20 graduates give 20 of their best pieces of life advice for new graduates

5 August 2019

person wearing red graduation dress Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash

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We almost can’t believe it, but it’s true. Graduation season is upon us yet again. Here at Debut, we’ve been watching our Debutants with a wistful eye, and seeing them excel and move on to a new stage of their lives have brought us so much joy. In fact, you can check out some of their success stories right here. So, to celebrate this new chapter, we asked some of our friends to look back on this time in their lives. Here’s the best life advice for new graduates they could muster.

Melissa W, University of Leeds Graduate

“When you graduate it may feel like many of your friends walk straight into their dream internship/job. It may take many jobs to find out what you truly want to do. But don’t despair. Everyone has a different journey and comparing yourself to others will only cause misery. Make mistakes, quit jobs that don’t make you happy and never apologise for following your heart.”

Emma T, Cardiff University Graduate

“I had a lecturer at university who was a florist until he was 30. He decided he wanted to do something more exciting, so he went to university to do Botany. By the time he was middle-aged he was my lecturer.

“There is a lot of pressure in your twenties to have it all straight away. But if ever I feel like I’m not getting places fast enough, I think of that story and remember there is always time for you to explore your options and have fun!”

Savannah B, Northumbria University Graduate

“Nobody has any idea what they’re doing, or what they’re going to do either!”

“As long as you are willing to learn, explore and stay inquisitive you will find your way. Be ready to fail, and fail often and hard! And learn to love it, because it means you tried and you will be a better person for it. Also, being an adult can be very stressful sometimes. Remember to cut yourself some slack, relax, and have fun before you get back to working at whatever it is you need to work at. Life is not about the destination, but the journey. So enjoy every minute of not knowing what’s next.”

Abi A, University of Warwick Graduate

“Everything is going to start feeling like a race against time. You’ll remember being 18 and thinking that 24 was so old and grown up, while laughing (read: crying) into your overpriced gin and tonic at some run of the mill city bar. Push back against this feeling. Especially if you are a woman, because society will want to tell you that you’re getting old and you need to get married and have kids and a million pounds like, yesterday. Run your own race and even then, maybe don’t even run. Just walk. Stroll even. Above all, enjoy every moment and embrace life’s forward motion.”

Kate N, Goldsmiths, University of London Graduate

“Sometimes you fall into a job you hate, and it sucks but it pays the bills. Don’t let it get to you. Stick it out for as long as you can, don’t put up with any bulls***, and the moment you can afford to, walk away from it.

“Resist the temptation to quit something even though you don’t have any savings/another job lined up. Because if you do, it can be all too easy to fall into another horrendous cycle of anxiety and fear of not being able to pay the rent.”

Brenda W, University of Warwick Graduate

“You’re not going to magically turn into an adult overnight. In fact, things will probably get more confusing and scary as time goes by. Embrace the idea it’s not possible to know everything about everything, and just do your best. That is enough.

Also, start saving now. Just to put two fingers up to any baby boomers who try to say you’ll never afford a house due to your avocado toast habits. I’ll have my avocado toast and eat it too, thanks.”

Sophie D, Nottingham Trent University Graduate

“Don’t expect it all to plan out and come together straight away. It takes time, and there are years ahead of you!”

Maya F, University of Warwick Graduate

“The number one question I got asked in my final year was ‘what are you going to do next?’ and it put so much pressure on me to have a career plan in place. Most of us don’t even know what we’ll be having for dinner, let alone what we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives.

“If you genuinely know what you want to do next then go forth and make your mark on the world. If you don’t, you owe it to yourself to take the time to suss out what makes you happy. Throwback to the nineties and tell anyone who says differently to talk to the hand.”

Jessica H, Aberystwyth University Graduate

“Don’t be conventional! If someone says you’re too young and naive to kick ass at what you do, show them how wrong they are. Don’t let people exploit your talents; you’re qualified and important and you should be valued! Hard work pays off in the end, especially if you make a career out of something you love.”

