SURVEY SAYS: What Do You Wish You Had Known Before Graduation?

June 30, 2011 ( - I got SO many nice comments on my “things I wish I had known when I graduated” column earlier this week. 


I also got more than a few additional suggestions (see IMHO: Graduation “Exhortations” at   


So many, in fact, that I thought it might be interesting to open up that list to readers  – and give you a chance to share the things you wish YOU had known when you graduated” 


Before we get to those things, I also asked readers to share any thoughts they had on the subjects of “graduation, things you wish you had known at graduation, things you wish you had known sooner, and/or how/when you came to know them.”  Perhaps not surprisingly, most of those thoughts focused on jobs: 

Wish I had hard information from independent counselors, while still in school, on the academic majors or at least elective courses that lead quickly to real jobs and careers.  Departments did such a good job of pushing students to major in things that interested them (and help the history and sociology departments survive) resulting in liberal arts majors with high GPAs but no specific coursework we could point to as a reason an employer should take a select us.  I had to start in a non-exempt capacity to prove I could “learn” what I didn’t know covered in basic business courses, luckily it only took a few years to catch up. 

Wish I had known the importance of 1) a marketable career choice and 2) not waiting until after age 60 to realize you’re going to need to change employers before you get to Medicare (which will probably die the day before I get there).  If there is anything that I wish corporate America knew, it would be that the rank and file employees are important to the success of a company and that experience and knowledge are more valuable and cheaper in the long run than youth.  Younger workers today don’t come cheap and seldom hang around more than 5 years anyway because no one promotes from within.  So you can get 5 years of real help from a 60-year-old which adds more to the bottom line than a flighty 20-30 something that only wants time off and a paycheck. 

I regret not interviewing for jobs on campus when I was a senior in college.  The companies that come to campus for interviews are looking for new graduates to hire and train and do not expect them to have any relevant work experience.  When you try to get a job “out in the real world”, the companies all want relevant work experence.  So, I always tell college students, especially business students, to interview with every company they possibly can on campus. 

They say youth is wasted on the young...I think that's because you're not smart enough to realize all the things you wish you had known then until you're too old to implement them with sufficient gusto! 

Most people should NEVER marry until age 35..... OK.. at least males. 

I certainly don't envy these young grads now on the job hunt. With unemployment still so high, and the rules have changed so much in these days of Linked-in and other social media. Sheesh. Good luck to them! 

I knew the value of hard work, but I don't think kids today understand it.  I was happy to have a job in high school, but I see kids today who won't sully their hands with work. 

Graduation was 1971, Looking forward to attending my 40th HS reunion in September. I wish I had known back then to value each living day as I do now. 

Take the time to properly thank those who help you in your endeavors.  It's a small world out there and you may need another favor. 

I wish I had learned earlier that the "American" culture that happiness comes from "things" is a big lie.  True happiness comes from relationships made, nurtured and enjoyed. 



But – as for those things that readers wished they had known before graduation: 

Never be too proud to say "I'm sorry" and mean it with true repentance. 

Constantly watch for opportunities to help others, and follow's one small way to affect the world positively. 

When going to college, don't let academics get in the way of your education 

Right before graduation, every college student should be required to watch the movie "Office Space."  The technology might be old, but the message is still true, to this day!  TOTALLY will prepare college students for the working world! 

I came to learn that Mark Twain was right, but my father died before I had the chance to tell him so. 

I wish I knew sooner how to live in the present and enjoy every moment because father time catches up with you fast! 

There will always be someone prettier, smarter, thinner, richer - and it doesn't matter! 


You should be more selective in taking your first job out of college.  You need to also look at the long range career progression and not just the immediate job and salary. 

That being adult and in charge of all decisions really isn't always so great. 

How to seduce women 

After you land your first "real" job, no one really cares where you went to college or what your college grade point average was; what matters most is how you perform on the job. 

I would have considered myself a rose-colored glasses feminist, thinking that it wasn't going to be a man's world when I go into the working world.  HA - It was and is a man's world.  Had I know, I would like to think I would have stopped trying to swim up-stream many years before I actually did. 

Nice guys generally DO finish last. 

That work needs to be about more than earning a paycheck. 

That although you may feel "old" after graduating, being 22 doesn't mean your life has passed you by already. 

Don't expect that people will "notice" your good work/hard work or know what your goals are.  You need to articulate them to the appropriate people. 

Reality NEVER matters; it's only people's expectations that matter 

Even though I had summer and part-time jobs since I was a teenager, I was still pretty clueless about money and salaries. My parents had given me $20K as a graduation gift, and I lived on that because my first job paid me next to nothing. I really should have looked for a higher paying job, and socked away the $20K. Oh well. I graduated with no debt, so I guess we'll call that even. 


Invest heavily in Microsoft. 

Don't feel that you need to rush to find a job, because once you start working you will never have the same vacation days that you experienced when in school. 

The world is not fair--deal with it 

Your parents may not always have been right, but their intentions were for you to have the best. 

That even though I did very well in high school academically, college would be more of a challenge. 


Don't be afraid to ask questions in college or try to do it alone. Reach out to the guidance counselors for advice. 

Dean's list/good grades -- grades are important (they keep you in school) but learning is the most important and being open to learning for the rest of your life is the ultimate. 

Be careful what job or industry you first go's tougher than you know to ever leave it, even when you want to. [cough cough - retirement plans] 

What i wanted to be when i grew up 

Now that you have your diploma, don't expect that you will land that perfect job. You will need to get "experience" by accepting an entry level position and be patient in getting the experience to move up.  Don't job hop, stay with it and it will work out. 

Never be too proud to say "I'm sorry" and mean it with true repentance. 


That high school is harder from a social standpoint than an educational standpoint.  I would never do high school over, but I enjoyed college. College was a chance to find what I wanted to do.  Then grad school was the chance to pursue in more detail what I loved in undergrad.  I'd love to go to grad school again.  I was dead broke. working two jobs (a teaching assistance and waiting tables), but I loved it.  I had a nice, tight knit group of friends, all studying the same thing but able to have different opinions on the same topics (and able to discuss them).  It was a great two years.  And then I had to go into the real world. 

I wish I had known that the "INCROWD" was not going to last forever, no matter what Dobie Grey sang in his song. 

Some times it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission 

Don't work in a company that is a great big "Boys Club".  Find a company that welcomes women and the contributions they can make. 

A few push ups and sit ups and/or a workout video in your living room and work around the house can be just as effective as an expensive health club membership 

My mother told me, "If you work hard and do your job, you'll get ahead."  What I figured out when I was 30 was that, "If you work hard and do your job, you will be taken advantage of."  Absolutely true. 

If you have to spend valuable time covering your a$$, you'll not only smell like crap but never see what's ahead of you. 

Save more than you spend. 

How fast time goes. 

It's never too early to start contributing to your 401(k). 


But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who observed, “A very nice piece on your son's graduation. Congratulations. BTW, have you been working out?” 

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!