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The Five Most Important Things I’ve Learned since College

Today’s guest post is by Nicole Crimaldi, founder of a career and self-improvement blog for ambitious young professionals.

I loved college. It changed my life.

College had such a great impact on my life, that I created Ms. Career Girl, in part, to help young professionals transition to life after college. At the time of this post, I’ve been out of college for about four years. A lot has happened in my personal and professional life in four years: 3 jobs, a few failed relationships, several moves, financial ups and downs, and a hell of a lot of learning.

The five most important things I learned since graduating college

1. You don’t need to know every detail to succeed.

My first job out of college was selling sub-prime mortgages. I had to call prospects and try to sell them on improving their financial situation by re-structuring their debt. Before I picked up the phone, I always wanted to use my handy mortgage calculator to analyze the prospect’s current situation and provide several possible solutions. Take a wild guess what would happen after spending at least 10 minutes running numbers? I’d get the prospect’s voicemail.

My manager sat me down and told me that while he appreciated my attention to detail and love for my calculator, I didn’t need to know every detail to close a sale. He said that it’s easy to spew out all the details at once, overwhelm the customer, and lose the sale (or get hung up on!). Or even worse, you spend all that time worrying and preparing, only to have no one answer the phone.

Why live in the future before you’ve even experienced the present?

2. Stop living in the future.

In high school you’re trying to get to a great college. In college, you’re trying to get a great job. You graduate and realize you don’t really like that first job so you try to get promoted or get out. Then maybe you think grad school is the answer. Or moving in with your boyfriend. Or getting engaged. Or starting a business. What happens when you get there?

There will always be something else to chase.

As you get to these supposed “landmark moments,” you may experience disappointment or maybe even failure because you didn’t…

3. Stop setting unrealistic expectations.

New Years Eve is a simple example: You spend tons of money on a new outfit, buy a $150 ticket to a swanky party and talk about it with your friends for 2 weeks. You get there and realize that it’s just another night out, but 4 times as expensive.

Same applies for dating, jobs and people.

* You will not meet your dream guy/girl out every time you go out.
* Not every job is what you thought it would be during the interview.
* Every rose has thorns.
* People WILL disappoint you: co-workers will suck, family may not approve of everything you are doing.

Setting too high of expectations only leads you to feel disappointed at the end of the day. You probably set unrealistic expectations because you failed to accept that…

4. There are several ways to skin a cat.

When I first graduated college, I had it in my head that being successful at age 22 was working for a huge company in a skyscraper, living in a swanky apartment downtown Chicago, and making at least $X per year. Maybe it was my school, or the crowd I hung out with, but anything other than that just didn’t seem cool. Success looked only ONE way to me.

When I graduated, I did work for a huge company. In a suburban industrial park. At half the salary that I expected to make. While I lived w/ my parents….

If I would’ve been more open-minded, I would’ve been a lot more comfortable in my skin. I would’ve been able to focus on learning, growing, taking risks, finding myself, enjoying my co-workers, etc. I needed to learn to….

5. STOP all or nothing thinking.

I remember the summer after graduation where I sat down with my Mom in tears and told her I was frustrated because I wasn’t a blonde or a brunette. I wasn’t a republican or a democrat. I liked corporate America but I also liked the idea of starting my own business. I felt so torn that I wasn’t able to put my identity and values into one box.

I laugh now, because I think my ability to see both sides of things and embrace change will be more valuable.

“All or nothing thinking” includes thoughts like:

* You’re successful or you’re a failure.
* You’re skinny or you’re fat.
* It is only Black or white.
* If you don’t follow this path, you are wrong.
* If I quit my job because I hate it, I’m a failure.
* Drink too much or don’t drink at all.
* If you make a mistake, you’re out of my life.
* If they don’t do this, I’m quitting.
* I have to make $X per year, or I am not successful.

Your Turn

* How can you relate to these five lessons?
* What lessons have YOU learned since graduating college?
* What advice would you give to those who are about to graduate?

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