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25 Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us At Graduation

Melia and jillJillian D’Onfro and Melia Robinson

It’s graduation time, and everyone is sharing advice for graduates.

So we decided to ask our co-workers at Business Insider, “What do you wish someone had told you at graduation?”

From where you should try to get a job, to what you should drink, to how you should spend your money, our colleagues had a lot to say.

But it’s all valuable and comes right from the brains of people who have already experienced it.

Enjoy, and good luck!

Alyson Shontell, Senior Reporter, Tech

Alyson Shontell, far left, is a proud Syracuse alum.

Join a startup when you graduate run by seasoned, smart founders. In an ideal world, you'll pick one that will grow far bigger than it is when you join it. Either way, you will get tremendous experience and get to try your hand at a number of different roles, which can help you decide what you actually want to do with your life. And if the company grows, your career can grow with it.

Steve Kovach, Senior Editor, Tech

My advice is to not settle. There's a good chance your first job will be something you hate. If that's the case, don't stop looking until you land somewhere you can see yourself working for several years.

Henry Blodget, Founder & CEO

The real world doesn't care where you went to school or what you did when you were there. Your diploma might help you get a job, but the moment you start working, the only thing that will matter is how much you help your bosses, colleagues, employers, clients, and/or customers.

So, congratulations on your success -- you deserve it. But if you want to do well in life, forget about all of that and start helping.

Mamta Badkar, Markets Reporter

Mamta Badkar, center, at Business Insider's SAI 100 party.

Call employers after you've sent in a job application. Unfortunately getting a job interview isn't just about your skills; it's about being the annoying kid who won't give up. Follow up, cold call, and accept that more often than not, you won't hear back.

Jim Edwards, Deputy Editor

I WOULD LIKE TO have received some realistic advice about the effect your early career choices have on your finances. When you graduate, any salary at all, in any job, feels like much more money than you've ever had in your life.

But over the years, depending on the career you've chosen, huge gaps can open up in the lifestyles of you and your friends, based on money, depending on the career paths they have chosen.

Some of my friends are millionaires, and others are barely employed and in chronic debt -- and a lot of that goes back to the careers we chose when we were 22.

It's amazing to me that personal finance issues weren't a core part of the maths curriculum during my education, even though that's the one way that numbers affect everyone in society.

Linette Lopez, Finance Editor

Drink higher-end liquor. The hangovers aren't as bad.

Jay Yarow, Senior Editor, SAI

The first five years after college don't really have to matter. By which I mean, don't get worried if you don't find the job of your dreams right away. If you didn't figure out life in college, you still have time. Get a job so you can pay the bills, but poke around and figure out what you really love, if you haven't already. Then attack that fully.

Also, go travel a bunch. It's better to travel when you're younger than when you're older, I assume.

Julia La Roche, Finance Reporter

Don't be afraid to go after what you want. The worst thing someone can say is 'No' and that's really not bad. Just because someone said 'No' before doesn't mean someone else won't say 'Yes.' The truth is ... no one is ever going to come to you with your dream job. You have to put what you want out into the universe and go for it. Ask and you shall receive. Eventually.

Julie Hansen, President & COO

Almost no one knows what they REALLY want to do when they graduate. Early in your career, you should invest time in figuring it out. Volunteer for assignments. Ask questions. If you go about it the right way, people will be surprisingly generous with their time. For the first few years of your working life, you can completely switch tracks without any stigma. It gets harder (though not impossible) the farther you go in your career.

On a related note, think hard about graduate school. It can be enormously helpful, even critical, in certain career paths. Or it can be a self-indulgent waste of time (aside from the intellectual development, which has its own merits). Don't go to grad school just for a pedigree or because you're not sure what else to do. But do invest in your own education where it helps you get to the next step. Take an accounting class as a step toward general management, for example. Take a negotiating class or a legal class or whatever is relevant. It makes you smarter at what you do, and it signals to the higher-ups that you're serious about taking the next step. And if graduate school makes sense for your career, think hard about how you sequence it with your job and family life. It's never perfect, but timing matters.

Jessica Liebman, Managing Editor

Make yourself indispensable. Figure out how to fill a niche that makes your employers' life easier, even if it's not part of your job description.

Julie Zeveloff, Deputy Editor

Don't assume that your first job will be your only job. It's ok to take a job you aren't sure you will love -- no one stays at the same place their whole lives and you learn a lot by working at different types of companies.

Also, learn a little something about personal finance, and how to track your money and balance your checkbook.

