With many college graduations right around the corner, I started thinking about what I expected when I was leaving my educational institution and stepping into what my friends and I called “Big Kid World.” It was one of the hardest things for me to actually figure out what it was I wanted, how I wanted my life to look like, and who I wanted in it. I think it’s a common trait among 20 something year olds to not know what it is they truly want. I believe for the most part, we all want success, but what that means for each individual in the world is very different.
When I was growing up, I heard the same message from parents, teachers, coaches and family: Go to college, get a degree, and then you’ll be able to get a "Career." That degree, which in the grand scheme of things is just a piece of paper, was to give me the power of making good money to support myself and enjoy my life. It entitled me to a prosperous, great life. That degree gave me opportunities to be something. Well when I finished that degree, they told me “The job market is not the best; better get a graduate degree to make yourself stand out." Really? Did I not just spend the last 4 years getting an education that was my ticket to the opportunity I wanted? Guess not. So again I listened to the words of my mentors and stayed in school for another year to obtain another degree.
By the way the year is 2006. Not so long ago and they told me, “Don’t worry, things will get better.” I know there are many people out there waiting for things to “Get Better," but I was lucky enough to find some amazing people who taught me the one thing that is very sugar coated to many college students, the thing they didn’t want to tell you is that there still is, “Work Required."
Very often I find myself in conversations with people about what they want their future to look like, what things they want to have, where they want to be, but what I never hear is how they plan on getting there. I believe the biggest reason they don’t have a plan is because no one really gave them this hard truth: “Good things don’t happen to those who wait. Good things happen to those that work that asses off and never give up." No one tells them how to get what they aspire in life, they just tell them what to aspire to become.
Now I’m not putting down the entire institution of higher education by any means. I believe I was given excellent mentorship and realistic expectations of what the “real world” was all about from my college professors, advisors, and coaches. There are too many educators out there not doing the same justice for their students. So I want to take the time to give the upcoming graduates a bit of truth that was given to me as I started my voyage into the working world.
Truth: Your degree does not entitle you to anything; you now have to prove yourself to the “Big Boys”. Work hard, be open-minded, and look for opportunities for further learning in working environments. The biggest thing against the new college grad, just like it was for me, is lack of experience. My dad always taught me “If you’re willing to work hard then the sky is the limit; Doors of opportunity will always open, all you have to do is be willing to walk through."
Success is an option for anyone. Put in the time, effort, and energy into what it is that will get you what you want, but under no circumstances expect a handout. The faster you realize this, the easier the work is and the more attainable your goals become.