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10 Things You Should Know Before Graduation

10 Things You Should Know Before Graduation

If you know these things before you graduate:

  • You may either decide not to graduate at all
  • Or you may graduate making more money than you thought you would by age 40.

1. You Will Likely Need To Unlearn A Lot Of Your Schooling

“The current (educational) structure, which seeks low-cost uniformity that meets minimum standards, is killing our economy, our culture, and us.”―Seth Godin

In the late 1800’s, schools were designed and intended to teach obedience. During the rise of our industrial age, big corporations needed workers for their factories.

The purpose of the academic system was the creation of obedient and compliant workers who never asked meaningful questions. The system was not created to produce scholars and thinkers for tomorrow. There were already tons of scholars at the time.

No. The big businesses needed laborers who would submissively do whatever they needed.

Thus, the creation of the standardized test. Our academic system itself becomes a factory to standardize all of the rising students to ensure they fit the desired mold. If the student failed the tests, they would be held back another year to try again.

Thus, the most frequently asked question in school: Will this be on the test?

Despite the fact that our world has dramatically changed since the late 1800’s, our school systems are structured the same way.

Despite the fact that we can all connect on the internet, there are 10,000 teachers giving the same lecture on a given day across the country. There’s something disturbingly wrong about this. Why don’t they all connect to the same lecture online performed by the best teacher on the subject?

The internet has changed the world. If you want to learn something, you don’t need to get an encyclopedia anymore. You can go to Wikipedia, or Youtube, or a million other places online. There are tons of programs that teach people how to learn things effectively at optimal speeds.

Not only does our model of education not make sense, but the structure of business has changed since the 1800’s as well.

The world is moving to an entrepreneurial and innovation driven economy. It is projected that by 2020, over one billion people will be working from their homes. In the future of work, less people will work for one company as generalists and instead will work for multiple companies as specialists.

The world doesn’t need obedient and compliant factory workers anymore. The world needs artists, creatives, hackers, and innovators. The world needs more emotion and relevance. We desire deeper connection. We’re done with apathetically living out our lives in school and at our 9-5 jobs. We’re sick of it. We’re done with it.

And the best part—the new economy wants it as well.

2. College Degrees Are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant

“Five years from now, on the Web —for free—you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.”Bill Gates (in 2010)

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Far too many kids go to college because they don’t want to let their parents down. The parents have the 9-5 worldview and have perpetuated it to their children. The parents don’t realize the stark changes in the world and future of work. The parents don’t realize they are doing their children a huge disservice.

Whatever it is you want to learn, just know that college isn’t the only option. There are loads of online courses available—many for free.

The goal should be learning, not names on pieces of paper. If college is where you’re going to get the right education you need, then go there. If you can get it better, faster, and cheaper somewhere else, think twice.

The market doesn’t care if you have a degree or not. The market just wants your best work.

3. You Should Know If College Will Get You Where You Want To Go

“Cat: Where are you going? Alice: Which way should I go? Cat: That depends on where you are going. Alice: I don’t know. Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”―Lewis Carroll

And that’s the problem. So many people have no clue where their ideal destination in life is.

Do you know where you want to go?

Success is an intrinsic concept. It should be self-generated and not based on societal or cultural norms. You decide what you want in life, what makes you happy, and go for that.

In today’s world, college is probably not the most effective way to get where you want to go. All of the tools are in place to start doing what you want to do now. You just need to know what you want to do and have the courage to start.

With that said, college is absolutely the right place to be for many people. And the people that know this generally flourish while they are there. They are purposeful and focused. They are moving toward their ideal destination in life. College is the correct means for their desired ends.

You must ask yourself as Peter Thiel does—“How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?”

There is always a better and faster path to your ideal than the one you’re taking. If you realize college isn’t for you, don’t stay in just because you’ve already put a lot of time and resources into it.

Psychologists have a term called sunk cost fallacy, which explains that people often make horrible decisions because they’ve already invested into a certain choice. Walk away. The further you continue the wrong direction, the longer it will take you to get back on your ideal path.

4. You Are Your Only Competition

“When everybody zigs, zag”—Marty Neumeier

If art, passion, authenticity, and innovation are the needed ingredients of the future, than you need to step away from comparing and competing with other people.

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Innovators stop competing and delve into uncharted territory. You are an innovator. You simply need to tap into your own unique identity, and dive into what makes you happy. You can create art and do work that no one else can do. You see the world in your own unique way—now show us that world.

Don’t get caught living other people’s dreams. Don’t lose yourself in the propaganda and agenda of society. Be you and everyone will be the benefactor—not the least of which is you.

Never forget these words from Oscar Wilde—“Everything popular is wrong.” Don’t follow the masses. It’s a long slow slog that won’t get you very far.

5. The Choices You Make Now Will Impact The Rest Of Your Life

“’…Your twenties: the decade of decision.’ Amen.”—David Archuleta

Your twenties are your decade of decision. These years in large measure dictate the rest of your life.

Who do you want to be?

What kind of work do you want to do?

What kind of lifestyle do you want to have?

What kind of people do you want to spend time with?

When life gets more complicated, and you have more responsibilities, you won’t have the same flexibility you have now. It will be harder to adjust your path. Right now, you can go whichever direction you want.

6. You Shouldn’t Wait Until After College To Do All You Want To Do

“Professor Harold Hill: You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.”―Meredith Willson

In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss teaches what he terms, the deferred-life plan. The essence of this idea is waiting to live. It is best expressed in the concept of retirement. So many people defer the life of their dreams until retirement. They defer happiness. They consciously live a life they despise.

