Just before Commencement this year, NYU Stories asked a range of NYU alumni—from standouts in various industries to recent grads just starting their careers—to share words of wisdom with the class of 2014. Here’s what they wished someone had told them when they graduated college.
Be open to weird, unexpected opportunities. Work for yourself, if possible. Try to keep ownership of your intellectual property. When you meet someone influential who might be able to help your career, try (briefly, and not too hard) to make an impression—then, get their email address. Request informational interviews; down the line, potential employers will remember you.
—Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s Chopped
I wish someone had told me to take a vacation before life started—when I had the time, debt didn't matter, and the idea of “backpacking through Europe” sounded glamorous and not exhausting. It turns out there's a reason certain opportunities are called “once in a lifetime.”
—Kevin Fallon, entertainment reporter at The Daily Beast
Forget your back-up plan. Now's the time to throw everything you have at your dream job. If you can't find it, start your own dream company and hire yourself. Then work the hardest and be nice to everyone. No matter what happens you will never regret it.
—Clark Gregg, actor, screenwriter, and director
The transition from college to real life is arguably the toughest to absorb since going to pre-school for the first time. You can't fully prepare for the reality of what you're accountable for—to some degree, it will blindside you. That all said, it will also be the most empowering moment of your life so far, and if you take your first few doses of reality in stride and with a sense of humor, you'll get through it with only minor, character-building scrapes and bruises.
—Noah Wagner, associate producer at HBO
The path to happiness starts by following your passion, not dollar signs. Find what you like to do and immerse yourself in it. Don’t take precious time to smell the roses while you are still young —you can always garden when you retire.
—Phil Baran, Darlene Shiley Chair in Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute
Give yourself permission to take a year off and travel the world. You've worked hard and now, before you commit to a full-time career, travel and get to know yourself for a full year. On the other side of that trip, I can almost guarantee you'll have a different perspective on life, different standards for your career, and different aspirations for the legacy you want to create. The world is vaster and bigger than New York. It's deeper than semester study abroad. It extends beyond the great education you got at NYU. So get out there, globe trot, thrive, and learn.
—Arielle Loren Palmer, editor-in-chief of Corset magazine
Don’t keep your options open. Don't turn down potentially great jobs, relationships, or opportunities because something better might come along. Life is about digging in, doing the work, risking your heart, and taking a chance. Don't keep your options open— seize them and experience your life.
—Yael Shy, Director of the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, Co-Director of The Center for Spiritual Life, and Founder and Director of The Mindfulness Project
I wish that someone had told me two things: Just because you can doesn't mean you should. That applies to everything from eating brownie sundaes for every meal to leaping at every possible job opportunity. Be open to things, for sure, but know that you can be picky, too. You don't have to say yes to everything that comes your way just because you're young and new to this whole out-of-college game.
And secondly, don't worry so much. I spent too much time fretting that my life was veering into some intractable course due to whatever decisions I was making at 22. Sometimes that's true, but most of the time, it's not. The glorious, mysterious thing about post-college life is that it can take you far away from your plans, and you should let it.
—Margaret Eby, entertainment reporter and online books editor at the New York Daily News
Leave the country for a year. Go absolutely anywhere, but go. Teach English, backpack across Europe, get lost, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you possibly can. Never again will you be this free to simply move. You’ll be surprised by what you learn about yourself and your goals and your values. It will be scary and terrifying and brilliant. Fall in love with a stranger knowing you only have a day or a week together. Write a journal in a coffee shop in Prague, Paris, Saigon, Bangkok. Learn a language. Go. A 9-to-5 job will still be waiting for you when, and if, you chose to return.
—Chelsea Garbell, English teacher in Bangkok, Thailand
Its okay if you don't have your dream job by the time you graduate! It sounds like a cliché, but the obstacles that you need to overcome often make reaching your goal that much sweeter. If you really want it, you'll find ways to work towards it. Just don't forget that dream.
—Christine Albaba, graduate student in music therapy, Molloy College
Consider carefully. Try meditation. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Take time to rest and also to play.
—Sarah Sellman, communications coordinator at Light Work
Figure out your habitat. If you don't like noise and crowds, don't live in a noisy, crowded place. If you don't like too much quiet, don't live out in the country. This makes everything else easier.
—Schuyler Velasco, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor
Believe in yourself—no one else can believe in you FOR you. This is the time to really make it happen and take risks. And be nice to everyone!
—Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, singer-songwriters, A Great Big World
You have probably already gotten sick of New York. You have probably had nights when you cursed it for being dirty and noisy and full of crazies. Whenever you get in this mood, and you really genuinely feel like you can't take it anymore, move away for one year. Don't buy a house. Don't buy a car. Don't sign yourself into a three-year lease. Do nothing permanent. If, at the end of that year, you feel like you're content with your life, feel free to stay. But, if you're like me, you might discover that you cannot handle living anywhere else anymore. After spending four years in a city that constantly strives to be great, there's really nowhere else to go. And, as it turns out, the old saying only tells you half of the truth: if you can make it there, you probably can't handle the monotony of anywhere else.
—Johnny Gall, graduate student in theology, Boston University