20 Business Insider Staffers Share Their Best Advice For College Grads

Politics Reporter Walter Hickey on graduation day at the College of William & Mary.

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

So we decided to ask our editorial and senior staff here at Business Insider, “What do you wish someone had told you at graduation?”

Our colleagues had a lot to say, from how important it is to take care of your finances to not worrying about the first five years after graduation (you read that correctly: the first five years aren’t all that important, according to SAI Senior Editor Jay Yarow). 

But advice is all relative.

As Politics Reporter Walter Hickey says, “Ignore all the advice. Statistics insist.”

Alyson Shontell, Senior Reporter, SAI

'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, SAI Editor

'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.'

Alex Davies, Transportation Reporter

'Leave the country for at least a year. Chances are you can find a job in Europe, South America, or Asia teaching English.

You'll have a good time, and won't have to worry about a career for a year. When you come back you will seem more interesting to everyone, including potential employers.

It's not like you'll be missing out on a booming economy, either, and none of the people in my graduating class who left the country for a year had more trouble than usual finding a job upon their return.'

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, Money Game Reporter

'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 that 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've 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, Clusterstock 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 then when you're older, I assume.'

Julia La Roche, Clusterstock 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.'

Chris Anderson, Senior Editor

'You've just graduated college and you're probably going to take the first job offer that comes your way because, 'Oh my God! I got a job offer! I'm an adult! Look at all this money! I'm rich! I've made it! Wait ... I have loan debt to pay off crap. I'm screwed. This blows.'

You're going to go through a range of emotions. Hey, this is an exciting time. You're off on a new path. But there's a couple things you need to remember above all else.

Don't let money rule your life and your decisions going forward. Yes, get that debt paid off if you have it. Do what you have to do to live comfortably, but don't let money drive you. If you play to your passions, interests and goals I think you'll find yourself happier in the career path you end up choosing, and that the money will eventually come.

Travel, definitely travel if you can swing it. I highly recommend living overseas and experiencing a new culture. Look into it; it's easier than you might think.

You have plenty of time to build your career; be driven but don't forget to live a little and enjoy your twenties.'

Vivian Giang, Careers Reporter

'I moved to Colorado from Georgia after college because I'd never learned how to ski or snowboard, and I wanted to move away so I couldn't rely on my family. However, I had no idea what I wanted to do and wish I would've spent more time networking and really getting out there and asking questions.

You can still have fun and spend time networking. Networking doesn't have to be a job. In fact, the best networking relationships are those that involve a friendship. And becoming friends with people in different industries gives you insight into where that industry is headed.'

Julie Zeveloff, Senior 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, Senior 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.'

Mandi Woodruff, Your Money Editor

'The best choice I ever made after graduating was to turn down the first job offer that came my way and travel instead. This was in '09 right when we were really feeling the weight of the recession and it was a big risk. I recommend college graduates take at least a few months (or better yet, a year) to get out and see a bit of the world after college, no matter how crappy the job market is. You'll never be that young or free in your life again, so why rush into a 9 to 5? Write or keep a photo blog of your journey along the way so you have something to show for yourself during the job interview process once you're back home.

Trust me. You'll be instantly more memorable to a hiring manager if you've got an epic travel adventure to chat about than the same ho-hum internship every other Tom, Dick or Harry will have.'

Max Nisen, War Room Reporter

'Every single decision you make in the next few months is going to feel way more significant than it actually is. Almost nothing you do when you're 22 or 23 is going to have all that much bearing on your career, and most of the pressure and anxiety is manufactured. If you have a choice between two jobs, take the one that makes you nervous. Not a job at a company that's unstable or sketchy, but something that you're under-qualified or under-experienced for. Nervous is better than bored. And if you're practically minded, learn to code and learn to cook. It's easy to say you'll take nights or weekends to do it once you're working, but from personal experience, you'll probably just want to sleep.'

Aimee Groth, Senior Editor

'Know your unique value and that you can affect a company or organisation in the way no one else can. Also, make the decision to stick to your values early on.'

Walter Hickey, Politics Reporter

'Ignore all advice. Statistics insist.'

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