Sam Ro, Deputy Editor

You're not gonna like your first job.

Jen Welsh, Science Editor

If you decide to go back to school later, retake your GREs -- and really study for them. You have the time now and are less pressured by school commitments and your senior year slacking and stress, so you can really do much better.

I also think that after a couple years of being out in the working world, your brain is clearer and more focused on what you want to do in the long run, so be flexible in what your future plans are. This could also mean you should keep taking classes at your local community college -- get to those electives you never had time for. You never know what will excite you and how that knowledge will be useful in the future.

Dylan Love, Tech Reporter

After college, you get to read whatever books you want without explanation or deadlines. Read more books.

Melissa Stanger, Associate Editor, Lists

Always negotiate your starting salary, even in your first job. Don't settle for the first number you're offered just because you 'feel lucky to even have a job at all.' Employers will respect you a lot more if you know what you're worth, and besides, there's a reason they want to hire you in the first place!

Caroline Moss, Tech Reporter

Never show up late for anything. And just relax, you'll be fine.

Julie Bort, Enterprise Editor

Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and Julie Bort, happy after a 50 mile bike ride in Aspen

Whether you loved your major in college or hated it doesn't matter as much as the skills you learned to get you through it. Being tough. Pushing through. Working when you are tired. Being kind to other people. How to fix mistakes. How to learn and improve. These are the skills that all great careers are made of, no matter what job you wind up doing.

Rylan Miller, Contributors Editor

Rylan Miller, third from left

There's a lot you won't know after you graduate. Don't waste time worrying about the fact that you don't have everything figured out, and instead focus on building good character. Aim to be an observant, conscientious person with a positive attitude. Even if you're not passionate about your first job, strive to do your best at it anyway -- it will pay off later in your career.

As Louis C.K. once said, 'You should do your job because it's your job. You're the person standing there doing that thing, so just do it! Do the s--t out of it!'

Amanda Macias, Assistant Contributors Editor

After moving to New York, I hit a brick wall and couldn't find a job in journalism (for a year). I haphazardly got a job as a bartender and was humbled by the service industry. I value the little skills I learned from these odd jobs because they weren't ever things I would gain from sitting in a classroom lecture. Plus, I now know an awful lot of drink recipes.

Drake Baer, Strategy Reporter

You might think that your classmates are competitors, but they're actually your greatest asset. Almost every break that you're going to get at the start of your career will come by way of your alumni network, so take care of one another.

Breton Fischetti, Senior Manager, Business and Audience Development

It's ok if you don't have a job when you graduate, but apply yourself to the search as soon as you have your diploma in hand. The search will help you figure out what you do and don't want to do. You'll bomb a few interviews and that's fine, because it helps you craft your own personal narrative. Take the first job that's offered and learn everything you can, even if you hate it you'll know what not to do, but you might also learn you're good at something that surprises you.

Melia Robinson and Jillian D'Onfro, Reporters

Once you're hired somewhere (which you will be!), make an effort to get to know your coworkers. When you've been there a while, take the new guy out to lunch or an intern under your wing. Ask your colleague how she spent her weekend when you're in line at the Keurig machine.

Sure, you want your boss to like you. But it's just as important to pay attention to your peers. By working hard but not being competitive, being kind and helping each other up the ladder, you'll end up forming bonds that will last far beyond your first job. You never know where either of you will end up -- your best friends at work could be the reason for your next hire.

Sam Rega, Video Editor

You're in a weird area. You're no longer the cool college kid and you're the inexperienced adult. So, experience as much as possible. Don't become settled with your life, not yet at least. Don't get hung up on bad jobs or relationships. Don't go to sleep at 9PM on a Friday because you had a long week. Stay focused on personal goals and everything will start to unfold. And by the way, no one will care where you went to undergrad except when discussing college sports.

Peter Jacobs, Education Reporter

Make an effort to keep in touch with your friends from college. It gets trickier when they're not living down the hall from you, but it's really cool to see what people are up to -- whether they're in your city, across the country, or on the other side of the world.

Leah Goldman, Senior Editor

Exercise.

You're going to feel weird, anxious, and probably a little depressed after college (sorry). You may not be able to control whether you get your dream job, where you live, or if your BFF from college stays your BFF forever.

But what you can control is how you treat your body, and if you treat it well by exercising and eating healthy, you'll feel infinitely better. You may be broke but it's worth it to spend that $US80 on a gym membership, a new pair of running shoes, or yoga classes.

Also: dance.

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