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Like most soon-to-be graduates, as your diploma gets closer to reach, many people have probably started to remind you that you’re also approaching “real life” and the real workforce. And like most soon-to-be graduates (and let’s be real, plenty of post-grads and 20-somethings, too), this can be sweaty palm inducing and discouraging. You don’t need to be reminded of the future like it’s something to fear. Related: Top 7 Survival Tips For New Grads In The Workplace What these well-intentioned people regrettably fail to inform you is that your first steps into the real world, and the opportunities they bring, can be awesome. Awesome, as in, equal parts excitement and nerves. It’s a fun, adaptive, exhilarating time in your life. This is the ideal time to start gaining experience in all things life and career. While I would encourage anyone - of any age - to always seek new experiences, challenge yourself, and continue to learn, there are a few other things I’ve discovered that you can never start doing too early.

5 P’s To Make Your Post-Grad Years Awesome

So without further ado, here are the five P’s of making your post-grad years awesome:

1. People

You meet all kinds of people in college and start to realize “who you are.” By the time you graduate, make it a priority to connect with people who support you, guide you, laugh with you, and mentor you. It’s important to realize we are never too old to have role models, and recognize that by finding these people, you will learn how to return the favor at some point, too.

2. Progress

The idea of progress moves beyond just ongoing learning. This is about developing new skills and finding ways to apply them. Whether it’s by creating a project all on your own, by volunteering, or just through good ol’ fashioned practice of those new skills, explore ways to exercise your talents. Find ways to show how you’ve progressed over time and people will respect your willingness to grow personally and professionally.

3. Patience

Patience is a virtue. There’s a reason that’s a saying. Patience can be hard to come by, even harder not to lose, and more valuable than you expect. That’s not a saying (probably because it’s a mouthful) but it should be. I’d like to preface what I’m about to say by reminding you that I’m saying it out of love: There is a strong chance you will not land your “dream job” right out of college. BUT (and that’s a big but), this does not mean you won’t land an exciting, fulfilling, makes-you-grow, fun job. In this sense, I’m not suggesting that patience means sitting around and waiting for your dream job. It means having patience enough to work hard and earn your way to the dream job, while being open to the idea that your dream job can, and will, evolve and change with you. For this reason, it also means having the patience to figure out the many ways your hard-earned skills can be utilized. Just because it’s not the job you pictured having right out of school does not mean you won’t relish the experience.

4. Presence

Your presence is what creates first impressions, is how people connect with you, and often defines how people remember you. Unless you hibernated through your whole college experience, you’re aware of the many ways your presence is seen online. From social media to email to LinkedIn, people can learn a lot about you just with a simple Google search. What they find is up to you, so be aware of the brand you’re creating for yourself. But, since I know that you already know this (right?), I won’t dive too deeply into it. Instead, I want to remind you to focus on your real, in-person presence. Be IN the moment when you are with people. Give them the courtesy of your time, your attention, and your effort- without distractions! Whether you are interviewing, collaborating on a project, or just meeting someone for coffee, don’t forget that you have something unique to bring to the table, and so do they. Let your presence, and your actions, show that you are confident, competent, and compassionate. Besides, you never know the impact you could be having on someone (or, they on you)... See #1.

5. Passion

You’ve heard the term passion. Maybe you’ve seen it used interchangeably with “purpose.” Or “mission.” No matter how you name it, the idea is this: find something you care so much for, that it thrills you and makes you want to learn everything you can about it. Not every part of our career is going to involve our passions. Frankly, it’s even foolish to think that every “passion” we have can be turned into a career. However, by identifying the things you are passionate about, you can find similarities or themes and apply them to your work. Whether it’s helping people, doing physical work, traveling, writing, working alone, or otherwise, there is a way to incorporate what you love into your work. So, challenge yourself everyday to work diligently and passionately about something, and use this time to find the types of work that motivate you. Above all else, use the time after graduation to gain as much experience as you can. You don’t have to know your place in the world the moment you graduate. Instead, spend time creating your place in the world and helping it grow!

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