Top 5 Reality Lessons (I wish I knew at graduation)

Right now, thousands of graduates across the country are taking the short walk across the stage and preparing for the long career journey before them. They have received an education in their respective majors, but what haven’t they learned?

I recently visited with students at my alma mater, The Ringling College of Art and Design, and shared a list of the top 5 things I wish I’d known at graduation. While I had chosen a career in a creative field, this list is relevant across the board. Hopefully these tips will help you as you begin your professional journey.

dart5. Real world challenges

These are the challenges that are faced when the rubber hits the road – when you swap out school life for real life. To me, one of the biggest challenges was adapting to the speed at which the business world works. How can you combat this? By building an ability to think on your feet and problem solve, quickly.





….. rowing4. Working with clients

We all pursued education to learn a skill that would allow us to join the economic system of production, distribution and consumption, i.e. get a job. Consequently, when we join the workforce regardless of discipline or industry, there is a client.  Clients come in all levels of expertise, with a wide range of opinions and styles, the key is: knowing their business and truly understanding their needs. Put them first, build great relationships and assure them that you will not just meet their goals, but exceed their expectations!


work3. The real art of sales

Every single job, creative or otherwise, has an aspect of selling infused into it. It may not be apparent, but the sooner you embrace this and get comfortable with selling your work, the better off you will be. No matter how big or small, ideas must be expressed in a provocative way to come to fruition, whether to an internal audience of one or a room full of potential clients. This takes work and practice. Honing presentation skills, learning to command a room and connecting with audiences is essential in any role, in any industry.

2. Creating a real personal brand

Business etiquette is made up of small gestures but has a huge impact on your personal brand. First impressions are critical. Please do not let an inappropriate wardrobe choice destroy the years of blood, sweat and tears you went through to get your degree. Thank you notes are old fashioned, right? Wrong. This is a basic courtesy to the person that took time out of their busy schedule to meet with and consider hiring you. Just like the companies and products you love, you have a personal brand. Consider the impression you are making on others with all of your actions.


single-balloon1. Creativity within reality

Some may argue that they are “not creative” in their career. I say nonsense. Every job requires creative thinking and problem solving. The key here is finding your creative mojo in the business world, realizing that this is very different from an educational environment. Adjusting how you tap into your creativity and produce results for your employer is key. Find inspirational outlets and seek ongoing education to keep your spark. Creative thinking and ideas in business may not make it to the spreadsheet, but are worth their weight in gold.




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