Five Things About Business & Life That Shock Most People When They Graduate

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Graduating from college or university is a great accomplishment.

There are a few things graduates should know about life and business before they get out into the real world.

After five (or more) years of higher learning graduates tend to think they’re finally ready to start their life. And you should be! But the questions you have to ask is:

Are you prepared for what’s waiting for you on the other side?

The truth is, many grads are unprepared for the real world. While a post-secondary education is useful and certainly teaches students the core skills they need to succeed, there are many lessons left untaught. Preparing for the real world can seem overwhelming and even frightening.

The cost of independence is high, the world is dog-eat-dog and you’ll soon realize that you aren’t the smartest kid in class anymore.

Reid Hoffman says it took him 15 years after graduating from Stanford to figure out what he was really doing with his life. Hoffman is now the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, a $19 billion public company.

Fifteen years is a long hard road.

Think of yourself as a start-up. Once you hang up your diploma, how will you get yourself off the ground? How will you invest in your career?

Most recent graduates don’t have a clue.

There are many secrets to life and business that professionals eventually learn. None of them are in the textbooks you studied or the classrooms you spent the last decade in. These lessons can only be learned through experience. As shocking as they are, everyone will eventually experience them.

I’m here to let some of these secret out, to give you the insights that so many before you learned the hard way and to prepare you for what you are about to face.

I know there are hundreds of lessons in life and business that my colleagues and other professionals could share, many of which I have yet to learn myself. But these five things I feel compelled to spill. I hope that these shocking statements will help better prepare you for the next five to ten years as you start the journey that is your life.

Ready or not… Let’s dive in:

1. You Don’t Know It All

This is the first lesson you’ll learn and probably the most shocking to your ego.

I had to learn it. You’ll have to learn it.

Embrace it. This is the world of knowledge:

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New grads tend to leave campus on a high horse, full of confidence and ignorance. I’m warning you about this now so that you’ll do the right thing – see it as an opportunity to learn from others in the business. A great way to navigate this awkward stage is to find a mentor and soak up everything they have offer.

Assess who around you is taking interest in you and your career and foster that relationship. In the end, you’ll be better prepared, potentially more experienced and skilled than you peers, and you’ll have started building a critical professional network (see number 5).

2. A Successful Career Is Not a Single Choice, It’s A Series of Choices

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Unfortunately not many people enter the workforce into their dream job and stay there until retirement. In a 2014 survey of 4,000 Canadians conducted by Workopolis, only 6 per cent of people reported holding just one job in their career, while 16 per cent said that they had already held ‘more than ten.’

The chance of you being completely fulfilled in the first job you land is slim. Be open to the vast opportunities that surround you and always been looking for new opportunities to learn and grow. The more you avoid “getting comfortable” the more success you’ll find.

3. The Real Work Hasn’t Even Started Yet

There is no guarantee that your degree, diploma or certificate will lead directly to a job.

There is no guarantee that your first job will pay enough to cover all your bills. What I can guarantee is that you’ll have work very hard to get what you want in life. The real world requires you to hustle.

You might even find yourself experiencing rejection starting out. Embrace it and use it to fuel your drive to work even harder.

The only thing that stands between you and a successful career is a lot of unsuccessful years of hard work, sweat and some failure. The more prepared you are for this journey, the more likely you are to land on your feet, learn from your experience and make improvements going forward.

4. The Competition is Fierce

You need to develop a competitive advantage and quickly.

What do you have going for you right now? What differentiates you from the guy graduating next to you? What do you want for yourself in the future? What can you actually sell?

The answers to these questions is your competitive advantage.

Have confidence in these answers as you’ll be surprised how valuable they are to those who need them. Not sure what your skills are? That’s okay too!

This is the perfect time to invest in the person you see when you look in the mirror.

Take a course on a site like Lynda or Coursera.

Ask questions on a site like Quora or Clarity.

Invest in a guide on social media or excel.

Do something today that you’ll thank yourself for later.

The harsh reality is that being average won’t get you very far. The quicker you understand what differentiates you from the rest, the more quickly you’ll get what you want in this world.

5. Your Network Is Your Lifeline

Billionaire and the most successful investor of the 20th century, Warren Buffet once said, “It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

Networking is important. It is how many people find their first job and, sometimes, every job after that.

The most successful people understand that business runs on relationships. If you’re not connected to someone, how are they going to trust you? If you’re not on the radar of someone, how are they going to know how brilliant you are? How are they going to know that they need to work with you?

It’s easy building a network of friends and colleagues when you’re in university. You have roommates, classmates, teammates, academic staff and professors to provide you with counsel and guidance. In the real world, you have to proactively build your professional network.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s up to you to make the most of this next chapter in your life. Are you going to enter the next stage with fear and trepidation? Or with passion and bravery?

To all the new grads reading this, I’d love to hear from you about what you’re most nervous about and how you plan to tackle your own journey. If you’ve already begun your journey, what advice do you have for new grads who are just beginning?

Leave a comment, We’d love to read your thoughts!

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3 Comments

Zach Woodward

While I have no sympathy for students who don’t make efforts to stand out, there is something to be said for how awful our educators are at most Universities.

That being said, post secondary institutions should strive to employ professors who have actually worked a real world job or two in their lifetime and maybe even require a minimum level of work experience before allowing them to “teach” business. Think about it. Would you trust a pilot that has never been to Flight School but spent 8-10 years reading about how to fly a plane? Not a chance! The intuition should be no different for business professors.

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Ross Simmonds

100% agree Zach.

Too many professors and educators don’t have real world experience. It’s a shame. Your analogy between the pilots and profs is one I’ll be using in the future when talking about the current struggle between schooling and the real world. It’s a sad situation and one that in its current state, will only be fixed by private sector.

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