As so many commencement speakers will be reminding tens of thousands of graduates over the next few weeks, real life truly begins the day after graduation. As students look toward the future with hope and in all likelihood, a bit of apprehension, it is important to take the best of the college experience along to the next stage and, at the same time, remember that the real world has its own rulebook to which newcomers must adapt if they want to succeed.
Here are five important ways the real world is not like college:
1) There Are No Safe Spaces
In the real world, we all must learn to deal with ideas, issues, and activities that we do not like or with which we do not necessarily agree. Unlike on some campus, where safe spaces exist to protect students from those they perceive as threatening or harmful, the real world thrusts people right into the fire and they must sink or swim. It’s wise to work on developing a thick skin and an open mind to adjust to this new reality.
2) You Do Not Always Have the Luxury of Sticking with Like-minded People
The country is so polarized and everyone has strong views on policy of every type—social, educational, financial and more. In college, students can join clubs and stage activities and events with those who are aligned with them politically and steer clear of those with opposing viewpoints. In the real world, you may need to work closely with people who have different views. Do not let politics get in the way of relationships and I repeat because this point is so critical in today’s world―learn to be open-minded.
3) Posting Every Move on Social Media is Not Smart
For college students, party pictures on Instagram or artsy filters on Snapchat posts might be cool as friends and followers encourage sharing behind-the-scenes details of your life. But as you move into the real world, remember that privacy may be a thing of the past and anyone can find your social handles. Your reputation and professional persona and standing in your field could be affected if you don’t guard your public image. Don’t post photos or messages you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with your boss or colleagues.
4) You Create the Syllabus
Over the course of your entire school career, rules and structure were made for you and the course work is pre-determined. In the real world, where others won’t impose rules, you’ll need to create your own structure―for achievement of goals, for work/life balance, and for ethical standards. This sounds liberating, but the onus is now on you to chart the right path. On the professional front, the world is changing so rapidly and what you learned in college may become outdated in a year or two. It’s your job to stay up to date with trends so you’re on top of your field and up to speed on new developments. Identifying what you need to know, taking classes, and constantly learning new skills is your responsibility now.
5) You Don’t Get Points for Trying
In school, effort is often recognized and rewarded along with achievement. In the real world, however, one must generate results. Every workplace defines those results differently but in order to be a valuable employee, you must set measurable goals and achieve results that matter to the company or institution.
Alan Kadish, M.D. is President of the Touro College and University System, the largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution in the United States. The system encompasses approximately 18,000 students across 30 campuses and locations in four countries. Under his leadership, Touro provides educational opportunities and career paths ranging from liberal arts to law, medicine, dentistry and health sciences to technology, business, Jewish studies, education and more. Follow Dr. Kadish at https://twitter.com/DrKadish