Some Career Success Advice for 2012 Grads

Craig Wilson is a columnist for USA Today.  Last week his column was called “Advice to Graduates: Get Away While You Can.”  He tells his story.  After he graduated from college, he took a job with a small newspaper – and then abruptly resigned in a couple of months.  He then spent a year traveling the world.  He says this was the best thing he has ever done.  He ended the column with by saying “Now get out of here!  Scram! Vamoose!”

I had a similar experience.  When I graduated from college in 1972 I became a VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) Volunteer.  It was kind of like being in the Peace Corps, only I worked for a community organization in North Philadelphia.  This was a great experience for me, and it helped me find the right career for me – helping others succeed.

Before I spent a year of service, I had an internship at a TV station (I was a broadcast journalism major.)  As luck would have it, I had an opportunity to stay with that station as reporter.  However, I had committed to VISTA, and so I turned down that job.  Good thing I did.  I was not cut out for TV news.  I was meant to do something different.

My parents were pretty upset with me.  They said things like, “We spent all that money to send you to college, and you’re working for free!”  Craig Wilson’s parents took the same tone with him when he left his newspaper job to travel.

There is some career advice in all of this.  Tweet 7 in my career success book Success Tweets says, “Figure out what you really want to do .  Work you love will make it easier to create the life and career success you want and deserve.  Tweet 8 says, “Don’t focus just on making money.  If you do, you’ll be asking too little of yourself.  Focus on how you can be useful in this world.”

I loved the 1972 movie, Cabaret (I can’t believe it was that long ago).  If you haven’t seen Cabaret, rent the DVD.  It’s a funny and sad movie at the same time.  I bring up Cabaret here because one of the dance routines in it popped into my mind when I typed Tweet 8 just now.  It features Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli and is called “Money Makes the World Go ‘Round.”

Yes, money does make the world go ‘round.  We all need money.  It is difficult to live with little or no money.  But I suggest that choosing a career solely on the basis of the money you can make is not a good idea.  John D. Rockefeller, once the richest man in the USA, said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you’ll never achieve it.”

This is great common sense career success advice.  Your goals in life should be more than just making money.  Your goals should spring from your purpose in life, your passion.  This isn’t to say that you should choose a career in which you can make little or no money.  Choose your life’s work based on what you love to do, and you’ll find a way to make money.  The old saying, “Do what you love, and the money will follow,” is true.  Taking a little time after you graduate can help you figure out your passion.

Michelle Schubnel makes an interesting point.  She says you are rich if you are…

R Rewarded

I Inspired

C Confident

H Happy

I think this is a great way to think about making money and being useful in this world.  You are rich when you are: rewarded for your contributions; inspired by what you do; confident as a professional; and happy with the way you spend your time.  Let’s talk about each of these.

Rewarded – We all deserve to be appropriately compensated for the work we do and the value we bring to others.  This means that you shouldn’t feel bad about making money, only that making money shouldn’t be your sole goal in life.  Some might say that the current financial crisis is the result of some people who valued making money at the expense of others.  Do your job, get good at it and the money will follow.

Inspired – You can find inspiration in the work you do every day.  If you’re a realtor like my niece, Morgan, you can be inspired when you help a person or a couple find the home of their dreams.  If you’re a pharmaceutical sales rep, you can be inspired by the fact that you’re helping doctors understand how the medicines your company makes can save lives.  My dad was a steel worker for 37 years.  He found inspiration in the buildings and bridges he helped build.  I find inspiration every time someone leaves a comment on this blog or tells me that one of my tweets made a difference in their life.

Confident – Doing something you love, doing it well and being useful in this world will build your confidence.  Your confidence grows as your skill level grows and you begin to make bigger contributions at work and in the world.  A world of confident people would be a wonderful place to live.  Confident people see the world from a win-win perspective.

Happy – When are you happiest?  I’m willing to bet it’s when you accomplish something – or help someone else accomplish something – not when you get your pay check.  When you do something you love every day you can’t help but be happy.  I am happiest when I finish a book.  Writing a book takes a lot of time and effort.  And, I’m a perfectionist.  I want to make sure my books are the best I can make them, so I put in a lot of time and effort making sure they’re just right.  And, you know what?  I’m really happy when I first hold a copy of one of my books in my hand.  At that moment, I know the work was worth it.  I’m happy when I help others succeed too.  I love the moments when I can see the light go on in one of my career success coach client’s eyes.  I love it when I help other people get it.

We’re coming up on Mother’s Day.  My mom passed away a few years ago.  She was one for schmaltzy cards.  I’m not.  But several years ago, she sent me a card on my birthday.  I cut out the message and taped it to my printer.  I look at it several times a day…

“That man is a success who is happy with himself and gives happiness to others; who makes the world a better place simply by being a part of it.”

My mother believed this about me.  I do my best to live up to it every day.

Let’s get back to Craig Wilson’s advice to new grads.  He took a year off to travel and returned committed to his work in journalism.  I spent a year doing service and ended up moving in a completely new career direction – one that has helped me lead a R.I.C.H. life.  A year seems like a long time when you are 22 or 23.  Actually, it is a long time — almost 5% of your life.  However, now that I’m 62, one year seems like a very small part of my life – and it is, 1.6% if my math is right.  So take some time for yourself – travel, spend a year doing service.  Use this time to get really clear on what you want out of life.  Then go for it.

I know that you might be saying, “But I have student loans.”  If you do service, oftentimes you can defer payment on those loans for the time you are helping others.  And, you can stretch out the payment time on your loans.  I spent a lot of time in school – I have a Masters and Doctorate.  I finally paid off my student loans when I was 45.  I might have paid them off one year sooner had I not done my year of service, but so what?

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people have a mighty purpose.  They really like what they do.  They see money as the byproduct of their work – not as their sole reason for working.  Successful people know that being rich doesn’t mean you have tons and tons of money.  They know that being rich means that you are: Rewarded for your contributions; Inspired by what you do; Confident in your skills, and Happy with the way you spend your days.  So if you’re a young grad, chill.  Take some time for yourself, do something personally meaningful – and then jump into your career with both feet.

That’s my career advice on taking time for yourself prior to beginning your career.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for taking the time to read my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb?  It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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