To Our Graduates: 10 Pieces of Advice for Your New Path Forward

You did it, Bearcats! You put in hours and hours of hard work to earn your degree and graduate from McKendree University! This is such a momentous time in your life. While you’re undoubtedly floating on air with great excitement at the moment, you might be feeling a little stressed or scared. You might even be wondering what your next steps should be, or you might already have a plan set in place. No matter where you are, we have a few words of wisdom to help you along your new path forward:

Never Stop Learning

After all of the papers, presentations, and finals you’ve had to complete recently, it’s probably safe to say that you don’t even want to think about learning anything new at the moment. When we’re talking about lifelong learning, we don’t mean textbooks and tests (unless that’s your thing – then go for it!). We mean that you should keep learning, period. There’s so much to experience and discover in this world, and it’s easier now than ever to make it happen! Read some articles or books on a topic that fascinates you. Take a few fun classes. Listen to an intriguing podcast. Learning won’t just help you develop professionally and personally – it also improves your mental health and can lengthen your lifespan.
Student at Networking Event
Build a Reliable Network

You might have heard how important networking really is, but you might not know where or how to begin. It’s as easy as staying in contact with your former professors, friends, and family members and building connections with new people. Knowing the right people can help you find unique opportunities because they can vouch for your strengths. Connect with your friends and other alumni on LinkedIn and consider reaching out to alumni who work in companies you’re interested in. Remember, networking is a two-way street. While your network is there to help you, you should also get into the habit of giving back when others need a hand.

Don’t Expect Perfection

Transitioning from college life to the working world, a new career, or even graduate school can be quite challenging. Don’t expect to get everything perfect! Life isn’t the stylized, glossy photos you often see on social media. You will always run into hiccups and mishaps along the way. Instead, do your best to take things in stride and be kind to yourself. Things might not work out as you plan them to, but they always tend to work out the way they should in the end.

Do Things That Make You Uncomfortable

It’s tempting to stay in your comfort zone, especially if you’re afraid of what could go wrong should you venture outside of it. Unfortunately, you could be preventing yourself from living up to your full potential if you stay in your own bubble. Don’t let the “what ifs” in life paralyze you. Get out there and take some risks! This could mean moving to a new place for a job that aligns with your passions, public speaking, learning a new skillset, traveling somewhere new, or even making a new friend. You won’t know exactly what you’re capable of until you try new things!

Stay Healthy

Life changes after college, and that often includes exercising and eating habits. Staying healthy is vital for your energy, well-being, and your wallet. Remember to eat a variety of veggies and fruits every day, find healthy and tasty recipes (the internet is chockful of them!), and find the time to fit in exercise most days of the week. This will not only help prevent weight gain but will also help you sleep better, feel better, and experience an improved quality of life.

Show Up

This time in your life is no doubt exciting; however, it does come with its own set of challenges. You will have great days and tough days. No matter what situation you find yourself in, make it a point to show up – for others, and, more importantly, for yourself. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day. If you fail – and you will; that’s part of life – don’t berate yourself. Just get back up and try again. Being your best self can lead to amazing opportunities that can make your life even more fulfilling!

Follow Your Heart

Remember when you were told as a kid to follow your dreams? Now it’s our turn to say it. You can absolutely achieve anything you set your mind to! Learn about yourself, discover what truly makes you feel alive, and pursue it. Again, don’t focus on perfection – strive for progress, keep your mind and options open, and don’t be afraid to follow your intuition!

Take Your Time

You might feel like you need to jump right into your career. Guess what? There isn’t a rush. If you’re able (and you want to), take some time to travel and explore the world before you lay down roots. Broaden your horizons, meet new people, and see what the world has to offer. Doing this now is often much easier than it would be when you have bills and a mortgage to worry about.
Student and Faculty Member
Keep Your Friends Close

It’s normal for friends to grow apart after you graduate from college. You might not be as close to all of your former classmates as you were when you’d see them on the quad or in the classroom. This is a natural progression of life; after all, you will also make new friends as time goes by. But don’t let the friendships that truly mean something to you go. Keep in touch with your friends – text, call, message, email, send letters or cards (Snail mail is more meaningful than you might imagine!), or spend time with them in person. Don’t let the “busyness” of life get in the way of your friendships. Put in the time and effort to nurture these friendships now and in the future!

Stay in Touch with Your Alma Mater

Your story with McKendree is far from over – you’re now an alum, which always makes you a member of the Bearcat family! Stay connected with us – attend one of our many on- and off-campus alumni events, join the Alumni Association, and sign up for the monthly Bearcat Buzz. Don’t forget to submit any exciting news you might have for our magazine! Additionally, feel free to reach out to Career Services for individual career counseling, resume/cover letter critiques, and even mock interviews should you need help. We’re always here for you and want to see you succeed, even after you graduate!

We are so proud of you, Bearcats, and we know you’ll make the world a better place in your own unique way!