What You Need to Know When You Graduate
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
This has certainly been an awful time to be graduating from college. I’m happy to share stories off-line about my hardships during a year that was supposed to be filled with amazing experiences and opportunities. But it’s important to put things in perspective, count your blessings, and know the grass is always greener on the other side. This has been the attitude that has helped me navigate these trying times, and I am grateful to be carrying it with me today.
If you don’t know who Rich Handler is, he is the CEO at Jefferies Financial, and is well-known for maintaining an impressive online presence while engaging with his audience. He has an inspiring set of moral beliefs and values that make him my favorite leader in the industry. Before graduating, I responded to one of Rich’s Instagram stories asking for advice, but never expected him to get back to me. To my surprise, he responded with genuine recommendations that I now incorporate into my daily life:
His response made me realize that the term “high” finance is really just a nomenclature used to inflate the egos of those in front-office roles. When you take a step back to look at an institution as a whole and really understand its operations, everyone plays a significant role in getting the job done. Whether on the front lines of a live deal or deciphering data on the back-end, every role adds value. Plain and simple.
If the leader of global investment bank gives you personalized advice, you are going to follow it. So I went to Rich’s twitter page and found his list of the 100 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Us After College And Before I Entered the Real World. I urge you to read the entire list on your own. It is incredibly honest, insightful, and will make you feel grounded in reality.
Here, I give my top favorite 15 pieces of advice from Rich’s list and takeaways from each. All 100 of them are certainly relevant and applicable to everyone, so make sure to check out the other 85 afterwards.
“5. Find a mentor. If you are fortunate to earn one, this person will challenge you beyond what you believe you are capable of achieving. They will instill within you a confidence that comes from knowing someone you respect believes in you. This is a person you can expose your vulnerability to and receive honest (sometimes painful) constructive advice. This person will not only make a difference in your career, but will have true impact on the person you will become and the legacy you will leave.”
If you have a good mentor, he/she will motivate you, but will also give you the harsh truth when you need to hear it. Don’t choose a mentor that will just pay you lip service, and don’t just “use” your mentor for when you need something from him/her. Reciprocate for their time and guidance by offering some type of value back to them.
*10 & 11 go hand-in-hand, so I included both as one
“10. If you surround yourself with smart people, you will be challenged, uncomfortable, and grow as a person.”
“11. If you surround yourself with average people, you will stay very comfortably average.”
It is truly amazing to see your outlook on life change when you spend time with intelligent, ambitious people. If you care about your personal growth whatsoever, the latter is toxic. You are the product of your environment.
“22. It’s very easy to say, “I am miserable,” “the people I work with don’t get it,” or “everything about the company/industry is stupid, wrong, or broken.” Talk is cheap and complaining is easy. Try to fix what is wrong because that is how you add value. Otherwise, you are also just part of the problem.”
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is more annoying than people who find a way to complain about everything. If the problem can be controlled by you/your team, do something about it. The energy you spend whining should be replaced by addressing and working on the issue at hand. Having a realistic “can-do” attitude is so much more rewarding. Get up, shut up, and rise to the occasion.
“25. Work can and should be fun. Unless you become a brain surgeon, your job probably isn’t brain surgery or life and death. Have perspective. It’s not just ok, but it is beneficial to your career to let your personality shine and show your individuality, sense of humor, and personality. That said, unless you become a professional comedian for a living, don’t overdo it.”
Yes, your work needs to get done, but show that you are human while doing so. If you are working a job on a team that requires long hours, think about how your team members would interact with you in the office at 11pm, on a 4-hour flight, or at an after-work event. If you can’t learn to be a likeable person, you might not last very long.
“30. You can’t ask enough questions when you want to learn. Don’t ask the same ones over and over again, and be sensitive enough to know when it’s appropriate to be inquisitive and when it’s not.”
When someone is explaining something and you are completely lost, don’t be complacent. Speak up and say “sorry, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around this, but here’s what I understand so far…” and then go from there. The person explaining it will appreciate your honesty, but will be upset if they later find out (and trust me, they will know) if you were just nodding your head to move the conversation along.
“31. If you can master empathy, the art of putting yourself in other people’s shoes, you are going to have an extraordinary career.”
Again, showing the human side of yourself will make you so much more likeable, and you will be viewed as a humble, charismatic, and approachable person.
“37. Find something you are truly passionate about and believe in. When you do, you never once look at the clock.”
You will never work a day in your life if you really love what you do, and don't let jealous people who are stuck in the rat race bring you down. Find something that gets you amped to wake up in the morning and causes you to lose track of time, but still make sure you are maintaining your calendar.