You don’t have to do this.

You don’t need permission to start living your dreams. You don’t need a college degree to give you permission either. You are the gatekeeper to living your own life to the fullest.

Gary Vaynerchuck has said that in your 20’s and 30’s, you should be taking huge risks in your career. Maybe, when you hit age 40, you should start getting more conservative. At that point, you will likely have more responsibilities and need to think differently.

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But right now, while you’re in college, there is zero risk. Not only is there no risk, but you have tons of time! College does not require 40 hours per week. Chances are, you have 20-30 hours per week you could put into your dreams if you want.

Actually, college is the best time to become an entrepreneur. If you play your cards right, you could become successful enough that you can quit school. Or, by the time you graduate, you could be earning more money doing your own thing than you could have at an entry level job.

It doesn’t take that much time to build a lucrative online business anymore. If you put a solid year or two in, you could be wildly successful doing exactly what you want.

7. There Are Two Worlds Of Work

Dan Sullivan of Strategic coach has explained this far more beautifully than I ever could. For this reason, I will provide a long quote of his.

“At the turn of the last century, factories revolutionized the way goods were produced and delivered to the public. With factory work came a different attitude toward workers. They were parts in a machine and could be replaced. While they were working, it was necessary to ensure that things ran as uniformly and predictably as possible. Every day’s work was the same, and compensation was given in exchange for the length of time worked. Working long hours was a sign of loyalty. In sum, theirs was a bureaucratic time system. I call it “The Time-and-Effort Economy.”

Today, bureaucratic systems are breaking down. Advances in technology have radically shifted our thinking, emphasizing the limitless creative potential of the individual. Entrepreneurs are on the leading edge of this trend, stepping free from old structures to innovate and create value with greater speed and adaptability than lumbering institutions, which are focused on perpetuating themselves rather than serving their markets. Entrepreneurs live in what I call “The Results Economy.”

They get paid only for the results they produce, based on the value these results create for their clients and customers. Theirs is an entrepreneurial time system. Why, then, do so many entrepreneurs still operate as if it mattered how long or how hard they work? An unhealthy notion of virtue has become attached to burnout, regardless of whether the long hours have produced any results. This thinking completely misses the point of being an entrepreneur, which is freedom. One world of work is the industrial factory model that the academic system funnels people into. Be incredibly weary of this world of work. You will lose your soul. This is the 9-5 model. You will spend your time doing someone else’s agenda. You will be the slave to your boss. You will not have a lot of freedom or flexibility in your schedule.”

Which world of work will you choose? The Time-and-Effort Economy or The Results Economy?

8. You Might Be Pursuing A Shadow Dream—Which Would Be Bad

“We tend to pursue “shadow careers” – jobs that are similar to our dreams, but not quite our dreams.”—Ben Arment

People do this all the time. They dream of being a novelist but instead become an English professor. They dream of owning a gym but instead become a gym teacher. They dream of becoming a race car driver but instead become a mechanic.

“Shadow dreams” reflect your dream but are a far less risky version. This reflects a lack of belief that you can do it. That you can really make it doing what you love.

I believe the mass population is pursuing shadow dreams. They say they’re doing what they love. But they really don’t. They wish they were doing something different. They’ve settled for far less than they could’ve had.

Don’t settle for a shadow dream.

9. You’re Probably Thinking Too Small For Yourself

“Those who believe they can move mountains, do. Those who believe they can’t, cannot. Belief triggers the power to do.”―David J. Schwartz

You’ve probably had your dreams beaten into submission. You’ve been told to be realistic. To fit-in. This is all horrible advice.

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As Napoleon Hill has said—“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

It really comes down to being creative and imaginative, then believing you can actually do it. If you don’t believe it, it won’t happen. But if you can think it and believe it, you can do it. No matter how big. No matter how unrealistic.

The world needs bigger thinking. Tim Ferriss recently interviewed Peter Diamandis and both agreed that most startups are only providing incremental improvement to what already exists. The world needs more exponential improvements. The world needs people to pursue “moonshot” goals. Go big and be bold.

If abundance is where we’re going, bold is the pathway. The world progresses because of big thinkers who are bold enough to try. Be one of those big thinkers. You’re in college. There’s no risk. Change the world.

There has never been a time like this in the history of the world. A large majority of the world’s most successful people are in their 20’s and 30’s. We live in a time when you can create something that quickly becomes a billion dollar company.

“Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people. The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.”—Peter Diamandis

10. Freedom And Security Are Not The Same Thing

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”—Benjamin Franklin

The desire for security is rooted in the emotion of fear. People who are seeking security perceive a scarcity of jobs and resources. Consequently, they want to put themselves in the safest position—devoid of as much risk as possible.

Unfortunately, this mindset often leads people into jobs they hate but will never quit (“golden handcuffs”).

It has been said that, “freedom is the heavy cost of security.” People would rather feel safe and secure than free. They have become a slave to their jobs and they lack the courage to take the leap. The risks are perceived as too great to live the life of their dreams.

This whole notion of security is completely misconstrued. There can be no security in external things—only slavery and dependence. The only true form of security a person can have is internal. If they are secure in themselves, than they are free. Otherwise, they are slaves.

Conclusion

Right now is the best time in the world to be a student or recent graduate. Our global economy yields infinite opportunities to create a life of freedom doing what you love. There are little to no risks at this time in your life.

Crush it.

Featured photo credit: Girl Reading Magazine In Hotel Bed/ Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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