic needed to survive. Harsh? Maybe. But true? I think so.

As these new graduates embark on the next chapter of their life, here’s what they need to know to survive after college:

  1. Stop worrying about what you are going to GET from life, and start focusing on the experiences. Too many young adults, hell, adults for that matter, are so concerned with what they deserve, with what they should get from the world, that they are missing out on the gift of just living. I’m sorry to break it to you, but your parents, your professors, your boss, the world, doesn’t owe you anything. You are not here on this Earth to get any one thing, because you’re not going to be able to take any of it with you when you leave. I spent some of my first years out of college chasing the next deal, the next lake house, the next Porsche, trying to accumulating things instead of focusing on just experiencing life. A stimulating conversation, training for a Spartan race, or coaching a fellow colleague are going to do so much more for your growth as a human than any designer suit ever will. It is the experiences that shape who we are. It’s the experiences – good or bad – that teach us and help us grow. And without growth, we’re just dying. Do not get caught up always searching for the next best thing. There will always be something new and better out there. Instead, look inside at who you are and how you can grow every day by having as many new experiences as possible. Sure, those experiences may involve buying a Porsche, but I urge you to only keep it for 6 months, sell it, and use a faction of the money to fund a trip to Africa with your family. Invest the rest of the money in real estate.
  2. You better work. I see a lot of people early in their career who think they will be a Director level team member or CFO after only 1 or 2 years of work experience, with no notable contribution to their organization. I don’t know if they got too many participation trophies growing up or what, but I want to see you work. Being successful is not easy. Success does not come looking for you. You’ve got to hustle, grind, work smart, AND work hard. There are too many graduates who think a social media internship in their college’s Alumni department warrants them a position as social media manager. Yes, it can certainly help, but what else did you do? Did you build a massive social media following through viral videos on YouTube? Did you create a blog and write weekly content that got picked up by a national news outlet? The competition is real. Talent is a commodity right now and you need to step up and stand out. The work doesn’t stop now that you’ve graduated from college, the work has only just begun. The quicker you can wrap your head around the long game – yes, it could take 7, 10 or 15 years to get that dream job you have your eye on – the more you will be able to stop trying to GET something and start enjoying the journey and the experiences along the way. It all works together here.
  3. Be open to opinions other than your own. People seem to be so one-sided and closed-minded today. They know one way to do things and think it’s the only way instead of stopping to listen to the other side or to a different perspective. Life isn’t so black and white. Most of the time, you’re not going to be right. So start listening! It doesn’t mean that you are going to change your values or views, but by being open to new ideas and new ways of thinking about issues, you are going to gain more knowledge and be able to move forward with a deeper understanding and clarity on an issue. This way of thinking and processing information will help you in all areas of your life. Everyone is entitled to their own values and beliefs. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but go into those conversations as just another experience – listen, ask questions, and offer your perspective. But remember, your life doesn’t depend on whether you “win” that discussion. You never will anyway. Everyone has an opinion. Share yours. Listen to others. And maybe, just maybe, you will learn something new or start looking at things differently. That’s growth.

It’s really quite simple. These new graduates have the world in their hands and they can either dive head first into this new world to experience everything it has to offer, work harder than they ever have before, and be open to learning along the way or they can sit back and wait for life to happen to them. It’s just another choice. But I vote for option 1.


While the real work is just beginning, all the graduates should be proud of what they have accomplished so far. Take a minute (or two) to celebrate and congratulations to you all! We are always looking for hungry individuals to join our various teams. Think you’ve got what it takes? Visit www.adamhergenrother.com/careers/ or email careers@adamhergenrother.com.

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Identity: Who You Really Are or What You are Hiding Behind?

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Father. Husband. Leader. Brother. Entrepreneur. Business Owner. Triathlete. CEO. Son.

Identity is a funny thing. When I’m introducing myself at a conference, I’m Adam Hergenrother – CEO & Entrepreneur. When I’m meeting people at a family gathering with my in-laws, I’m Adam – Sarah’s husband. Your identity – how you (and others) label and categorize yourself within your world – is a powerful thing. But it can either be empowering or crippling depending on how much external validation you attach to it. Did I change between the conference and the family party? Nope. But how I labeled myself for the benefit of society did.

