You are leaving the safety and structure of college to enter the world of work. From this day forward, nothing will seem familiar to you. There are no classes, exams, grades, or a degree at the end of the next four years. You don't get the summer off. This next phase is unstructured, and your success will be determined by the choices you make.
So, as you move into what must seem like an uncertain future, let me share with you the 10 things I wish I knew when I graduated college:
1. Have a plan—and change it often. You have all been taught to "have a plan." Go to this high school, take those classes, achieve those grades, go to that college, take that major. When you graduate, get that job, make that salary, get promoted and work your way up the ladder.
While having a plan is good for providing structure and focus, life never follows a plan. There are always twists and turns — and a plan never accounts for how you evolve and change as you move through your life.
So, have a plan and use it as a rough road map. Understand that any plan is a reflection of what you think your plan is at a particular moment in time — and be prepared to change it radically and often.
2. Be the most authentic version of yourself — all the time. If you want to be an actor, go to Hollywood. Everyone else: be who you really are.
You will bring different parts of yourself to work than you do at home or with your family or friends, but you should be your real self all the time. Don't adopt personas. Don't read a book about Steve Jobs and decide you want to be like Steve Jobs. There is only one Steve Jobs, and there is only one you. Figure out what is important to you and who you want to be in the world, and live that as honestly as you can. Choose industries, jobs, colleagues, friends and life partners based on who you really are. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to be an actor. It won't work.
3. Your first job should be about experience. The best first jobs are not always the highest paid jobs or at top companies or in the best places to live. Your first job should provide the opportunity to work with great people you can learn from, where you receive on-the-job training on a set of core skills, where there is the opportunity for you to develop and grow for at least three years (yes, think in terms of three years), and where success means improving your personal brand. My first job out of law school had none of these attributes. I took a job based on salary, worked really hard but learned very little, and wasted 8 months.