It can be difficult to sift through the words of well-intentioned family, friends and could-be mentors, but what should you take seriously and what should you put to the side?
As a career coach, workplace consultant and career services university professor (and, once upon a time, a recent grad myself), here are the five pieces of advice I encourage my clients and students to reject.
1. "This choice will impact your entire future."
I won’t say this isn’t true, but if you step back, every choice you make in life affects your entire future. The college you chose to go to, the college you chose not to go to, taking a semester off, graduating in three years or graduating in five years. Big choices, along with the seemingly small ones, have an impact. The key is to not obsess over these choices so that you can live your best life.
2. "Your first company or role doesn’t really matter."
You don’t want to obsess over this, but your first company does matter quite a bit, it's just in ways you may not think about initially.
I liken a first full-time job to a first meaningful romantic relationship. You learn a tremendous amount in your first full-time job about how work, well, works. How business flows, how things get done, what eight hours a day at a desk feels like, etc. Just like your first important romantic relationship teaches you what a relationship looks and feels like, you are taught what work looks and feels like from your first company.
3. "Your job has to be in your desired field."
Some recent grads don’t know what their “desired field” is. Others do, but that can change in just a year or two! My suggestion to my students and clients is to instead strive for a job that will teach and/or expose them to experiences they want to have.
4. "You can’t be too picky!"
Some people may disagree with me, but while recent grads certainly won’t be getting management roles any time soon, they should be a bit choosy. If that means saying no to a role you know is not a good fit, not what you want or just doesn’t feel right, then say no. Instead, look for a role that fits your interests and ideal career path.
5. "You MUST negotiate."
A lot of commentary exists about negotiation and while it’s certainly doing a lot of good, it’s doing some harm as well, particularly with younger, less experienced professionals. As a career coach, manager, and career services professor, I have seen recent graduates interpret the endless commentary on negotiation as, "you must ask for more and you must get more." This is flawed. So what should you do when it comes to negotiation?
You seriously assess your experience, education, industry, company and any other benefits desired or offered. From there, if you believe you can command more because, say, you have a master’s degree, then go for it! If approached in the right manner, there’s often no harm in exploring a negotiation with your recruiter. But, if you get a fair offer, then there’s no harm in accepting it either. Don't negotiate for the sake of negotiation.
I tell my clients (as well as family, friends, strangers, and myself): “life is hopefully long!”
So don’t rush it.
Bask in the newness of post-graduation life. Bask in the uncertainty and confusion. Bask in the changing parts of your work. Enjoy this — no part of your life or career will ever be like it again!
Jane Scudder is a certified coach, facilitator, and workplace & leadership consultant based in Chicago, IL. She helps individuals and group navigate their careers, teams, and personal lives. Find out more at janescudder.com.