My friend who is graduating in 2010 just wrote a lengthy Facebook note asking for advice on his options for after graduation. I’ve been reflecting on my own college experience as it relates to my current stage in life, so I thought it might be worth sharing my thoughts with those of you who also feel his anxiety.

For me, the most difficult transition was not going from full-time student to full-time employee, but becoming financially independent. (For those of you financing your own college education, good job! You’ve already completed this step.) This has really tested my priorities and might lead me to change the career path I’ve followed for the past five years. For this reason, I recommend not going to graduate school immediately after undergraduate unless you are sure you want to work for and have experience in a profession that requires an advanced degree, such as law, education or medicine.

Start doing things that young professionals do while you’re still in college, such as interning and going to professional association events. The specific organizations, companies, or both you participate in don’t matter so much as the confidence and practice you’ll gain. Entry-level jobs are pretty much like internships except better paid and more likely to be full time.

Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you’re not good enough for your career goals, but be realistic if they are tough to achieve. You set your own standard for success. Difficult goals often require a relatively long and nonlinear route but are still attainable. Mentors, friends and colleagues occasionally shot down my goal of working in New York’s arts market. However, due to my persistence, I’m now working someplace I love that’s a perfect stepping stone to that goal.

Some of the best career advice I’ve ever heard, from the career services coordinator in my major, is that you have to do what makes you happy now. I would also add that’s okay to compromise your happiness just a tad if you think it will eventually make you even happier after graduation. You’re more likely to succeed at something when you’re motivated by joy. The problem for most of us is figuring out exactly what makes us happy.

Lastly, remember my unique perspective on this advice. I’ve had pretty much the same career plan since I was 17. My first job after graduation is across an ocean from my home and where I went to college. My family has not strongly urged me to pursue a particular major or job. I’d love to hear questions and advice from those of you with different perspectives.

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