Message to College Grads: 12 Steps to Start Down the Path of Life

As graduation day grows near all around the country, us parents of new grads are sitting on the sidelines watching our kids grapple with trying to get on the highway of life in one of the worst economic times of our lives. Duane’s “type A” son, Perry, is a case in point.

A couple of years ago, Perry  who was a sophomore at UGA on a Hope scholarship  (free) transferred  to Cornell ( not free) so that he would be better positioned to get a job on Wall Street. Perry  graduated last year right before the house of cards came tumbling down. He has been working part-time jobs this year while rethinking his whole carefully planned out life., since as you can well imagine, he did not get a job on Wall Street in 2009 .

In the old days kids in finance got recruited during their senior years especially from Ivy League colleges. Perry had a lot of interviews but toward the spring of the year he graduated he was getting nervous that he had not gotten a job yet. I told him that in general most kids graduate without having a job which surprised him since he thought that was only true for “slackers”.

My daughter Amanda is graduating this week from Tulane with degrees in Latin American Studies and International Development. She is fluent in three languages and has lived in Spain and Brazil. She does not yet have a job yet and over the past few months has periodically called me in a panic about it. I have had to explain to her as well that most people don’t get jobs until after graduation.

Actually, Amanda did get a job offer. This past year she has had a part-time job/internship making good money calling on the Brazilian accounts of a conveyor belt company based in New Orleans. They did not have an opening in the department where she was working but they did offer her a $40 K job in customer service on the condition that she make a three-year commitment. Amanda’s current supervisor/mentor at this company told her that once someone gets trained in customer service the company never lets them go since the learning curve is so steep in learning all of the parts and widgets.

When Amanda called me about this job offer, I supported her in making her own decision but told her that she really hadn’t begun to look and she didn’t need to take the first thing that came along. She did not want to make a three year commitment at age 22 to anything especially something that she was not interested in and she didn’t want to stay in New Orleans. Then I would turn on the news and hear about people getting laid off left and right and feel a bit bad that I was supporting a decision to turn down a good job when other people wre losing theirs left and right.  I called her and said, “Now, Amanda, be sure you are making this decision for yourself because in this economy it may take a long while to find the job you really want”.

But Amanda told me not to worry because after she turned down the job offer, she felt relief and knew it was the right thing to do. Amanda has applied to a Master’s program at George Washington University in Foreign Service in Latin American studies as her fallback position if she doesn’t get a job this summer. So this is going to be quite interesting times to see where her path leads her.

This whole experience has been humbling for Perry and he now realizes that life experience is actually as important as school in the process of finding a career. He thought you could just point yourself in the direction you wanted to go and that was that. I told Duane early on that Perry was going to have to go to the school of hard knocks because life is never that straight forward.
Perry wrote Duane a note to tell him that he has just accepted a position with an insurance company who has a really good training program and will train him as an insurance adjuster. He already got his adjuster’s license. In the note, Perry wrote to say that he follows a blogger by the name of Mark Cuban who is a billionaire serial entrepreneur and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Perry really liked one of Cuban’s posts entitled ” How to get Rich”. In this post Cuban says,

The question everyone wants answered,  is how to get there. There are ways to get there. But there is not a template that works every time for everyone. It works sometimes. Getting there requires being ready when opportunity presents itself

Perry said that it has only been in the past year or so that he really started to grasp what Cuban was talking about. He also wrote that,

Several months ago I was telling Judi about this job or that job, and how I didn’t think “that would look good on a resume or help me get to the next job” and she stopped me. She explained that, in her view, there are two kinds of people: people with shiny resumes and then people who don’t care about that and just do what they want. It was really hard for me to accept that because my entire life my goal has been to build up those impressive stepping stones and do everything “just right.” Some people may be able to pull that off, but it’s starting to look like that’s just not me.

And it is not many people. I am proud of Perry for how he has handled his year of being bumped off the fast track. I think it was actually a blessing that this happened to him because finding your own path is so much more important than doing something because it seems like the thing to do or that looks good to other people. And the thing is that  following  your own, sometimes circuitous, path actually has a better chance of leading you to where you need to be.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Cuban’s article and find that what he says is what has worked in my life. I have had a wonderful life of work and have been wildly successful beyond my imagination by following some simple steps. I have basically lifted from, summarized and paraphrased the major points in Mark’s post into 12 important steps to wealth and happiness in your life career path.

  1. Know that you don’t need money to be happy but it doesn’t suck to be rich.
  2. There is not a template for the road to wealth that works every time for everyone.
  3. Times like we are facing now, with complete financial uncertainty are perfect times to start on the road to wealth.
  4. There are no shortcuts. NONE. The less money you have, the more likely someone will come at you with some scheme. Avoid all schemes.
  5. Save your money. Save as much money as you possibly can. The greatest rate of return you will earn is on your own personal spending. Save and then put it in 6 month CDs in the bank.
  6. The first step to getting rich is having cash available not for retirement but for the moment you need cash. Cash is king for those wanting to get rich.
  7. To get rich you have to get smart. Investing your time in yourself and becoming knowledgeable about the business of something you really love to do. Whatever your hobbies, interests, passions are, find the one you love the best and GET A JOB in the business that supports it. It doesn’t matter what it is.
  8. Instead of paying to go to school somewhere, get a job in the industry you love and get paid to learn. It may not be the perfect job, but there is no perfect path to getting rich.
  9. Become an expert on your business. Read everything, go to trade shows, talk to the people about their business.
  10. Getting rich is not a short term project. Do not follow a get rich quick scheme instead start on a get rich path.
  11. Times of uncertainty in an economy are good if you are prepared to take advantage of the situation. Booms are when smart people sell. Busts are when rich people started on their path to wealth.
  12. You will know when that time is here for you because everything you have done to that point in time will line up and point you in the right direction. You will be ready.

    2 thoughts on “Message to College Grads: 12 Steps to Start Down the Path of Life

    1. These are the long posts that I like! Very informative. Although I’m going to Georgetown and not George Washington. And I guess I’m not listening to “step #8.”

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