How deeply rooted is your identity and sense of self? Can you have more than one identity? What happens when your identity is threatened? Is identity an internal or an external manifestation? Do we even need an identity? What happens when your identity (your ID card) has expired?

Do not confuse your identity with who you are at the core. Identity is an external manifestation of how you, and others, see you and how you believe you fit into society. You can be a chameleon – shifting your identity based on the audience or who you need to present yourself as. Or, your mother, former partner, or college professor may have “assigned” you an identity that you have grown into – good or bad. Over the course of your life-time you may fiercely protect an identity that you believe shows who you really are internally. You may lose yourself and find a new identity. You may be afraid to give up the identity that the world sees you as because your ego is getting in the way or because it has served to protect you from other parts of yourself you don’t want the world to see.

The key is to dig really deep and think about how you identify yourself and how the world identifies you. And then it is entirely up to you whether or not you want to accept that. You have the power to be whoever you want to be. You are probably already living true to yourself on the inside. Are you sharing that with the world or is your fear holding you back? There can be a ton of internal conflict around identity. Identity crises are real!

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Let me give you an example: Ava is a successful lawyer who kicks ass and takes names daily. She works 80+ hours a week, getting up at 5am to email clients and works well into the night on depositions or case reviews. She has received several Rising Star awards, has started a blog to document her trials and triumphs as a young attorney in a small coastal town, and she takes a minimum of 1 pro bono case per month. She is Ava the Attorney morning, noon, and night. From the outside, she has it all – successful career, recognition in her industry, a promotion on the horizon, a supportive partner at home, and new puppy. But what we don’t see is that Ava works every weekend, eats take-out at her desk, falls into bed at midnight and mindlessly watches old episodes of Friends, she hasn’t had a real date with her husband in months, she doesn’t exercise, and often cancels plans with friends because she can’t fathom one more commitment on her calendar. Before becoming Ava the Attorney, Ava was multi-dimensional, loved spending time outside, could get lost in a good book for hours, and had a Etsy shop where she sold her artwork. But she has lost herself along the way to becoming Ava the Attorney. That is her only identity, which she wears proudly, but also often feels like a fraud. She has more to offer the world, and while that identity has served her well over the past 10 years, she wants more and knows she is more than just an Attorney. Full on identity crisis. Does Ava have to give up her success as an Attorney to also be a successful wife, artist, friend?

On the inside, Ava is all of those things, but she has only allowed one part of herself to shine through – Ava the Attorney. The world sees her in one way, and one way only, and Ava is constantly trying to live up to that expectation, while sacrificing other parts of who she is. But let me tell you something. You, or Ava, are not doing yourself or the world a favor by stiffing those others parts of who you really are! It will not be easy, but it will change your world if you are able to align your external identity with what’s going on inside. Ava may continue to hide behind her Attorney identity for many years until it becomes so suffocating that she breaks and is forced to make a change. But it doesn’t have to get to that point! You can crawl your way out of the deep hole of identity that you have placed yourself in or that someone else has forced upon you.

The strongest desire in humans is the desire to stay consistent with who we think we are (i.e. the identity we have created). Every choice we make, every action we take, is based on the desire to stay comfortable, to stay consistent, with who we believe we are. From the clothes we wear, to the partners we attract, to the jobs we take, to the sports we play, to the people we hang out with… all of those choices are based on an effort to stay consistent with who we think we are. But who are you really? A mother? A father? A teacher? A preacher? No. Those are just labels. In the example above, Ava’s ID (identity) card has expired. It is time for a reinvention or at the very least time to make room for some other identities to come out and play! But, do we even need an identity? I would argue no. Identity works for the short term and can certainly serve a purpose, but it should not hold you hostage! Humans are complex creatures.We are really just the person behind that label, witnessing the world.  You can either hide behind an identity that you or someone else has created or you can work to find out who you really are on the inside and say to hell with the labels! Most people are still trying to get something from life instead of realizing that life is just something we experience. When we realize that experiencing life is enough, then we don’t need the labels. You’ve already won by actually living.

