It’s that time again. Before heading out to face the working world, newly minted graduates will gather last minute instruction and inspiration from parents and high-powered commencement speakers. After reflecting on my own long corporate career and the advice that several outstanding mentors gave me, I offer our graduates the following short list of “Saves” to help them launch their professional lives and assure them a smooth landing in case of ‘emergency.’
1. Save Your Money
If you’re one of the new grads fortunate enough to have landed a paying position after graduation, you may be ready to cash in on the delayed gratification of the past several years. You may have a series of wants that are demanding satisfaction now: the new car, the new apartment, new furniture for the new apartment, Google glasses, new clothes, etc, all designed to reflect your dazzling, new, post-dorm-room self.
What happens if you hate your new job? What if your new job hates you?
Spending your graduation money or taking on new debt to underwrite your new image will require you to keep an income stream coming in; an income that is commensurate with your new level of spending. You will be obligated to stick with that new job to support these new spending habits - whether you like the work or not. While you may need the money, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing at work, you are unlikely to be satisfied or successful there.
What to do? Give yourself at least a year and small raise over your college budget to see if you are well-matched to your new work and your new company. Dedicate some time to learning about money: how to make, invest, manage and leverage it. The most important principle you never learned about in accounting class but that fully effects the economy of YOU is: cash on hand gives you options, and options=freedom.
2. Save Yourself --- from Yourself
You’ve got a sheepskin. So far, so good. You want to live up to that newly minted degree so you set out to present yourself as competent and capable. You get your first assignment, and you are determined to crush it. And you will crush it, except you didn’t understand that one little part…even after asking a few questions.
Some new employees believe that asking too many questions indicates that they are not the subject matter experts that the new degree promised they’d be, and they find this to be embarrassing. Time starts to drift by while they try to ‘self-teach’ or ‘ask around’ or review their notes again or do other things - anything other than going back to the source to ask follow-up questions. Don’t make yourself crazy with worry. If you allow yourself to fall into this trap, you may find that your project falls behind schedule or ultimately heads in the wrong direction – simply because you didn’t want to let on that you didn’t understand or that you needed help. This is a huge, costly, and not-uncommon mistake.
It’s not embarrassing to not have completely understood, or even with complete comprehension, to need help. It would be more embarrassing to cause unnecessary delays to your project because you were too inhibited to speak up. The obligation to the team & timely project completion is more important than pride. Don’t waste time.
3. Save Your Soul
If you spend your energy and focus entirely on work, you may wind up with a breathtaking office, an outstanding reputation and a big paycheck. This could be a terrific outcome, but not necessarily an entirely fulfilling or creative one.
Work alone is not enough. You’ll be so much more enriched in your life if:
- someone loves you and you make them feel like a priority in your life,
- you are aware of the needs of others and contribute something to help them,
- you have some sense of yourself as a small drop of water in the universe,
- you have some sense of gratitude for the gifts & talents you have been given
You’ll be even better off if you get to use those gifts and talents in the work that you do. Don’t just work for the money. If you do, you’ll get used to it…and that often leads to regret. When you align what you are good at with what motivates and stimulates you, you’ll be on the path to career satisfaction - which will have a big impact on your life satisfaction.
Distance from office= Perspective
4. Save Your Life
Again, if you spend all of your time at work and focus entirely on work, you may wind up with a breathtaking office, an outstanding reputation and a big paycheck. This could be a terrific outcome, but not necessarily a healthy or long-lived one. If you want to have the health to enjoy whatever it is you create, you already know that you’ll need to make time to exercise and eat right. Do that.
All work, no play=sickness and an overly large posterior.
5. Save Your…er “Bacon”
As John Maxwell coaches us in his “the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth”, if you believe in yourself, you invest in yourself.” Keep adding skills. This includes making the time and the financial investment (yourself!) to grow those skills. To be clear, you don’t need another degree: you need to keep adding competitive skills. Of course, no career can be successful without delivering on commitments. So deliver on your commitments. Keep your word. Volunteer. Offer your opinion. Start to build your network by being the first one to introduce yourselves to others. Make a real effort to fit into the existing culture before you start acting to change it. Offer to teach the team (new) skills you’ve acquired. Be courteous and respectful.
The working world can be a fickle place. With just a change of managers, you can suddenly find yourself on a path from ‘hero’ to ‘zero’, and that’ll be a ‘case of emergency’ for many workers. However, if you’ve had the right ‘savings’ plan in place, you won’t necessarily feel that way. You’ll have perspective, training, a healthy attitude and cash on hand. And, as we already know, cash on hand gives you options, and options =freedom.