Leaving college and entering the workforce is both exciting and terrifying to say the least. The workforce is dramatically different from what it was 10, 20 and 30 years ago when our parents and professors were navigating through it. Fueled by technology, progression, and a strong virtual work space, the working world is flexible and ever changing.

As a fairly recent college graduate, there are a few lessons I have learned along the way that have truly helped me thrive in my professional career and garner the experience needed to keep moving forward and achieving my goals. If you’re college bound, halfway through, or about to graduate, these tips are definitely for you.

1. Have a plan.

Live out college and enjoy it, but don’t forget that you’re planning your grand entrance into the real world in a matter of four years or less. Create your master plan and allow it to change and flex with what you learn and how you change as a person throughout your college years. I entered my university as a marine biology major and left as a sociology major ready to start my own marketing business. Change is good but you cannot change for the better if you don’t have a starting point. Go to your professors and your parents for help and revisit your plan each year. You’ll be happy you did and proud of how your career goals develop.

2. Be flexible. Be innovative.

The working world, whether you are looking for employment or looking to be a business owner/entrepreneur seeks creativity and the ability to adapt as the business changes. There is no cookie cutter position anymore and in order to be successful, you must be able to use all of your skills and abilities. Companies are looking for employees ready to tackle anything that comes their way. These are your super prime years and you should be ready to dive in head first. Keep this in mind as you apply, interview and visit each actual place of employment.

3. Nothing is permanent.

We have an infinite amount of resources at our fingertips. We can job search, apply, email, connect, refer and more with the click of a mouse. The biggest mistake I see in some of my own circle of friends is the lack of actual effort before deciding they don’t like a role or company. You can try jobs in so many different areas, allowing yourself to experience what you’re truly passionate about and what doesn’t move your soul. You can job search while you have a job. You can open a business while you go to your full-time. Remember the sky is the limit and you don’t have to let social norms tarnish your impression of how things ‘should’ be.

4. Prepare for failure.

It’s inevitable. It will happen your first year out of college, your second year out, in 10 years, in 30 and so forth. It’s something good to learn as young as possible and even though you’ve made it, or will make it, out of college successfully, the world is still testing you. Accept it and take it at as a learning experience. You may get fired. You may not get that promotion. You may lose money and your business may fail. Know that with every loss a new door opens and a new opportunity arises. Don’t let it get you down.

5. Educate yourself financially.

Unfortunately, our public school systems (and even most of our private institutions) do not teach this ridiculously important concept, something I will never be able to understand. Lucky for you, you are bright and ready to learn what you need to in order to conquer your career and more. Learn how to budget your money. Create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses and income, pay down your debt and live at home for a while in order to save some money. Don’t go buy a brand new car (even if you need one, be smart about it). Don’t act like you are financially free until you are financially free. That could be in a year, or it could take a lifetime. It amazes me how many people my age live above their means and have no idea what the value of a dollar truly is.

6. Stay happy.

This is most important. Things will get tough. I can promise you right now, you will get stressed out and you will have to make sacrifices. Keep the end goal in mind and don’t lost sight of what you are trying to accomplish. If you are truly unhappy, let it go. Warp your path and find something that brings you laughter, satisfaction and a peace of mind before you sleep. Life is so very short so make the most of your time.

Everyone’s path is different. Our journey leading up to the work world even comes in huge varieties. Some of us stay local and go to community college while some of us go away. Some of us work throughout our education and others are fortunate enough to not have to find employment during the years of further education. Whatever your journey looks like, embrace it. Let it change but stay in control. Communicate your ambitions and your hopes with those you love and grow close to those around you who will help you get there. Good luck, you’re amazing.

You can also read this article on The Huffington Post

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