Let’s keep the conversation going. What is your identity? Is that an identity that someone else has given you or one that you have assigned to yourself? Is that who you really are? Does it tell your whole story or is something missing? Post in the comments below!

Lessons from the Desert – St. George Ironman 70.3

Well, I did it. Raced the Ironman 70.3 in St.George, Utah – one of the most challenging courses in the world. 90 degrees, 30 mph winds, and nothing flat in sight. Finished in 5 hours and 16 minutes and placed at #280 out of 2,700 participants (50 pros). It was incredibly hard and one of coolest things I’ve done. So fun, in fact, that I just signed up for another 70.3 in Arizona this Fall. Some may call that crazy. I call it committed.

So, I’ll keep this one short and sweet, because I have to hop on my bike in a few minutes – the Lake Placid Ironman is less than 3 months away!

Here are a couple of things I learned while completing the Ironman last week:

  1. You must focus on execution and breaking every task down into small, manageable actions. For example, heart rate zones, eating every 30 minutes, drinking two bottles of Gatorade every two hours, etc. By breaking the race down into smaller (measurable) actions it enables you to push through the really bad patches during a race, in business, and in life. One foot in front of the other. Count your breathes. Push through.
  2. It’s easy to run a marathon or lead a company when things are going well, isn’t it? But what about when things are going really bad? Two employees quit, your kids are acting out in school, you got kicked in the face during the swim portion of the race… what do you do? Give up or rev up? Practicing emotional fitness daily (journaling, meditating, reading, exercising, yoga, affirmations, counting your breaths, etc.) will allow you to push through and survive. Before you know it you’re out of the bad patch and on to the good. Just know that a bad patch will come again and if you are emotionally fit, you will be able to weather the emotional, physical, or mental pain.
  3. Those bad patches we were just talking about? They will end. Everything ends. No matter how much pain you are in – at some point it will be over. Maybe not as quickly as you would like, but it will end. Just be confident enough in your ability to weather the storm. Be emotionally fit enough to take whatever comes your way and know you can make it through.
  4. Keep your emotions in check – stay in control. This is especially true for the week leading up to the race or a big business event. Don’t let yourself get all hyped up and all in your head before the big day. Stay controlled as much as possible leading up to the race or speaking engagement and then unleash hell! When the gun goes off or you are handed the mic, let that built up energy out and execute. Using that energy prematurely on worrying, over-thinking, stressing out, or pushing yourself too hard, may make you tank during the event.
  5. Follow a model. Let me say that again. Follow a model. Whether in business or while training you need to follow a plan, but be open to making adjustments and tweaks along the way to optimize performance. You are rewarded on race day for what you do for the days/weeks/months/years leading up to the race. There is no cheating here! Follow a model.
  6. Celebrate! You just crushed it. Have a glass of wine with friends, have a cheat meal, take a day off, do whatever it is you want to do to celebrate. And then get back at it. Better yet, go schedule your next race or competition. When you hit a big goal or milestone you should celebrate! But don’t lose site of your long term goals and make sure you have a plan for your next big opportunity. Growth is what drives us and is why you signed up for that race or got into business in the first place, right?

How do you stay emotionally fit? How do you celebrate? What big goal or milestone do you have coming up in the next six months? Share in the comments below!

 

5 Things You Need to Decide Before You Become an Entrepreneur

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I studied business and finance in college and like any optimistic kid from small-town America, I had my sights set on Wall Street. Bright lights. Big city… where dreams are made of, the lights will inspire you… New York. Corporate America, working for “the man,” those were things that got me excited. While I didn’t end up in NYC, I did land a job working at a large national company as a financial controller. I had it all – a great salary, expense account, and an assistant. But it wasn’t enough. I was bored. I felt trapped. Working for the man wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I didn’t want the corporate credit card handed to me. I wanted to earn it. I didn’t want to follow someone else’s established way of thinking. I wanted to make my own rules. I had been put into a tiny box and I had a decision to make – climb the corporate ladder and hope to earn an equity stake 30 years down the road, or get out. I had a burning desire to do more, be more, create more, grow more. So, I quit.

