The 10 Harshest Truths Every Graduate Needs To Remember

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10. You’re not a student anymore

So you’re familiar with the cliché that your school days are the best days of your life – but remember that from the moment you get your scroll handed to you on graduation day, or maybe as soon as you dot the final “i” on your very last end of year examination paper – those days are gone, and they’re never coming back. But while that means your thesis woes are finally over…

9. You’ve got bigger things to worry about – but don’t let them get you down

Unemployment is now considered one of the leading causes of depression, anxiety, suicide and a range of related mental illnesses in America. When you were a student, you were guarded from the bad thoughts austerity can cause. Oh sure, you had a part-time job and your parents and professors constantly told you to think about what you planned to do when you left school. But nothing can prepare you for that sudden instability that rocks you that first Monday morning when you’re not due on campus for a 9am lecture. If you don’t have a job to fill the gap, remember that it’s not your fault. But also remember it’s entirely up to you to change that.

8. That degree you worked so hard for is barely worth a toe in the door

Some time ago, a good degree might have equated to at least an interview with the company you’d like to work for. Now it’ll barely manage to get you that. Because as much as we’d all like to believe our resumes are far superior to those of hundreds of other applications for every single job we apply to, remember that most employers’ first impression of you isn’t really that different to their impression of just about everyone else.

7. You’re only as employable as what else you have to offer

I know, I know: we’re graduates. How are we supposed to have years and years of experience, or something unique that no other graduate has? You’d be right, but while everyone has a degree, remember that not everyone can effectively sell the skills they’ve learned to an employer. For example: do you want to work as a broadcast journalist? Set up a camera and record a news report, or put together a voice recording of a news bulletin. Fancy yourself a computer programmer? Turn your resume into the coolest, most technically-impressive website you can put together. You won’t please every employer, but at the very least you’ll give them a better chance of remembering you 20, 30 or 40 application letters down the line.

6. For the most part, extra-curricular activities mean squat

So you were chairman of the tennis club or auditor of the feminist society at university – so what? In the working world nobody cares if you came first in that campus-wide baking contest, or about that “hilarious” video you recorded that went viral. Unless you got a scholarship out of it or are already doing it professionally, remember that it’s a nice addition to your list of achievements but very little besides.

5. You’re not special

If you’re lucky enough to land a job even vaguely related to the field you want to get into, don’t for a second expect to be treated the same way as you did in the college – or be allowed to get away with the same things, for that matter. Most people in your place of work, unless they’re your boss, are too busy doing their own job to care about yours. Not only that, but they’re probably way above you on the pecking order. Remember: if anyone’s going to get praise it’ll be them, not you.

4. You’ve got to prove yourself all over again

In order to get into university, you had to prove your ability by doing well in your high school exams. But once you graduate, you essentially revert to a blank slate. In the professional world, people assume you hold a degree to the point that they’ll never ask you about it outside of a job interview. Remember that all they’re interested in is what you can do for them, and how well you can do it.

3. Success isn’t an A or a B

Is there any better justification for a sleepless night of cramming than a good exam result. That letter grade or number out of 100 stamping or scrawled on the front of your paper is an immediate judgment of success of failure. It’s a scale that applies to every single exam you do, and even to the overall result for your degree. In the workplace, success and failure are nowhere near as concrete – at least outside the realms of promotions and redundancies, and even then those aren’t always handed down for the reasons you’d expect. Remember that if you’re going to succeed in any job, you’ll need to find other reasons for wanting to.

2. If it weren’t for your parents, you wouldn’t have made it this far

It doesn’t matter how many classes you went to, how many overnighters you pulled or how many honors you got in your degree – if it weren’t for your parents, you wouldn’t have made it this far. If you remember nothing else from this arbitrary list, please remember to thank them for getting you here. Better yet, take them out to dinner. Pay some of their bills. Unless of course you paid your own way through college, in which case you only need to remember…

1. It can’t get any harsher than this

Not convinced? Well, there is always grad school, in which case we recommend you remember coming back here in a couple years’ time to read this again. TC Mark

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    […] First published on October 22nd 2013 in the popular New York magazine Thought Catalog. […]

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