All over the country, tens of thousands of college students are lining up to accept their hard-earned degrees. Congratulations, graduates!
We thought we’d gather up a few tidbits of sage advice from some of our great CPA instructors. Here’s a roundup of their best advice for college graduates:
OK, so you’re a graduate. That’s awesome — but it doesn’t really mean much post-graduation outside of window decals and alumni pride.
In the real world, few people care where you went to school (even if it was an Ivy) or how awesome your grades were. Your degree can help you to get a job, yes, but once you start working, the only thing people will care about is your work, your work ethic and your attitude.
You need to hit the reset button and start over. Reset your expectations and reset your intentions and focus.
If you’re graduating with a degree in accounting, you’re lucky to be entering a job-seekers market right now — but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a job. Whether you have a job lined up or not, you still need to ensure your life stays on a positive trajectory.
That means you need to have a plan.
Especially early in your career, you should create a multi-year plan for what you want to do with your life and career. Start by setting out specific goals you want to accomplish (“in X years, I will have achieved Y results”). Your goals should be both aspirational and realistic.
Then, clearly outline the tactics you’ll need to put in place and the milestones you’ll need to hit to reach your goal. Communicate your goals and plans to others, as they’ll be the ones to remind you to stay on track and might even be able to help along the way.
This is probably some of the best advice for college graduates we heard: You are not in this alone.
You should find someone in your life who you respect to be your mentor. It can be a supervisor or professor or simply someone who has achieved what you want. Just make sure it’s not a family member or friend — your mentor should be able to objectively offer advice and guidance when you need it.
You don’t have to ask someone specifically to be your mentor. You just have to do your best to listen and learn from their experience while you develop your own skills.
And don’t think you even have to like your mentor. Often, you’ll realize years later that the people who helped you the most were the ones who challenged you.
Several of our instructors offered up this advice for college graduates: “Ask for help when you need it.”
But many were quick to explain that asking for help doesn’t mean expecting someone to do the work for you or hold your hand through the process.
In your career, you will make mistakes and there will be times when you don’t know what to do. Don’t complain about it and don’t let it paralyze or depress you. Ask for help (preferably from your mentor, not your parents).
Be honest about the problem and admit your shortcomings. Ask for help in finding ways to improve yourself and your skills so you can do the work. This may seem like a nuanced distinction, but it will make a big difference to your colleagues and peers.
Pro tip: There’s this thing called Google. You can ask it questions and it has some really great answers sometimes. Maybe start there when you hit a roadblock in common tasks (like “how do I change a headlight?”).
So you’re not making six figures and driving a Tesla your first year out college? Don’t sweat it!
Don’t feel like you should be as successful as your peers or old college friends. It’s your plan, your goals, your life. Don’t get caught up in trying to impress anyone.
And here’s a sobering reminder: You have to start serving your school loans six months after graduation.