Christine W, University of Warwick Graduate

“If you don’t get a job right away, don’t freak out.

“I spent months job hunting, and I found no opportunity that could support what I needed. Honestly, it was demoralising, and I felt like I’d have to settle for a position I didn’t want or like. A year after graduating I finally found a position I really enjoy and that is teaching me a lot! Sometimes when life doesn’t go as planned it’s because it has a bigger plan for you waiting.”

Also, take the time during the job hunt to improve other skills or learn new things as well. You’d be surprised how many employers might take an interest more in your extracurriculars and who you are as a person, rather than your degree.”

Grant C, University of Portsmouth Graduate

“Read Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. In short, its about focusing on your strengths. It’s well worth a read.”

YiJiun Chan, University of Warwick Graduate

“Nothing will prepare you for how much a full time job could potentially take over your life, whether or not you love what you do. It will sneakily eat up your time until one day you realise you’re not giving time to anything/anyone else in your life. Learn to draw a line between your personal life and work and practice lots of self-care.”

Milly B, University of Kent Graduate

Work really really hard and be dependable. If you say you’ll do something, do it. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t at your dream job or you feel bummed because your friends are earning double your salary, just work hard and work your way up, no matter what job you do.”

Priya S, University of Warwick Graduate

“Travel as much as you can, either in your job or spend your leave travelling. Learning about new cultures and coming out of my comfort zone has helped me in my professional life so much.”

Julie N, Cardiff University Graduate

“The biggest thing I’ve found (especially since starting my Master’s degree) is that I get embarrassed when people realise I’ve got a degree but I’m  still in a part time job/don’t know what you want to do for a ‘real job’. I may not know what I want to do with my life, but I’m enjoying studying so I’m slowly learning not to care what other people may think!”

Cat T, University of Warwick Graduate

“Take up an ‘extra curricular’. There’s a reason you did it at university: not only does it improve your mental health and wellbeing, but it can help your CV too. Even taking up a team sport can have similar effects – do what you love, keep yourself active, meet new people and have something different to talk about in job interviews… what could be better?”

Rebecca D, Sheffield Hallam University Graduate

“Don’t spend your time comparing yourself to others on your course or in your cohort. Everyone has had different opportunities and experiences which have contributed to where they are today. Just because someone has what looks like an amazing job at the company of their dreams, doesn’t mean they are happy there. The hours might be awful, their colleagues might suck, or they may be lonely in a new place. Never, ever, compare your full album with someone else’s greatest hits!”

David L, University of Warwick Graduate

“Really, everything I have learned since graduating boiled down to: be generous. Don’t be lavish, don’t be opulent, but just be eternally generous. Generous with time, generous with ingredients, generous with your self-care, generous with your ear and your heart, generous to your colleagues and to your family and to your friends. There is absolutely nothing in life that suffers when generosity is thrown at it. It really does solve anything that actually has a solution.”

Michael C, University of Warwick Graduate

Work hard to keep in touch with your friends from university. But also make sure you work hard (because it is truly hard) to keep making new friends and doing new things. If you’re lucky enough to get a job, you’ll quickly find it consumes your life and ends up draining your energy until you are overwhelmed by the existential dread. So you’ll need friends or hobbies to help you escape from your work bubble, so that you keep chasing whatever the meaning of life is for you.

“Finally, graduating was the result of a lot of hard work, but also a lot of luck and help from others, so take a moment every now and then to be grateful and thank people.”

Bonus: some advice from a dad and long time graduate:

Kenny Wong, University Kebangsaan Malaysia Graduate

“Learn to expect nothing; to give and not to take. The best thing you can do is to learn! This includes things they don’t teach you in school or university, which is how to survive in the corporate jungle. Above all, find a few good, experienced people to be your mentors whom you can depend on to put things into perspective. Spend time talking to them, listen to them talk about their experiences and lessons.”

*Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.