If you are a recent college graduate or are going through college, you are at the doorstep of what I hope is a long and fruitful career. What follows is my take on what a person should do at this step of their life journey.
As I write this blog, I am going to make an assumption that the college graduate in question is pursuing their area of interest. There is no point in doing something that you are going to not like. And per chance if you are in a field that you do not like, work hard to get out. If you cannot get out, then work equally hard on liking something from the field; create your own favorite sub-category.
I have written in my earlier post about managing one’s supply chain career is that I believe in being a generalist. For me, that process begins with a notion of mathematical understanding. I am not talking about advance math here: I am talking about maturity with basic math facts and a quick grasp of numbers. Of course, if one has studied in a science or engineering field, this is a simple thing. But even for graduates of other fields of study, aiming and achieving a basic level of mathematical understanding is a must. I define this a mastery of your basic math facts, a feel for percentages, and an ability to crunch and understand numbers using tools such as spreadsheet. This level of math is so basic, a college level graduate should just know this.
Understand Business Concepts
My second advice for recent college graduates is to understand business concepts. How does a business make money for its stakeholders? What is the flow of money, information, goods and services? How does a business keep its customer, happy and loyal? Even if one has no intent of starting their own business, having a keen grasp of these business concepts will get them in a much better position for career success.
Find a Mentor
My next advice for recent college graduates is to find a mentor. A mentor is someone who will help guide you through the work journey in at least the early stages. Ideally, this person can give you a reasonable amount of time to help answer your questions and remove your doubts. Ideally, the mentor does not impose their ideas; instead they help you make up your own mind. Everyone needs a mentor.
Perfection vs Professional
My next advice for recent college graduates is to learn the difference between perfection and professional. Unless you are in a very specialized field, you will always be balancing deliverables with time. As you progress in your career, you will find out that the demands on your time only go up. It is very important to find the difference between delivering perfect results versus delivering a little more than what is necessary. I am all for the wow factor; we should always make the customer happy and deliver a little extra. That however, should not be confused with perfection.
Focus on ‘Old School’ Values
My next advice for recent college graduates is to focus on ‘old school’ values: hard work; having fun; and helping others first. As in personal life, one would stay late to learn the game of choice or to watch a movie. In the same way, you should work hard to learn about your job. As the old saying goes, most of us do not run long enough to learn about the second wind. Make sure you strive enough that you learn that if you persevere, you can go through mental walls.
Remember to Have Fun
Following your path in life isn’t always easy, but walking that path shouldn’t be a chore either. And you should never feel like you need to walk that path alone. Hard work and knowing when to buckle down is important, but always try to avoid drowning in your studies and neglecting your mental and physical health. Always find time to have fun so you never get tired of learning about what you love. While goals are important, don’t forget to enjoy the journey itself.
That is my advice for recent college graduates. Wishing you much success.
Please also read Bram Desmet’s blog Advice to Student: The Next CEO Will Be From Supply Chain for more.