6 Things We Wish We Knew Before Starting Careers

6 Tips For Recent + Soon-To-Be Grads

By Lindsay Danas

As we find the days of being able to call ourselves recent grads moving further and further (and further!) behind us, we’re realized there are quite a few things we wish we had known before starting on this thing we call our career path. So, for all you recent or soon-to-be grads out there, listen up: here are 5 things we wish someone had told us and, well, we hope you’ll appreciate before it’s too late!

Think before committing. Put down that Kaplan Review book, hold off on accepting that job offer and take a break – Ross and Rachel style – before making any sort of long-term commitment. Whether you travel, work an entry level job or start an Etsy shop, taking a pause from your hectic student life (even if just for a month) will allow you to more thoughtfully and deliberately research various options, speak with experienced friends or LinkedIn connections and fully consider your contemplated path(s). You’ll either to solidify your belief in your current plan or illuminate a different path, either one will be well worth the time!

LIVE A Better Life… No Matter What You Do!

Live at home (maybe). This may be the only acceptable to say, “Yes, I live at home and my mom does my laundry.” If your parents are offering, consider taking them up on it.

It’s a jungle out there – know what you’re getting yourself into. Before you commit to spending your days (and nights…and maybe life!) with a certain group of co-workers, get to know them. Too many of us focus on the tasks we’ll be doing in future careers, without considering the people we’ll be with. I jumped straight into law school, surrounding myself with “cheetahs,” people who are intelligent, quick on their toes, vicious, and have little to no fashion sense. (I’m sorry, head to toe in the same loud print? Come on!) If you’re more of a zebra, contemplate whether you will be able to play nice with the cheetahs once you’re released from the well-guarded zoo of law school. Of course, some zebras thrive in law school and law firms, but cheetahs don’t often take kindly to sitting quietly in the shade (actually, I think real cheetahs do like to sit in the shade, but hey, we’re sticking with this analogy). Ultimately, whether considering law school or business school, fashion design or photography, teaching or nursing, get a feel for the types of people who pursue related careers and evaluate whether you will be happy interacting with them every day.

Throw away your 5-year plan. With degrees in tow, a lot of us embark on our careers with ingrained expectations. You’re going to need to ditch those expectations and 5-year plans, though, and the sooner the better. While it is always a good thing to be fully prepared for the field you hope to enter, it is equally important to keep yourself and your expectations fluid and flexible. It won’t be what you expect, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Remain open to the opportunities and be prepared to deviate from your plans.

You can’t do “Anything” with a graduate degree. After a particularly brutal semester of legal writing (I almost blacked out from stress after my professor told me that my writing was too descriptive and flowery – say what?!),I cannot tell you how many people shared this adorable little nugget of information with me: “don’t worry, you can do anything with a _____ degree.”  Well, ladies, I am here to tell you that no, no you cannot. Fine, that isn’t entirely true. You can most definitely do anything, at any time, always. But that degree isn’t what allows you to do anything. If you have no experience, possessing a graduate degree in a totally unrelated field won’t change the fact that in most cases, you will have to come in on the ground floor (or close to it). And when saddled with debt from student loans, that may not be practical. So, just be sure you’re making an informed decision.

Form female alliances. Not to get all Survivor on you, but you need some alliances. Find women with similar or complementary career aspirations and make some allies. When you’re faced with questions, concerns, mini-panic attacks, etc, it’s essential to have women in your field who “get” it and on whom you can rely. You’ll not only have women with whom to collaborate, vent, and strategize throughout your career but also you’ll feel more confident and secure in your day-to-day dealings with clients and associates.

11 Life Lessons Learned in Kindergarten – no offense, but you probably need a refresher!