Ten Life Lessons I Learned After College Graduation

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I started working right after my College graduation in 2003. So many things have happened since then. I used to have a Nokia 3210 phone. (Ugh, remember those simple yet sturdy phones that just won’t die no matter how many times you drop ’em?)

Ten years. Wow. I feel old. But a little wiser, at least. Here are ten life lessons I learned after College graduation. Let these lessons guide you as you start or go on with your career and life.

career-mistakesGrades do matter. But not by much.

I should know, because my grades in College were colorful. By colorful, I mean to say that I have had all sorts of grades—1, 1.5, 3, INC, and even the failing 5! I had to take Math 17 (Trigonometry and Algebra) twice. I also had to take Introduction to Calculus twice! But I didn’t let that deter me from getting a good job from Citibank and IBM Business Services, two of the top multinationals in the Philippines.

Education doesn’t stop after graduation.

A lot of young people feel that graduation is the end of education. WRONG! It is but a start. That’s why graduation is called “Commencement Exercises.” You commence a new kind of learning in the University of Life. What I love about graduating from the University of the Philippines though, is the training I received in terms of researching, confidence in my analytical abilities, and of course, the ability to establish networks and contacts.

In this age of the Internet, and Digital Connectivity, you will need to learn additional skills when you start working. Thankfully, I love reading and learning; which gives me the confidence that I can learn anything given time and the right materials.

The richest people don’t even have a college degree.

Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Richard Branson. John Gokongwei Jr. What do they have in common?

All of them do not have college degrees! That’s right, the richest people in the planet do not have college degrees. Had I known, I might not have gone through college. Heheh. Just kidding. But really, when you go out to the real world, your skills, your ability to pursue a project and put your FULL effort into it is more important than any degree you might have earned!

Your college degree is useless. A lot of times, that is.

My college degree is Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Right now, I could tell you that it is useless. Why? Because I’m not using the concepts I learned back in college. I’m not writing term papers, or quoting from the Hobbes, Marx, Weber, or Machiavelli. What I’m doing instead is organizing trainings, creating websites, writing, and speaking.

It’s not totally useless really, at least I get to form my opinions a little bit better when I watch the news about our beloved congressmen and Senators (rolls eyes and face palms!).

You might be a nurse now. Or a medical technologist. Or even a Business Administration graduate. Your college degree is pretty useless. You still need to learn new concepts, new skills if you are working in a different industry now.

There’s so much I need to learn.

If you visit my house, you will see a lot of books displayed in my shelves. My hard drive is full of video tutorials I need to learn. My mp3 player is also full of podcast and audio books waiting to be played. The point is, there’s so much I need to learn! And I don’t want to stop learning. Whenever I’m sitting in the toilet, I read. Whenever I’m travelling on a plane or on a long bus ride, I read or listen to a podcast. Whenever I don’t have deadlines, I watch tutorial videos. And still, the list of things I want to learn grows daily!

The key here, of course, is to focus on topics that are related to my profession and my pursuits. So, since I’m in youth work, I need to learn about public speaking, organizing events, youth leadership, youth issues and even the creation and management of websites. Since I am also a blogger, I need to learn about Search Engine Optimization, blogging, Internet Marketing, and improve my writing for the web.

Friends can help you survive life.

It’s easy to move from one place to another, one job to another, and forget about your friends. Just like any relationship, friendships also need time and effort for it to work. In the midst of busyness, it’s easy to drift away from friends.

But one thing I realized is that keeping a set of close friends would really help you ease the struggles you face, help you go through difficult times, and they will be there to support you—emotionally, spiritually, and even financially! For a time, I struggled with my finances and I had to rely on the help of friends—especially Butch and Ian. But when I became stable and they needed help, I was also able to extend such help at times.

The best way to find a job is through referrals from friends.

I got both of my jobs in Metro Manila through the referrals of friends. I applied at Citibank through Ian’s referral to a trainer in the company. I got in at IBM Business Services through my friend Alpha. If you want a good-paying job, ask your friends to refer you. Make sure, however, that you become an excellent employee because the name and reputation of your friend will be at stake. You don’t want to refer a defective product to a friend, would you?

Job security is a myth.

We live in a highly inter-connected world. With the recent market crash and recession in the United States, we saw a lot of jobs lost, and a lot of workers laid off. Don’t count on your job to be there forever. In fact, in our generation, it is normal for a person to have worked for ten companies within ten years! It can be crazy I know. But that’s just the fact!

Freelancing works!

With the popularity of the internet and so many Web platforms now, freelancing works. There are now so many freelancers and home-based workers in the Philippines and all over the world. And yes, it could work! You can now become a writer, a blogger, a virtual assistant and even a customer service agent online.

When I left IBM to become a full time youth volunteer, I had to support myself financially by writing for various websites and by taking on additional work from websites such as guru.com and freelancer.com and you know what, I still do. Though not as much as I used to. It does work and you can earn anywhere at least $500 per month if you know where to look for good projects.

Your idealism WILL come under serious challenge when the bills start piling up.

That’s so true. Ask any idealist who graduated from College and they would tell you that they’ve made various difficult decisions and compromises just to pay the bills. I, myself, wanted nothing but to go back to our province in Isabela and pursue a career in government or rural development. But somehow, it didn’t work. I had to help out with the family finances, and after 8 months of joblessness, I knew I had to do something. So, I had to revise my plans, go to Manila and pursue a different avenue for my idealism.

To be continued with 10 more life lessons…

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