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Advice to New Graduates: Trust Yourself

College graduate – Class of 2032

Posted in ChicagoNow, May 19, 2014

The best advice I received when I graduated college was no advice. That was back in 1967. In those days, once you graduated from college, your parents’ job was finished. There would be no more advice from them, and certainly none worth following from an inspirational speaker.

Prior to that, the little advice I received ranged from great to silly:

  • Upon graduating high school, the best advice I received was to go away to college rather than commute to a local school. That experience was such an eye-opener for me that I pass it along. If you can afford it, living on your own before launching yourself into the world is a good idea.

  • In college, I was told to get a teaching certificate “to fall back on.” Well, I did teach for a bit and that was my first post-college job, so not a horrible idea. On the other hand, I really wanted to write and be a journalist, but was advised to choose something more practical. I had to stifle that desire until 8 months ago, but I got to it eventually. More about that later…

  • Some pretty bad advice, and the only post-college advice I received, came from my grandmother and great aunt. My grandmother told me not to leave home as an unmarried woman to move to Chicago with my fiancé. My great aunt advised against marrying him and putting him through medical school. She had read stories in the Jewish Forward “Advice to the Lovelorn” column of women who were dumped after doing this. I guess a 45-year marriage makes me glad I ignored both bits of advice.

My point here is that advice is just someone else’s opinion. Maybe I was lucky that I didn’t receive too much of it when I graduated. As much as I felt nervous about the future, it forced me to become my own advisor and follow my instincts.

When my own children were graduating high school and college, I told them to do the same. There are no guarantees in life that the field you study will be the one that affords the best employment opportunities. So, you may as well study the things that interest you. Follow your passion and opportunities will be there.

A final bit of non-advice – There are many acts in life. Hitting a dead-end or choosing a path that doesn’t thrill you is okay. Don’t think of each step as a life sentence. There will be many forks in the road of your life.

Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” My life experience has taught me that this is so true. As a late blooming blogger who finally returned to her teenaged dream of writing at age 68, I can assure you there are many wonderful doors ahead of you. The trick is to open them and move forward.

When I became my own advisor, I looked to people I admired for inspiration. One of them was Fred Rogers, the wise and gentle guide through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a show I watched with my kids. In fact, I guess his writing would qualify as pretty good advice after all.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

I guess in the end, this is a bit of advice I’m giving to graduates: Look for the next door and then open it.


by Laurie Levy
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