Sunday, June 29, 2008

Common Sense Advice for the Recent Graduate

With all the graduations recently, I have some free common sense advice. You can take it or leave it, this is just what I've found in the past years I've been in the working world.

Never Stop Learning

This seems like an obvious one. And something almost every graduation address I've ever heard mentions. But it is so important. You don't have to be assigned a book (or a paper) to read it. You can try new things and new technologies.

There is a reason the book "Who Moved My Cheese" is/was so wildly popular.

So, You Got a Degree. You're Still Not Better than Everyone Else

This also seems obvious. Yes, a degree is an awful lot of work, sleepless nights and deprivation.

I have met many intelligent people over the years without a college degree.

Some of my former managers haven't had that piece of paper. They have been competent and skilled. Some managers HAVE had a degree and didn't know much of anything.

A degree is important, but it's not the be all and end all of learning and education. I read a great article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the bachelor's degree and its usefulness.

Many great Americans, writers and others never got degrees (think Abraham Lincoln). So don't let it get to your head.

Try Not to Work at the Same Place Your Significant Other Works At

This is my advice. Sometimes, if you own a small business, working together can't be helped.

There is something to be said for not putting all your eggs in one basket. That cliche is around for a reason.

Just the other day, at my work, one part of a couple was let go. It was sad and unfortunate. I've talked about it before, the industry has been having lots of issues recently and just hasn't been growing.

So, I wouldn't necessarily quit a job in the same place where my significant other worked, but I would be passing out my resume.

Which brings me to my next point:

Be Loyal, But Look out for Yourself

The company is not going to look out for you. It is very rare in this day and age. Don't think years of service will protect you. It's sad, but one of the facts of American capitalism.

If another opportunity comes along, think seriously about it. You just never know.

Loyalty has its place. Hard work is usually rewarded. But it's not the same model it was for my grandparents. If you work hard and don't complain, you're still not safe when the stock has plummeted.

Don't Put All Your Retirement Savings in Your Company's Stock

Again, another point you would think most people would get. Those that listen to NPR anyway. Or one would assume that after the fall of Enron, that people would also be wary.

But no, I still hear about people who have all their stock in one company. I'm not a licensed financial planner (far from it) but most people know that is very risky. Even for a sure thing.

What goes up, must come down. And there's no such thing as free money.

These seem like simple concepts but I'm surprised by how many people I've spoken to or heard of who struggle with them.

It's all about diversification.

Start Saving for Retirement Now

An older woman I worked with in my first out of college job gave me this advice. She said, "Aerin, I could be retired now if I had put $10 per paycheck in savings when I was your age". She was 68 and would be working for many years more.

It was a powerful statement. And, while money was/is tight, that $10 or $20 could be spared. Depending on your employer, they might just take that right out of your paycheck automatically. It's a great service. And as long as you haven't invested it all in your company's stock, you should be fine.

So, that's my unasked for advice. Still not bad things to consider, even if you follow a different path.


Lexi and Jordan said...

I agree with all of it! In addition, I would add that it is always a good idea to keep your resume (fairly) updated. Don't be afraid to job hop a little. A lot of companies are often willing to bump up a new employees salary even if they only give small raises to their current employees. Job hopping can be the fastest way up the corporate ladder, but don't go overboard.

Freckle Face Girl said...

BTW, that last comment was me.