It’s graduation season, so I thought I would revisit a list I did in 2015, offering my advice to graduates, both high school and college. I offer six items of practical guidance—three for high school graduates who will venture on to college and three for college graduates who will venture on to the beginnings of adulthood.
One item I give needs to be emphasized even more so, as it appears many graduates are having a hard time finding work after college. If you are a high school graduate or have influence on a high school graduate, be sure to check out item 2.
Working in a professional office while in college has many benefits, but how it especially helps after college is the networking opportunities. The old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” definitely helps when finding work. The proper way of increasing the list of “who you know” is through networking, which can happen by working in a professional office and allowing people who have hiring influence to be familiar with you in the workplace. I’ll explain more below.
And I still hold strong with all of my points of advice to graduates. Here’s the list!
High School Graduates
- Take writing courses
High school graduate, if you want to excel in your aspired profession of choice then master good writing skills. They will benefit you no matter your declared major or whatever you want to do in life.
Two things you will do a lot while in college are reading and writing. Reading you learn by doing it and making time to do it, but writing is not as simple. You can set yourself apart from other college students by refining your writing skills, and believe me, your professors will know when they read your assigned papers. If it’s not already required in your chosen major, pick a writing class as an elective. If you are undecided on your major, take a writing class.
Practically every career choice involves writing, so take a course that will help you improve and understand the proper mechanics of writing.
- Work in a professional office while in college
I believe what benefitted me the most in my college experience was working in the sports information office at Liberty University. As a freshman, one of my first assignments was cutting out newspaper articles relating to LU athletics. It was menial, but it got me started on my path that led to working in the field of athletic media relations, which I enjoyed for 13 years of my professional life.
Please don’t misunderstand, my college courses were of great value, but equally beneficial were the “hands-on” experience and the networking opportunities I received while being a student assistant.
Find a job in an office on campus, whether it’s the business office, as a professor’s aide or in the library. Or look into an internship or an entry-level position with a professional business off campus. You may not make a lot of money or make no money at all, but the opportunity will become much greater value after college.
- Plug into a local church
If you are going to college away from home, find a church close to school. And personally, I think you’re better off if you pick one that doesn’t have all the glitz. Many megachurches try to do too much to draw college students. Find one that isn’t the “IT” church. Invest yourself into a body of believers that has solid biblical teaching. Maybe they don’t have a college class. Then choose one with older adults and learn from their godly influence.
I know this isn’t the popular choice, but I believe, more than ever, young adults need to find Christian mentors who will help them discern what is right and good in the eyes of God. There’s no better place to find such disciplers than in a church that is holding firm to the teachings of the Bible.
- Consider going to graduate school
This first piece of advice does not have to be for all college graduates, but let me speak to those who have let grad school cross their minds. In many cases, when you are applying for a job, having a graduate degree separates you from the other applicants. Also, in some cases, it will qualify you for a higher pay grade and a greater possibility for advancement.
To be clear, I’m not saying you need to pursue a doctorate. That’s for those who have fully committed themselves in a certain field, usually in the academic world, and are established in their chosen profession. If you’re at that level, you’d be wasting your time taking advice from me.
Going to grad school to pursue a master’s degree does not take as long as an undergrad degree. Usually it takes two years to accomplish. Also, your professors will consider you more favorable because you are pursuing a field that is their specialty. It won’t be a bed of roses, but you will find the experience more tolerable than your undergrad experience.
- Make wise financial decisions
This is the kind of advice that you learn from other people’s mistakes, including mine. I confess, I made poor money decisions right out of college, and in some ways, I’m still reaping my foolishness in my 40s. (Update: I’m now in my 50s and have handled most of my debt concerns, but going into debt is not a fun burden to bear).
If you are having to pay off student loans, pay them off as quickly as possible. Don’t fall for credit card traps, and you’ll get ALL kinds of offers. Throw them away when they come in your mail.
Learn to live below your means. Don’t get a crazy car loan. Buy a junker and save up.
Learn Dave Ramsey’s money principles. You may not agree with everything he teaches or how he may come across, but he will not steer you wrong if you adhere to his advice. In fact, here’s something I learned that he said recently, “You’re never going to win with money in the long term if you can’t learn to delay pleasure.”
- Plug into a local church
Whether you are in college or out, at every stage of life, being involved in the local church is critical. As I said, find one that is biblically-based. Maybe you’re single, and you find it difficult to “fit in” at a church. I understand how hard this process can be. Pray for God’s guidance, and He will lead you to the right church family.
Don’t just go sit in a worship service for an hour and then leave. There are a multitude of ministry opportunities at church where you can serve. God has equipped you to do just that, and when you find that ministry where you can serve, you’ll be amazed how much of a blessing it can be.
Congratulations graduates! Enjoy that first day of the rest of your life!