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What Every College Graduate Needs to Know About Success

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What every college graduate needs to know via @familysportlifeIt’s that time of year.  Hope and promise are wafting through the air as excited 20-somethings flee the hallowed halls of academia for the real world.

It’s that time of year where my e-mail is ablaze with 20-somethings looking for solid advice on starting out in their careers and ultimately life.

With each new crop of graduates, I get to test out some of my favorite life principals and thankfully they are withstanding the test of time.

Graduates today are different then they were 15 years ago when I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Sometimes I go back as a guest speaker and my mind is blown – all the students have laptops in front of them. Where did all the notebooks and pens go?

I realize I am dating myself but the perk of not being a 20-something is the exponential wisdom that comes with age.

Another thing that has changed – these college graduates are far more savvy than when I graduated. They have access to information and knowledge that I couldn’t get my hands on. The most savvy of the students have “elevator pitches” rivaling the most polished and elite corporate crusaders.

But I don’t let their broader access to information and well rehearsed elevator pitches fool me. One thing remains the same year after year.

They are terrified and have no idea how to start applying all their book smarts.

What every college graduate needs to know is school experience doesn’t equate to life experience.  If you embrace that, you will go far. You will still make mistakes and step on toes.  Your egos will still get a good thrashing but knowing what you don’t know will keep you grounded (enough).

When I get “the call” or more typically “the e-mail”, I take it. I take the time to get on the phone or meet the 20-something because their willingness to reach out demonstrates initiative. In my book, initiative should always be rewarded as it is essential for future success.

What every college graduate needs to know is success is an equation.  Effort + Initiative + Great Attitude = Success.

Here are 24 other things every college graduate needs to know about success:

1. Fear is a four letter word. The best thing you can do is learn how to operate in spite of fear.

2. Operating in the in spite of fear may require you to “fake it until you can make it.”

3. Success is something you define for yourself. Other people’s definitions of success have no bearing on you.

4. Somewhere deep inside of you are all the answers you need to make the most critical life decisions. Learn how to trust your gut.

5. At some point you will experience a life crisis. You will survive it. Learn from it and move on.

6. Be of service to others. Wake up every day and ask yourself “How can I be of service today?”

7. Develop a gratitude mindset. Find three things everyday to be grateful for.

8. Be the best team player you can be. Replace the word “I” with “We” except for when taking accountability.

9. When taking accountability, it is about you. Stand up and take responsibility even if it wasn’t your direct fault. Fix it and own the solution.

10. Accountability gets promoted.

11. Learn how to be comfortable in discomfort – this is where growth happens.

12. Have a vision for yourself and your life.

13. Without vision there is no purpose.

14. Without purpose there is no plan.

15. Without a plan there is no action.

16. Be a person of action. Be a doer.

17. Learn how to build relationships and understand their reciprical nature. Hint: It’s about learning how to support others in their goals.

18. Be a skilled communicator. Understand the process and how to deliver a message.

19. Guard your words because they are more powerful than you could ever imagine.

20. Learn how to embrace change and make friends with uncertainty.

21. Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.

22. Show up! Yes, sounds easy but some people struggle with this.

23. Physically show up but make sure you are truly present in every action you take. Mindfulness and intention matter.

24. Never stop learning.

25.  It has taken me a while to figure this last one out – Life is a journey, there really isn’t a destination.

[Tweet “24 Things Every College Graduate Needs to Know About Success. #recentgrads”]

Do you know a 20-something or a recent college grad? Make their day a little brighter and send them this advice!

Fill in the blank: What every college graduate needs to know about success is______________.

Additional Resources:

Sign Up For Success!

6 Bonafide Tips for Getting Promoted in Life

Lessons on Success

Create Vision and Purpose in Your Life Today

The Power of Organized Change


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  1. Tara, how I wish you were blogging a few years back or we had connected back then- this would have been such an amazing read- sending this link to all my high school teacher mates!

    Saying that, I can definitely take bits and pieces into entering the workforce!
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…butter cravingsMy Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Thanks for sharing Arman! Butter cravings? Always!

      May 28, 2014
  2. where were you when i was graduating grad school? great tips as always! they even apply to me now, haha –> growth

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Yeah, well, I have a few years on you and they apply to me too! I am glad you got something out of them.

      May 28, 2014
  3. I love the progression from vision to purpose to plan to action. It’s so logical, and yet breaking it down into those steps is so important. Wish I had these tips years ago! Will be sharing far and wide.
    Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted…A Poem for HannahMy Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Thanks for sharing Katie! It was a good reminder for me as I wrote them!

      May 28, 2014
  4. Kim #

    Such great tips for graduates or anyone starting out on a new journey!!!
    I think they are all awesome but I really love the one about integrity!!!
    Kim recently posted…Sometimes Sore Is Good…My Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Integrity is so important to building relationships as an adult.

      May 28, 2014
  5. Your tips are wonderful. They need to find a way to implement this in the official curriculum for every college and university!

    Can I add my two cents? Success is not measured by the amount of material possession you amass throughout your life, but the level of satisfaction you feel when you look back at your life.

    It might seem odd and unrealistic but I truly believe that’s what success is really about.
    Ana Lynn recently posted…Croatian Eats: Cabbage With PastaMy Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Yes, I agree. That took me a little while to learn :-)

      May 28, 2014
  6. Even though we’re the same age (probably?) I wish I could go back in time and know you back then. Holy cow. I was scared.
    I confess that I still am and that I still feel like I’m on the cusp of that big leap – that big journey.
    So these tips are timeless.
    Tamara recently posted…One Crazy, Wet & Wild, American Summer.My Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      I have a few years on you!! We are all just walking through this life with as much courage, purpose and positivity we can muster.

      May 28, 2014
  7. Where were you when I was graduating from college??? This is totally off subject but right now we have an intern who’s 22. I felt so old when the poor boy didn’t know what Miami Vice was. Really???? Kids these days. :)
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…What a Nutrition Coach Eats Before A Run {Guest Post}My Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      This cracks me up as evidenced by our twitter banter last night! When you were graduating college, I was probably just a year or two ahead of you. I would have been no help to you back then :-)

      May 29, 2014
  8. Forget college grads. This advice is awesome for any age! I want to share this with everyone I know!! Awesome post Tara!!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Training for a Goal Race: A Guest Post by Jill ConyersMy Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Yeah Nicole, it does kind of work for everyone.

      May 29, 2014
  9. Tara, thank u! In my staff, my team, 15 are about to graduate…. I’m honoured to work with these bright minds on a daily basis and I will be happy to share this with them all.

    :). Great work!
    Jules recently posted…Rest & RiseMy Profile

    May 28, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Hey Jules!! I hope your staff got something out of the post. Thanks for sharing!

      May 29, 2014
  10. This is absolutely amazing, Tara. What great advice! I’m passing it along to my kids too, because these are just great overall words of wisdom to live by!
    Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life recently posted…Tomato, Basil and Feta Summer SaladMy Profile

    May 30, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      Thanks for passing it along Michelle. It was a good reminder for me as I wrote it!

      June 2, 2014
  11. Absolutely everything on this list is totally spot-on…and I feel like a great reminder to everyone. Am printing this out right now. Because I need to be remembering this fantastic life advice also!-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted…Would You Rather: Summer Sandal Or Summer Hat?My Profile

    June 2, 2014
    • Tara Newman #

      I am glad you for it useful. I always forget to post something printable to make it easier to print. I need to get on that :-)

      June 2, 2014

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