Dear Graduates of 2017

Congratulations on clearing University!

Some of you will be entering the working world and your life is about to change. It’s normal to take some time to adapt to your new life.

This is for you:

Friendships

You will change as a person. Being adult will hit most of you hard. For most, there’s a sudden rush of responsibilities ranging from serious financial planning to life planning. You likely won’t be able to be as carefree as you were in school. As such, your priorities, values, and preferences will change. Some of your friends will change with you, and some won’t.

In school, one of the most important things one learns is to build their network. Now, your goal is to curate it.

You must pick people who mean well to you, contribute to your well being, and help you achieve your dreams. Pick those who also believe in personal growth, empower you, and complement you. These people are good for you.

It’s hard to let go of people at first. But remember, you’ll find new friends at work (You’ll also realize it’s harder to make new friends now.). Whether you like it or not, the people you were once close to may drift apart. Life makes us busy and takes us in different directions. The people who are both good for you and make time for you are worth keeping.

Look for people who are excited to meet you. They will make life exciting and give you deeper meaning.

Take care of your friends, make time for them, and be there for them. They will be your companions for life.

Finances

Frugality is key and is golden. Learn to manage your finances today. Cut down on unnecessary spending and learn to find the value in things and experiences. Save up your money so it can reach a point where your money works for you. Housing, starting a family, or even life itself will become increasingly expensive. If you don’t plan your finances you’ll always be chasing paychecks or bank-draining holiday trips. Plan your finances and you’ll have the freedom to chase your dreams.

For some of you, financial freedom will come harder. Remember the feeling this gives you- remember what the value of the dollar is to you now. Do this, and if or when the day comes where you’re financially comfortable, you’re unlikely to splurge your hard-earned wealth away.

Career

Find a bunch of things that you love and chase them. If you can’t find a job in these areas, work on them in your free time. There will come a time where an opportunity is presented to you to take a meaningful job in these areas and you must be prepared to say yes to them. No one is ever ready; people are just more prepared.

Don’t overwork yourself if you have the choice not to. Staying past office hours only deprives you of life. At the start of your career, each time you stay late feels productive, like it builds towards your dreams. This is a lie. In hindsight, you’ll realize that all you’ve done is miss out on life. Life will come at you fast and hard, and you must be present to enjoy it. My biggest regrets are the times I’ve chosen to work over friends. When it isn’t a choice, I make sure to rearrange with my friends and make it up to them. Your curated friends can be your second family.

Empathy

If you’re an A-Team player, there’s a chance you’ll enter what’s known as a “power paradox”. You need people skills to rise up the corporate ladder, but once high on the ladder one tends to forgo practicing these skills, thus diminishing the skills one has needed to get high on the ladder in the first place.

It’s a common mistake to view apathy as a leadership ability. Real leaders care and they make people care.

Above all, be kind.

You never know if your nervous colleague was abused at home or your distant friend comes from a dysfunctional family. Love is perhaps the most powerful force in the world. Be compassionate, think of others, and accept that real behavior change in people comes in small parts- forgive them.

Love

Look at people with regards to their character and their actions. Stop chasing the next hot date. Find some real stability- you’ll need it as the years go by. Especially if you’re someone who lacks stability at home. One big mistake people make is that they assume stability will come naturally to their partners. It most cases it doesn’t- don’t get into a relationship expecting the other person to change, you’ll only be dating a fictional version of them and be disappointed if this fantasy doesn’t come true. To start, look for someone consistent, kind, who thinks of the little things, and is financially responsible. Personal preferences come later- like intellect, hobbies, and personality.

Your partner should also be your friend.

Realize that you can’t get the best of both worlds anymore.

People will spend more time with their partner and put them on a higher priority list. Find someone not just present, but “there” for you.

Time

As you’ll be likely taking on a job, your time will be limited. Learn time management. Learn to set aside “me” time. Center yourself and keep yourself grounded as much as possible to help manage your time better. In between this, set time aside for self growth and continuous learning. Online learning from edX, Coursera, and Udemy can better equip you with skills to navigate the real world. These courses also make you more confident and more excited about life. Learning is a wonderful thing- embrace it.

Family

Some of you won’t come from families who are stable or healthy. Now that you’ve graduated, poor behavior as a result of your family is no longer an excuse. You’re in control of your life now. If your family is affecting you negatively, mentally “divorce” them. “Divorcing” them doesn’t mean you cut them out, but that you realize you’re a whole independent person now.

Their negative words should no longer have an effect on your self esteem or actions.

Give back

Make the effort to volunteer from social causes to environmental causes. Helping the underpriviledge learn a skill you picked up from university is a good start, and initiatives like saving thresher sharks (which are vulnerable to extinction) are noble causes.

As J.K Rowling said in her 2008 Harvard Commencement speech:

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change.

and lastly,

Believe in yourself

Each and every one of you are far more capable than you imagine. If you’re willing to work on yourself, keep learning, and accept your flaws, there is little reason to believe that anything can stop you from changing the world in your own way. Happy graduation.