Congrats class of 2016! Remember you are not your degree. 

Hello everyone and congratulations class of 2016! All of those all nighters, cramming, energy drinks and persistence paid off. As you all ride off this high that is graduation I wanted to share some of the things I learned once getting settled in to the “real world”. As you saw by the title I made the statement that you’re not the degree you recently received (or will receive in the near future). You are (insert your name here) and if you only define yourself by your degree you are cutting yourself short in life. Well Tony Z what do you mean by that? 

Here’s what I mean: 
1. Even with a college degree no one person or any company owes you anything. 

As many of you know getting a job nowadays is hard work. You are now too qualified for a job at Micky Ds and don’t have enough experience for a “real job”. That limbo sucks but you have to understand NOTHING in life is promised even if you work hard for it. A kid with a 2.0 GPA with the right people skills and persistence will be able to land a job over their peers if they work harder at it. Before I landed an internship, let alone a job I had to go through hell. At the time I didn’t know it but my interview skills and resumes were garbage. I also didn’t prepare for interviews that are industry specific so I didnt know how to answer questions. With each failed interview or rejection email (and one rejection letter) I learned to better develop the things I needed to land a job in Corp America. In my experience I applied for 100 jobs, heard back from 10, landed 2 second interviews and only got one offer. I call that the “rule of 100”. You also have to realize just because a job is posted does NOT mean you’ll get the job even if you are the best canadate. Connections are everything. If I have to take a chance on a kid I don’t know versus a friend or someone Im connected to and I know I can be around 40+ hours a week I’m going with who I know.  Sometimes interviews are a formality to set someone up with a job. But as I’ve stated earlier as long as you are persistent and strengthen your weaknesses an opportunity will come along. Hell you can even try to make your own opportunities through the power of social media. 

2. You have to find a purpose/something to live for. 

Being passionate about something outside of your degree or work is extremely important. Your passion or hobby will be the thing that keeps you sane even if you aren’t getting paid to do it. Having a hobby is a great way to meet new people, it takes your mind off the stress you’ll get at work and it will keep you from isolating yourself from the rest of the world. You can have multiple passions but I’d recommend having one you constantly chase for life. The thing that keeps me up at night is not having the ability to offer the black community with opportunities to empower themselves. That goal just comes from life experiences and wanting to make a change from those experiences. Along with the constant goal im chasing I like to dance, write music/poems and Work on DIY projects. These things keep me sane. If you don’t know what your passionate about that’s ok. I’d recommend getting exposed to things you may be interested in or thinking about what you do all the time. Hell playing video games can be a passion. There’s communities for it and everything. Find what drives you! 


3. There are no wrong choices in the path you chose to take. Whatever it is you do you have to make it work for YOU. 

Back in school I used to FREAK OUT about the future, what my next move would be and if I made the right choices. I’ve come to learn that there are no wrong choices and that you can’t dread on the choice you didn’t make. Whatever choice you make run with it and after a time you set for yourself if your plan isn’t working pivot or move to another idea completely. As you start working or even if you take a “leap of faith” you begin to learn what you like, what you don’t like and can change career paths if you find out you’re interested in something else. Don’t feel restricted by your degree to only do what you studied in school. 

4. Even after school is over you have to be open to continuous learning and networking with people within your industry. 

Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you learned everything you need to know. Id actually say you don’t really know much until you start working and learn your company’s system. You also learn what works in text doesn’t necessarily work in reality. Once you get settled in your job/industry it’s important to read articles or listen to media related to your industry/skills. This way you can stay up on the trends, try to forecast future trends or get “new ideas” to help make your company better. Along with reading and watching media I’d recommend going to trade shows in your industry. It’s a great way to network with people and be up to date on what’s going on in your field. I’ve been to a couple of trade shows and networking events and from my experience as someone new to the game I learned a lot from my peers that have been in the industry for YEARS. Lots of them have been in the industry for the amount of years I’ve been born 😳. Getting to know these people and building a relationship with them is, in my opinion, one of the best things you can do at these events. 

Whats a packaging engineering degree? HA! I know right. Thats always my response unless you want to have a seat and discuss it.

5. The world doesn’t care if you’ve received the degree they care about what you can bring to the table. 

The knowledge you picked up in school and the skills you will learn as you work are great tools. But if you don’t know how to use said tools to help a company prosper it doesn’t matter. In the real world “The Bottom Line” (which is different per job) is all that matters. If you aren’t a creater/designer, if you can generate a company money or if you can’t save a company money you will be seen as dead weight and you will get dropped. If you are new to the work world you have chances to make mistakes. But learn from them and always strive to get better before you become the dead weight that will get dropped. Don’t be friengthed by this, see it as a challenge you can rise to. Also if you don’t know the answers/have the information needed, obtain it as soon as possible. Never be afraid to ask for help from others and once again don’t be dead weight. 

6. Completely unrelated to the article but this is bonus advice I feel is important. DONT F**K UP YOUR CREDIT! 

Not going to really elaborate on this one but trust me. You should protect that score with your life. Granted if you do mess up its better to take those financial hits now rather than later. 

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you have any plans after graduation? Also if you are currently working now do you have anything to add to this article or do you completely disagree? Let me know. Peace. 

That 5.5 year plan paid off haha!

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