It’s the end of June, the unofficial end of spring graduation season, and I’m not gonna lie. It made me super nostalgic, and I started to think about my own graduations and the amazing feeling I had walking across the stage each time.
I graduated from Florida A&M University with my undergrad and master’s degree in business. I was all about supply chain and how things were sourced, made, and moved until I fell in love with journalism and realized I was ready to do something totally different. And of course, I wanted to be better trained. So last year, I got another master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. So, I do know a little something about the weird mix of elation and anxiety you feel after hitting such a big milestone.
With all of that change, I do know a little something about the weird mix of elation and anxiety you feel after hitting such a big milestone. Each time, I was hoping I’d get the right advice that would keep me going and keep me closer to the feeling of happiness than of severe worry.
So, here it is! Here are seven things that have proven to be true for me, time after time:
1. Wherever you end up after graduation, give it all you’ve got, and take from it all you can.
Your first job after graduation might not be where you’ll be forever — maybe not even for that long — but it’s still an opportunity to use your skills and make great references. So, you give it all that you can give: work extra hard, volunteer for extra projects, prove your consistency, and be of value to that place. Take advantage of the opportunity by getting all that you can get from it, and when it’s time to leave, you’ll be glad it’s on your resume.
2. Have something of your own.
Working is amazing because you can pay your bills. But whether you feel as if you need a side hustle or not, having something of your own helps you control your creativity and/or your ability for extra income down the line.
Maybe your something isn’t money-related and is just a way for you to express yourself. That’s cool. But it might actually manifest itself into money in a different way in the long run: maybe it’ll turn you into an expert in some way, be something you can add to your portfolio, or even just be a cool talking point in future interviews. Regardless, I’m a strong proponent of having something you can call your own.
Before I was a trained journalist, I’d started my own online magazine. The now-defunct publication was my way to write whatever I wanted to write whenever I wanted to write it. I had a staff whose stories I assigned and edited, I was invited to so many events to cover, and I was able to build a name for myself long before any publication trusted me with a byline.
From that, the calls and emails came, and I’ve been officially a writer ever since.
P.S. Check out my latest and greatest website here.
3. Keep your college or graduate school friends close.
I’ve been blessed with amazing friends at every stage of life, but my college friends get parts of me that no one else does. My Medill friends, for example, are the only ones that truly understand the competitive world of journalism or the types of jobs would be my dream ones. We can talk for hours about our goals and really understand them because we understand the industry.
My FAMU friends know certain things about me, too. We’ve been right by each other’s sides as we transitioned from teens into young adults, and now, as we all grow further in our 30s, I’m always glad when I can reconnect with them. It’s something special.
4. You can change your mind at any time.
If you ever find yourself hating what you’re doing, make a plan and figure out how you can change course. You don’t have to be at the same place doing the same thing forever, no matter what you studied. Forget that. Think about what you really wanna do, and then go do it. Period.
It’s never late to change it up. That’s what I told myself when I realized I’d rather write than be in business. By experimenting with different types of writing and dabbling in so many things, I found that I actually have a great love for writing and reporting about business, but I don’t see myself returning to that kind of corporate work in the foreseeable future.
5. Education is not — and cannot — be over for you.
Learning is never-ending. There will always be some type of class that you’ll need to stay ahead of the game and to learn new skills. There are tons of webinars, online classes, master classes, and conferences that can give you the edge you need.
And in some cases, that may not be enough. If you find yourself in a formal classroom again, like I did, bring with you every morsel of knowledge you have. Show up, stand out, and show exactly what you have to offer.
6. Keep growing through what you go through.
The reality of snagging a degree is that you may not always have your next step immediately lined up, but that’s OK. You might make a little less than you wanted to — or nothing at all — resulting in some tight finances. You may have to do something totally different than what you’d initially planned to do so you can get a foot in the door. That’s OK, too. This is all just a setup for the next great thing. Trust that.
7. No matter what’s next, God will see you through it.
It will always, always, always work out.