It’s been a little over two years since I graduated from college. In that time I have learned a lot about finding your footing in a career, the importance of building side hustles, and that skills like reading, writing, and learning are more important now than ever before.
But do you want to know what I would tell every recent college graduate?
Don’t focus on the end.
You can’t fixate on one singular definition of success.
My ambitions from day one as a graduate have changed drastically (more than you think) and my career is heading in a direction that I never would have imagined.
The beauty of your success lies in the knowledge that it is a moving target. A lot of what happens in the years after college is unpredictable and unexplainable.
Instead of relentlessly chasing an uncertain future, embrace the moment and set achievable short-term goals that will set you up for lasting success.
Here’s what you should focus on:
College teaches you to be a specialist. We are forced into one or two disciplines that put us on a one-track mindset for life. Just because your degree is in finance or biology doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at marketing or writing.
Make it an emphasis to learn from people who live life on their terms and emphasize a unique approach to work. Some of the authors that adjusted my worldview include Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferris, Phil Knight, Ishmael Beah, Steve Martin, and Yuval Noah Harari.
Most knowledge that you will obtain comes after college. That’s why it is imperative you diversify your approach to learning. Don’t get me wrong, I obtained a lot of valuable information in my four years as a student. But writing taught me how to build an audience and tell a story. Freelancing taught me how to deal with people and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Changing jobs taught me how to adapt to new environments and industries.
Lessons from experiences mean more to me than any course ever will.
2. Time Management
At one point in college, I worked two part-time jobs, was a full-time athlete, had classes, and still took time for granted.
Now, my days have to be meticulously crafted to extract as much value as possible. Implement these habits early on to find out when you are at your most productive. For example, I work best in the morning around 10:00 AM and at night beginning around 9:00 PM. So, my day revolves around hitting these peaks in stride.
Every day you have the opportunity to chase something that you love.
A lot of people will ignore this desire in favor of money, laziness, or insecurity. Too many professionals my age are already getting burned out at jobs they despise.
The best way we can change this narrative?
Learn to fall back in love with leisure. I emphasize activities that I enjoy like working out, reading, and writing because without them my life wouldn’t have nearly as much meaning. Figure out what inspires you and find a project or activity that you are passionate about. Trust me, this will only make you happier and more engaged throughout your career.
My grandfather always used to tell me, “Money isn’t everything…until you need it.”
Unfortunately, there was never a college course that taught me about opening a 401k, investing, health insurance, or anything related to personal finance and savings. While I don’t think it is wise to have income as your driving ambition, it’s never a bad time to understand what your financial situation is.
Do you have a plan for paying off student loans?
Do you have a savings account?
Is there anyone that can mentor you about investing?
These are the questions that you need to start thinking about.
You want the people in your life to be authentic and energizing. Individuals with negative attitudes who pressure you into poor choices should eventually be phased out.
Constantly prove your worth by elevating those around you. Be the person others want to follow in all environments- from projects at work to Saturday nights at a bar.
This doesn’t just include friends and family. Put time into making positive impacts on everyone you interact with. As a good friend of mine once eloquently put, “Don’t act like an idiot. Most of us know what’s right but ignore it anyways. Nobody wants to be around someone who acts like an idiot.”
Never envy what anyone else is doing.
We live in an age of Linedkin titles where anyone can slap anything on their social media profile and we are supposed to take it as a truth.
I have seen self-proclaimed thought leaders, viral writers, and leaders who barely appear anywhere online outside of their profile.
Chances are, their life isn’t as great as you might think. Sometimes people who seem successful are still incredibly flawed.
Figure out what made someone idolized or popular and do it better.
These are the key skills that will define who you want to become.
I wish someone had told me not to worry as much about my college resume or that my degree wouldn’t define my career. And I wish I knew that there is a lot more to living than a job.
As a recent college graduate, your driving motive feels like it should revolve around stability, money, and reputation. In reality, your life is only just beginning.
It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.
This article originally appeared on Medium.