If you’re getting ready to leave home for the first time, my advice for high school graduates is for you. I eventually figured a lot of this stuff out on my own. Even so, I can’t help but think I would have avoided many mistakes if someone had told me these things early on. I don't claim to have all the answers, but my advice for high school graduates can help you avoid making some needless mistakes.
1. Ask Questions
A sign of immaturity is the inability to ask questions. Ask questions, and plenty of them. This is valuable advice for high school graduates who think they should already know everything right now. According to the law, you’re an adult at 18, but that doesn’t mean you're all grown up. Risk looking “dumb” by asking questions because someday you’ll realize you were one of the smart ones.
2. Treat Crappy Jobs like Your Dream Job
It’s normal to hold a string of crappy jobs while you’re young. Believe it or not, these jobs are opportunities for growth, so don’t blow them. Treat your job at McDonald's like it’s your dream job. When you take pride in your work, you never know whom you might impress. Your stellar job performance could bring about future opportunities when you least expect them.
3. Best Years Are Yet to Come
Some people may tell you that high school is the best time of your life. Bull. If that were true, everything would go downhill after graduation, which is certainly not true. If your high school years were filled with insecurity and doubt, just know that life does improve when you’re an adult. Trust me, the best years of your life will be so much better than your awkward teen years.
4. Chase Your Passion
Yes, lawyers can make great money. However, if you don’t have a passion for law, it’s the wrong career choice for you. It’s often true that money eventually comes when you choose a career that you love. For example, if you love teaching, don’t avoid becoming a teacher because it doesn’t pay enough. When you chase your passion, you may be surprised by all the doors that open up to you down the road.
5. Avoid the Debt Trap
Now that you’re an adult, you’ll be given all sorts of opportunities to go into debt. Avoid signing up for credit cards that you can’t afford, no matter how tempting the offers may sound. If you’re broke, credit cards might seem like the answer, but they never are. Believe me, the debt you incur right now will haunt you for years to come. When you begin your career, you probably won’t earn a lot of money at first, so avoid being strapped with debt.
6. Choose Close Friends Wisely
It’s easy to fall into the same old patterns from high school. If you hung out with under-motivated people or a “bad” crowd, it’s familiar and comfortable to seek out these same kinds of people in college. Choose new friends who live the life you want. Not sure how to find them? Join a club, volunteer your time or pursue activities that test your comfort level.
7. Reinvent Yourself
If you had a rough time in high school, you can reinvent yourself. Be the person you want to be, even if you feel like a phony at first. If you’re headed to college, no one knows about your high school reputation. If your life at home was turbulent, you’re an adult now so it’s your choice to live in a peaceful environment. When you act like the kind of person you want to be, eventually you become that person.
I wish I had known some of these things when I was fresh out of high school. What pieces of advice do you wish you’d been given when you graduated?