As you don your cap and gown and walk across that graduation stage, you are taking the first steps in the next phase of your life’s journey. Wait—did I say first steps? Next phase?
Did you think that on graduation day your work was over? Hopefully, not, but you might be tempted to feel that way. After all, you have been climbing a steep hill to get to this day, and not everyone makes it. Out of every 100 high school students, only 88 make it to high school graduation. After that, only about 1/3 of adults ever obtain a college degree. If you are like me and the rest of the LifePlan Labs team, your path from high school to college graduation was filled with challenges and difficult work. You have endured the late nights of reading and studying, the cranky professors, the times when you chose class work over hanging out with friends. And now that’s over. But, as I said, the next phase is just beginning for you.
When you designed your path forward, college graduation is only one goal. What about career goals? While earning the degree might have been a necessary step on your career path, it is only one step. As you enter your first job in your chosen field, you still have mountains to climb and much growing to do. Graduation is a pinnacle, yes, but it is a time to pause, take stock of where you are, and then continue the climb toward your vision of success. Step one is recognizing that earning your degree was just the one of the first steps toward success. The next steps involve realizing how you can ensure success at the next level through careful reflection and planning.
One way to ensure success as you enter your chosen career and life after college is to have a growth mindset. You are not finished growing and learning; you have only just begun. It would be a mistake to go into your first career thinking that your degree, and all of the coursework you took to earn it, is all of the learning you will ever need. It is also a mistake to believe that you are as smart or as talented now as you will ever be, regardless of how hard you work in your new career. Successful people never stop learning, and they don’t believe that their intelligence, talents, and abilities are ever fully developed. Dr. Carol Dweck’s research into a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset” points out that having a growth mindset leads to higher levels of achievement. Those with a fixed mindset fear new challenges or making mistakes. But, when you have a growth mindset, you accept new challenges as an opportunity to grow, and you are willing to put forth effort to meet the challenge. Even after graduation day, you must continue to learn and grow, recognizing that there will always be more to learn from those around you and each new experience.
Another way to ensure your success as you move past graduation day and into your new career is to recognize that holding that degree does not guarantee your success. It may open the door to new opportunities, but it is up to you to walk through that door and continue on the path to success. Your continued success will be a product of your willingness to continue to engage in the LifePlan strategies you have learned. Planning for next steps, reflecting on how you get there, and putting in the time and effort it takes to achieve your dreams.
In his five year study of highly successful people, Tom Corley found several traits that they have in common. Some common themes come out in the traits that successful people share, and they have to do with continuing to learn and setting goals. Highly successful people read to improve themselves, exercise, pursue goals, get enough sleep, build positive relationships and networks, develop multiple sources of income, and don’t waste time. Obviously these are people with a growth mindset, and a goal-oriented outlook. Their degrees didn’t make them successful. In fact, some of them, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, don’t even have a degree.
So, congratulations on your degree! We at LifePlan Labs know that you have worked hard for it, but we want you to know that the work is not over. Go out into the world with a growth mindset, knowing that every new person you meet and challenge you face is an opportunity to continue learning and moving along your life’s path. Continue to be goal-oriented, focusing your time and energy on reaching the next vision that you have for your success. Do these things, and you will never stop moving forward in life.
Green, S. (n.d.) The right mindset for success. The Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/01/the-right-mindset-for-success
Ryan, C.L. & Bauman, K. (March 2016). Educational attainment in the united states: 2015. United States Census Bureau. United State Department of Commerce. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p20-578.pdf
Ward, M. (November 2016). Seven habits of highly successful people from a man who spent five years studying them. CNBC. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/29/7-habits-of-highly-successful-people-from-a-man-who-spent-5-years-studying-them.html