21 Great Pieces of Advice for This Year’s College Graduates

The world of work awaits them and their successes with open arms, but there are some things they need to know first

They’re young, they’re smart, they’re ambitious, they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them — and as they start what is likely their first full-time jobs after they graduate this spring, there’s a lot our young people need to know that they didn’t learn in college.

(And for those who have been down this path before, there’s a lot of “wish-someone-had-told-me-that-when-I-was-starting-out” going around, too.)

LifeZette reached out to people of all walks of life — seasoned professionals, blue-collar workers, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, those in the middle of their careers and those just starting. We asked them to share their best advice for today’s college graduates as these young people move past the graduation gowns and prepare to start their first “real” jobs.

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The world of work awaits them with eager arms. Our nation needs their energy and their ideas — our companies need their hard work, their best efforts, their most thoughtful contributions.

Here’s some smart advice from a range of people who want the best for today’s new college grads:

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1.) “Work hard, ask questions of your boss when you have them, be responsible, and make an effort to get along with all. If you do those things alone, you are on your way to success. If you go the extra mile on a consistent basis — even better.”

2.) “Listen to others. Most of the people on your team or at your company will have a valid point of view. Remember that just as you were hired to do a job, so, too, were they.”

3.) “Work your contacts. As you meet new people, add them to your list. This strong network, if you keep it up over time and nurture it, will be an invaluable resource in your career and your life.”

4.) “Learn. You’re there to learn and contribute. And every job is a stepping stone to the next.”

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5.) “Communicate! I have seen good people fail in their positions when they did not communicate well with others.”

6.) “Always wait before you say yes to something, in order to consider whether you are ready to deliver on the commitment you’re making. Also — know when yes is the only ‘right’ answer to give.”

7.) “Be on time. Dress nicely and professionally — it’s a sign of respect toward others and the company that has hired you. And if you’re going to be late, call or reach out. That’s another sign of respect. Treat others in the workplace as you would wish to be treated.”

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8.) “Be mindful of your career progression — set goals for yourself, and don’t let anyone throw you off that. And challenge yourself.”

9.) “When you get a promotion, call your mother!”

10.) “Don’t curse on the job.”

11.) “Get up and walk around now and then. But don’t get lost.”

12.) “Ask questions about how to do simple things that may seem obvious. Don’t hesitate on this. Some of the saddest tales are from the consequences of ‘not wanting to look like I didn’t know how it worked.'”

13.) “Polish your shoes. Nothing’s more of a turnoff to a boss than scuffed shoes in the office.”

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14.) “Be careful with email. Remember that anything you send to one person could be shared with others. It could also be posted publicly without your consent. The same goes for social media. Watch what you write and what you post. Be smart.”

15.) “Don’t badmouth the boss to others. If you have a beef with your manager, take it up with him privately, and work hard to resolve it.”

16.) “Be respectful of company resources. Remember that you work for someone else — and that the company owns your desk, your office supplies, your laptop in some cases, and anything else at your disposal.”

17.) “Keep your politics to yourself.”

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18.) “Have common courtesy — say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘you’re welcome,’ and all the other expressions that are expected of polite, professional people.”

19.) “Please don’t ever say, ‘Me and him had a meeting.’ Proper grammar, people!”

20.) “Unless you need it for the job or task at hand, put away your cellphone in a meeting with the boss or with the team. That goes for earbuds as well. If you’d rather text with friends, listen to music or hang out on social media during a work meeting — you’re saying you want to be fired.”

21.) “Be assertive but not aggressive. They are two different things.”

This article has been updated.  

meet the author

Maureen Mackey served as editor-in-chief and managing editor of LifeZette for nearly five years. Before that, she held senior editorial positions at major publications, helping The Fiscal Times win a MIN Award for Best New Site as managing editor and Reader's Digest win an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for General Excellence as book editor. Her work has appeared in Real Clear Politics, CNBC, A Fine Line, AARP Magazine, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and The Week, among other outlets. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the American Legion Auxiliary.

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