What New Graduates Need to Know to Survive After College

graduates 1

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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