“38. Start with balance in your life right away. As a junior person this may seem impossible, but it isn’t. Yes, your time will be greatly skewed towards proving yourself when you begin your career, but setting aside some time to exercise, eat well, and spend time with your family and friends will provide you with at least a little balance. You do nobody any good when you burn yourself out, are constantly sick, are always bitter or lose perspective on life.”
Spot on. Prioritize taking care of your mind and body. Find time to work out, eat right, and spend quality time with friends and loved ones. You only have one body and one life, treat them as such. Jobs/success will follow.
“44. Get out of your comfort zone at work. If you are really good at one area or task, do your best to explore others as well. The more breadth you have, the more valuable you become. That said, you need to get your work done first and it is great to be an expert in at least a few things.”
This makes work so much more interesting and rewarding, but you’ll only have this experience if you speak up. Immerse yourself in new areas of the business if you have the capacity, and see how you can expand upon your current skillset. You’ll be recognized for this type of energy.
“46. When everyone comes to you with their issues and problems, that is a very good thing. It means they believe you can help them be better at what they do. Never complain when people come to you for help. If nobody comes to you, that just means they don’t think you can add value. That may seem like a simpler, relaxing and easier way to spend your day. Unfortunately, it also means that you have a job and not a career and worse yet, that job might not last much longer. It’s best to be bothered constantly by people who need your help. It means you matter.”
When people ask for your advice, they view you as a valuable person. I love when people come to me seeking my guidance. If you take the time to sit down with them, and brainstorm solutions together, you will leave a lasting impression and feel good about helping others.
“50. Constantly invest in yourself. It’s not a coincidence that the people who take night classes, read constantly, understand the company or industry best, and immerse themselves fully in their opportunities are always the ones who rise to the top. It’s never luck. Losers just say it is.”
Life motto: “It’s never luck. Losers just say it is.” Luck is largely determined by how well you prepare + how proactive you are in pursuing the right opportunities.
“53. Arrogance is the one trait that will destroy your career. It’s just a matter of time. The more successful you become, the more humble you should be. A humble superstar is invincible.”
One of the reasons everyone loves Rich is because he uses his own advice, and this is a great example of it. The more humble you are, the more people will remember/like you. Nobody likes to be around an arrogant person, no matter how successful they are.
“65. Always live within your means. It’s never too early to begin your financial plan. If you are frivolous in youth, you won’t have the means to be frivolous when you are older. Trust me, It’s fun to be frivolous when you are older. Read the “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason. It will cost you a couple of hours but you will save a couple of decades. That’s what we call a good investment. Learn about this thing your parent’s hate called taxes. They suck but are real and better to understand early than pretend they don’t exist. Always pay them.”
First off, highly recommend reading Clason’s book. Living a lifestyle that allows you to save for the long term will set you up to live a much more comfortable life down the road. I’m in my 20’s myself, but when you hear this advice from enough people who are older than you, it makes you want to subscribe to a more disciplined lifestyle.
“72. You are now in the real world and $hit happens. For some reason, people love winners. There will be no challenge finding a best friend when you are on top of the world. It may appear a little lonelier and quieter when everything is going badly for you and you find yourself a disappointed mess.
Miraculously this is the only time you will find out who are your true friends. People with character shine when they see people in need. Always surround yourself with people that have true character and rid yourself of fakes. To successfully do so, you must have true character yourself. This is one case where opposites do not attract.”
Many of you have probably realized who your true friends are when things in life weren’t going so great. It makes you appreciate the genuine people who actually care about you, in good times and bad. Keep your inner circle small, and spend the time to show these people how much they really mean to you. Invest in them, and they will stay vested in you.
“76. Nobody gets wealthy because their goal was to become rich. It is always a bi-product of being passionate about working with others to create something that adds value to people’s lives.”
So many people wish they were “rich”, but there’s a difference between being rich vs. wealthy. Position yourself in roles where you have 100% buy-in to the organization and its vision, whether it is at another company or working for yourself. Bring as much to the table as possible because you want to, not because you think you have to. Do this, and you will be wealthy in a lot more ways than your bank account.
Join The Conversation
Which piece(s) of advice from Rich's list is your favorite? Share your thoughts below.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this page constitutes as any sort of financial advice and is meant solely for the purpose of sharing thoughts and ideas. To avoid employer compliance and FINRA violations, I do not, and will not discuss any proprietary information that comes across my desk at work. Every link and piece of information on this page is readily available to the public via the internet.