What I’ve Learned Since Graduating College

Twelve Reflections, Two Years Later

19

Two years ago, I walked across the stage of the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas which culminated my graduation from The University of Texas. The four years that made up my collegiate experience were amazing and transformative, the past two years since, have been even better. It’s surreal to think that it’s been over 730 days since I could call myself a college student, and I took to Instagram to share what I’ve learned since then, which I’m now sharing here. Whether you’re still a student, recently graduated, or thriving in adulthood, I hope something here serves as a good reminder for you.

The real ‘glo up’ starts after college

You have so much to look forward to. Unequivocally, everyone I know is truer to themselves since graduating than we ever were in college. Whether they’ve freed themselves from the holds of peer pressure and became better versions of themselves or started looking and feeling healthier because their diet no longer consisted of questionable free food, there’s so much to look forward to. Ultimately, the best ‘glo up’ is internal and it always radiates externally.

Fear will prevent you from doing a lot of the things you should

If you let it. So, don’t. Do the things that scare you. The cliche goes, “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough” – which is true, but sometimes it’s the little things. It’s the small decision you need to make on a Monday or the application you’ve just talked yourself out of submitting. Whether it’s the biggest ambitions or the smallest decisions, fear will always try to find it’s way in keeping you from doing what you should and could.

Personal note: I find myself dealing with fear on a consistent basis. It never goes away. A friend gave me a piece of advice that I’ve used everyday since: “Do it. If fear is the only thing stopping you, never accept that as a good enough reason.”

Friendships will now require more work than you’re used to putting in

Your circles will get smaller, yet more genuine. Friendships can be hard in general, but they’re exponentially harder after college. You’ll move to another city or across the world and find communication becoming infrequent. You’ll soon find that many of your friendships were out of convenience – you lived by each other, you were in the same classes, you were in the same circles. You’ll realize that sometimes there’s nothing to talk about when your lives no longer have anything in common. You’ll learn which friendships were genuine and which are still worth having, and they’ll still require you to put in the work.

Financial literacy is financial freedom

Do your googles, ask for help, don’t live above your means. You’ll start making money, you’ll start having bills, and you’ll start realizing how much you don’t know. Whether you’ve found yourself going from poor college student to high earner or you’re still trying to figure out how to make rent next month – I can’t urge you enough to try to truly understand your financial situation and how money works in our world. Whether it’s figuring out where to cut back, deciding how much to contribute to your savings or 401k, learning how to invest in the stock market, or even understanding cryptocurrency – there’s a wealth of information out there if you humble yourself and find it.

I once met an elderly gentleman in an auto repair shop who told me, “If by the way you live your life, people think you’re making less than you do, then you’re doing it right.” I think this was his way of conveying that there’s always room to be conservative and there’s no use in trying to keep up with the Jones’.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to show a track record of excellence

The only reputation that matters is the quality of your execution (and how you treat people, but we’ll get to that later). Always deliver, and try to exceed expectations whenever you can. This will make all the difference, often times in ways you don’t anticipate.

Mentors are cool, sponsors are even better

Find your sponsors. The easiest way to describe the difference between the two is the following: mentors are people that you’ve built a relationship of trust with, they are people you can look to for advice on your life and career. They’re able to draw from their own experiences to offer you a guiding hand. Meanwhile, sponsors are people with influence or positions of power (perhaps someone higher in your company) that take personal accountability for your success and act as advocates for you. Trust is even more important here, as these are people who are lending you their credibility and that credibility can go a long way. (Note: here’s why showing that track record of excellence is crucial.)

Date the nice guy/girl

Life and work can be stressful, your dating life shouldn’t be. Additionally, don’t feel pressured to date solely because you feel like you should be. Timing matters and never forget that you are yours before you are anyone else’s. 

Getting out of your comfort zone requires intentionality

Great things start to happen when you get uncomfortable. All the greatest blessings over the past two years have occurred after a period of discomfort. Embrace it, seek it, get all the way out of your comfort zone.

Pursue your purpose

You could chase a career, or you could pursue your purpose, or sometimes those two things are the same. You owe it to yourself to discover your purpose, and sometimes that takes your entire life. A good definition of purpose I recently stumbled upon is, “the intersection of your passions and talents plus a financial opportunity and need (of the world)”. This is not an easy feat but an important message I constantly remind myself of is that my journey is mine and mine alone. Your journey is yours and yours alone. Do not deviate from the path that’s meant for you while trying to walk in someone else’s purpose. Find your truth and own it.

Protect your energy

Not everyone or everything is for you. And that’s okay. Be particular about who you let in your life and space, be adamant about who you give power over influencing your energy. For the most part, we all know to avoid the extreme that is toxic energy, but it’s equally as crucial to avoid energy that is simply not positive and not building you up. My happiness is 100% correlated with the fact that I’ve been intentional about keeping my circle small and positive.

Be kind to yourself

Trust your good days and bad days. Nothing is more important than how you feel about you. Be gentle with yourself, remember that you are already made whole. 

Be good to the world

We live in trying times. Find ways to love on others and embrace your social responsibility. This part is simple, yet it becomes much harder when you’re out of college and opportunities to contribute don’t necessarily show up at your doorstep. There are times where you’ll look back over the few months that have past and can’t remember the last time you gave back. Be intentional about this, find even the smallest of ways to be good to the world and to others.

Lastly,

Time goes by really fast. One day you’ll wake up and Facebook will tell you that on this day two years ago, you graduated from college. I hope you learn how to make everyday count, whatever that means to you. Do the things that make you happy, be around people that bring out your best, embrace the things that scare you. Congratulations to all the new college graduates, we believe in you.


 

I’ve written a few posts pretty similar to this over the past few years, such as 14 Notes to That Twenty-Something About to Bloom and Dear College Graduate. Hope you enjoy those!