What they don’t teach you in school

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By Harvey Mackay

As many college graduates are scrambling to find jobs, one of the most important things for graduates to understand is that you’re in school all your life. In fact, your real education is just beginning.

I’d like to pass on a few lessons, which weren’t necessarily covered in school. If you’ve been out of school for a few years—or a lot of years—this advice is still for you; consider it a refresher course.

  • Develop relationships and keep networking. If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. Start strengthening your relationships now, so they’ll be in place when you really need them later. In the classroom it was mostly about your individual performance. Success in real life will require relationships. Who you know determines how effectively you can apply what you know. So stay in touch.
  • Find advisors and mentors. Advisors will not be assigned to you, as in school. You should actively seek your own mentors. And remember, mentors change over a lifetime. Start connecting with people you respect who can help you get a leg up in each aspect of your life, personal and professional. Make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to talk with you, and always look for ways to contribute to their success, too.
  • Build your reputation. Nothing is more important than a good reputation in building a successful career or business. If you don’t have a positive reputation, it will be difficult to be successful. All it takes is one foolish act to destroy a reputation.
  • Set goals. Ask any winner what their keys to success are, and you will hear four consistent messages: vision, determination, persistence and setting goals. If you don’t set goals to determine where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. Most important, goals need to be measurable, identifiable, attainable, specific and in writing.
  • Get along with people. Ask recruiters from various companies to name the number one skill necessary for new hires, and many of them will say it’s the ability to get along with people. Co-workers share office space, facilities, break rooms, refrigerators and coffee pots. They arrive together, take breaks together, eat lunch together and meet to solve problems together. All this closeness and familiarity can wear thin at times. Everyone shares responsibility for making the company work, run smoothly and stay profitable
  • Be happy. We are all responsible for our own happiness. Don’t waste time and energy being unhappy. When people aren’t happy doing what they do, they don’t do it as well. Life will always be filled with challenges and opportunities. Both are best faced with a positive attitude.
  • Smile. A smile should be standard equipment for all people. I learned years ago that one of the most powerful things you can do to have influence over others is to smile at them. Everything seems much easier with a smile.
  • Sense of humor. I’m a firm believer in using humor—not necessarily jokes. A good sense of humor helps to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected and outlast the unbearable. There are plenty of times to be serious, but I believe that keeping things light and comfortable encourages better teamwork.
  • Be yourself. We all have areas that need a little work, but accepting who we are and making the most of our good points will take us much farther than trying to be someone we aren’t. Be content with your abilities and comfortable enough in your own skin to trust your gut.
  • Volunteer. It might be hard to do a lot of volunteer work at first, but people who help other people on a regular basis have a healthier outlook on life. They are more inclined to be go-getters and consistently report being happier. Volunteering is good for everyone.
 
 
 
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