And just like that I was an Entrepreneur (or unemployed, depending on how you want to look at it).

I hadn’t been working any side hustle. I didn’t have a nest egg. I took a leap of faith and never looked back.

Being an Entrepreneur is a sexy thing to do these days. Shark Tank has popularized the art of the pitch, everyone and their mother (literally) has a GoFundMe page for their latest project, and if one more of my friends asks me to buy a nutrition supplement I’m going to… Okay, don’t get me wrong, I respect the hell out of what these people are trying to do. They’ve got goals and they are going after them. But how long do these people last? A couple weeks? Maybe a year while the product goes to market and if it doesn’t sell, they’re done? Are they building a business or working on a passion project? Yes, it is possible and preferable for the business to be building to also be your passion, but it’s not always the case. And while this may not be a popular opinion, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur or to build a business. They’re just not. And that’s okay! Be true to who you are and stop chasing what’s cool right now. Because ten years from now, maybe the sexy thing to do will be to study and work in a technical field and you’ll be kicking yourself for not following your dream of becoming a dental hygienist.

Being an Entrepreneur isn’t all perfectly curated Instagram photos and working from your home office overlooking the beach. Sure, that can be a part of it if you want, but if that’s why you’re doing this whole entrepreneurship thing then it’s probably not really for you. I would suggest you go work as a social media strategist for an entrepreneur!

You will not always love your business, at times you will hate it. Your business isn’t something you can dabble in on the weekends or pick up work on when you’re feeling inspired. When you are building your business it is hard, it is all consuming, it is long days and even longer nights, it is pain, it is struggle, it is sacrifice, and if you do it right, it will be the greatest thing you’ve ever done.

Still want to be an entrepreneur? Here are five things you should think about before you take the leap.

  1. What are you willing to sacrifice?  Are you willing to give up nights out with your friends? Are you willing to give up Sunday brunch with your girlfriend? Are you willing to give up a paycheck for weeks, months, even years? Are you willing to sacrifice sleep? Are you willing to give up relationships? There will be people in your life who don’t understand what or why you are building this thing – and they will try to tear you down.
  2. How long are you willing to fail?  We always talk about failing forward. But here’s the catch – you actually have to FAIL! And be okay with it because the faster you fail, the faster you learn and grow! If failure’s not for you, then you may want to rethink being an entrepreneur.
  3. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?  Ego may get you started. The $$$$ may get you motivated. But neither one will get you through the dark nights when you are questioning every decision you’ve made and whether or not you should keep going or shut down the whole operation. Your purpose (yes, your passion) has got to be bigger than you, your ego, and your bank account. Dig deep and really determine why you want to build a business.
  4. Will your family be involved in the business?  Many entrepreneurs and small business owners keep it in the family. It can be amazing (and cheap) or it can go horribly wrong. Do whatever works for you, but figure out who will be involved in the business and why. Is it because you’re doing Cousin John a favor or is it because Cousin John is a kick-ass sales professional? Choose wisely and set boundaries. If you are thinking about working with your spouse, set very clear boundaries between work and home and more importantly between what roles you are each taking on in the business. There can be too many cooks in the kitchen (at home and at the office).
  5. Do you want to be self-employed or do you want to build a business?  What’s the difference between being self-employed and building a business? Let me give you an example: You’re self-employed when you own a coffee shop, manage the coffee, shop, open the coffee shop, do marketing for the coffee shop, make the coffee, etc. Essentially you control your schedule, it’s your baby, but you have a job. Being a business owner means you own the coffee shop, lead the vision for the coffee shop, hire someone to manage the coffee shop and open additional coffee shops in the region, and make the coffee, only if you really want to. Basically, you don’t have a “job”, you are removed from the day to day operations, and you only insert yourself in the business when and where you want to. Both can be extremely fulfilling, you just need to decide what’s right for you and for your vision of why you wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place.

Are you an entrepreneur or have dreams of being one? Where are you at in your business journey? How many times have you failed and kept going? I would love to hear from you. Share your entrepreneurship story in the comments!