A Parent’s Take On The “Worst” Graduation Advice From Parents

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Baby covering her ears and yelling.

Does all this well-meaning advice at graduation time make you feel like covering your ears?

When it comes to new college grads, my generation is always good for passing along well-intended—but possibly less than stellar—advice (as Sasha pointed out last week).

I found Sasha’s post intriguing, not only because I’m a parent of college students who will eventually don a cap and gown, but also because I’ve hired interns. So, at the risk of providing even more unasked-for advice, here’s my two cents on the “worst advice” people told her.


1. “You don’t have a job yet? Better get ready to work at McDonald’s forever.”

This is not a happy thought for most college graduates, unless of course, you are a rising star in the hospitality field and land a great job at McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago. I’ve personally attended a seminar at Hamburger U, and I have to tell you, Micky D’s is a well-run outfit.

But as a new college grad, a position as chief McMuffin maker may not sound ideal. However, keep in mind that it might give you a flexible schedule—and a discounted dining option—while you seek a more suitable job.

This, I know from experience. Back in the day, I had my own job making French fries and milk shakes for the golden arches. (It was my first job ever; duration, 2 long months.) Let’s just say, my stint there motivated me to seek other employment pastures.

2. “Always wear business slacks and a blazer to job interviews.”

Sasha’s mom imparted conventional wisdom, and depending on the industry, she’s right.

I agree with Sasha’s assessment about “culture fit,” but you usually won’t lose points if you slightly overdress. Even companies with a blue-jeans culture expect interview attire to be one notch above the norm. This goes for women and men alike.

But, yes, no yoga pants—even if interviewing for a job as a yoga master!

3. “No one ever likes their first job—prepare to pay your dues.”

What’s not to like about getting your first paycheck?? While you may not absolutely love your first job, you will hopefully discover it as a growth opportunity.

I’d say: “No one ever knows what their first good job could lead to—prepare to stay for at least 2 years.” This was some of the best advice I got when I was a newly minted MBA, getting offered a spot at the low end of the pay scale—but at an awesome company.

Yes, I paid my dues, but I also managed to climb the proverbial ladder. You owe it to yourself and your new employer to commit to your job. Two years is respectable. When you eventually leave (if you do), you will have had a rich experience to build upon.

4. “Now’s the time to be truly independent.”

Being able to support yourself financially is something I will preach all day long to my kids. However, financial independence is a relative thing—and, realistically, it may come in installments.

In today’s world, with 25 year olds able to stay on their parents’ medical plans, and cell companies selling more affordable friends and family plans, it is not always prudent to become truly independent right away. Instead, set up a plan to gradually take on more of your monthly expenses, as your wages improve.

5. “Everything will sort itself out with your loans. Don’t worry about it.”

I agree—bad advice!

Any obsessive worry can make you crazy, but Sasha is totally right; your loans do not sort themselves out. Luckily, there is plenty of help for that on SALT™!

Any great or horrible advice you got around the time of your graduation? Tell us in the comments.

(Photo: Melissa Gutierrez)

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