Graduation is right around the corner. There's been a plethora of professors over the last four years. Some beloved, some not. There's the professors that will be remembered for their impossibly hard exams, strict attendance policies, and mundane lectures, as well as the many all-nighters it took to pass their class. Then there's the majority of professors, the professors who will be remembered fondly. The professors who will be remembered as mentors---for the guidance they offered, the knowledge they shared, and the lessons they taught. But if the last four years wasn't enough, professors are handing out advice one last time.
If I only knew then...
Professors came up with a variety of responses when asked what advice they would give this year's graduating class. They reflected on what they would go back and tell themselves on their own graduation day and things they wish they had known at 22.
Graduate instructor and PhD candidate in the English department, Jay Jay Stroup, offered a practical tip to graduates. "Go to your graduation, especially for your parents," Stroup said. "I think sometimes it's more for your family and parents who kind of put up with you for four years." Stroup said she regrets skipping her own college graduation. She also gave students some heartfelt advice, encouraging them to think of the type of person they want to be, forgive themselves for past mistakes, and then make changes so they can become that person. Associate professor of art history Lori Diel also urged students to think closely about what they want and go after it.
John V. Roach Honors College visiting professor Wendy Williams warned against sticking too rigidly to a plan. "I would make a very detailed five-year plan and then be prepared to ignore all of it," Williams said. Professor of religion and John V. Roach Honors College faculty fellow Darren Middleton echoed the same sentiment. "Be open to where life takes you because it seldom turns out the way you plan it," Middleton said.
"Be open to where life takes you." -Darren Middleton
Professor and chair of marketing Bill Moncrief encouraged students to work hard towards their goals but "in a way that doesn't eat you up." "Enjoy the process and I have," Moncrief said. "I wouldn't change anything." Diel also emphasized the importance of hard work and said she would remind her younger self to be patient.
Several professors advised students to give back in different ways. Professor of political science Manochehr Dorraj told students to stay connected to TCU even after finding professional success. "TCU is a very special place and it feels wonderful when you go and make your mark on the world...to give back to the institution that gave so much to you," Dorraj said. Middleton urged students to express their gratitude to their peers, parents, and teachers for their help the past four years.
Williams said giving back will bring you great joy. "It's typical in your 20s to be focused on yourself and on your career and on what you're going to do next," she said but she wants graduates to know the value of supporting others. "I don't just mean being a good friend because we tend to already know how to do that, but I mean putting others forward," Williams said.
"We've been waiting for you. We're counting on you." -Michael Faggella-Luby
Associate professor of special education Michael Faggella-Luby wanted graduates to know professors like him expect them to go into the world and make it a better place. "Now you're stepping into life and this world will be what you make of it," Faggella-Luby said. "We've been waiting for you. We're counting on you."
College to Career
Many graduates will soon face the scary reality of the nine to five workday and the transition from college to the workplace. While this can be a hard transition, there is no need to panic. Stroup reminds students their job doesn't have to define them as a person. Instead of asking, what kind of career do I want, she encourages students to ask themselves, what kind of person do I want to be, and then finding a career that allows them to be that person.
"Be a quitter if you need to be." -Wendy Williams
Dorraj tells students to "find a job that is you---that you can put your heart and soul into." Williams also advises graduates to find a career that is fulfilling. "Be a quitter if you need to be," Williams said. If you do find yourself happy in your new job, she said to find new ways to flourish there, so you don't become stagnant.
Dorraj warned students of the challenge of adjusting to the new job environment. Moncrief advised students to ease the transition by getting a feel for the culture of their company by listening. "Listen to people that are there, observe, don’t try to do all things immediately," Moncrief said. "Every organization has a culture too and you need to learn what the culture is."
Middleton also advised students to learn from those around them and recommended finding a mentor who will help not just their career, but also their character.
"You may have to start at the bottom, do it and do it with a good attitude." -William Moncrief
Almost every professor emphasized the importance of hard work. "You should muster the same dedication that you mustered to finish your degree successfully and apply it to your job," Dorraj said. Moncrief, Diel, and Faggella-Luby recommended taking on the tasks others don't want and seizing every opportunity to prove yourself at a new job. "You may have to start at the bottom, do it and do it with a good attitude," Moncrief said.
No plan, no problem
The only graduates more anxious than those with jobs are most likely those without jobs. Many students have little to no idea what they're going to do after they walk across that stage and accept their diploma.
Students often don't realize their professors were the exact same way. Diel said she waited tables for a year after graduation while she figured out what she wanted to do. Stroup worked for at her dad's office as an insurance biller for five years before deciding to go back to graduate school. Williams said she also had no idea what she wanted to do when she graduated, but that it all worked out. So for those graduates without a plan, you're not alone. Every professor agreed that not knowing the next step yet is perfectly fine, but also had advice on making the most of your time off after graduation.
"It all worked out, so don't be anxious." -Wendy Williams
Many professors said students should take their time and explore their interests if they are still unsure of what career path they want to take. "Do whatever you can to think about what you want to do," said Diel. Faggella-Luby said students should trust TCU has prepared them to find their place in the world, but they must be willing to go out, explore, and find it. Dorraj also encouraged students to explore and take time to do something that is not necessarily brainy. Williams said students should build "identity capital," a term coined by clinical psychologist Meg Jay in her TedTalk. Williams said identity capital is built by doing things that you love and that make you interesting, not things that simply look good on a resume.
Many professors suggested travel during this time of exploration. Moncrief said interviewers are fine with a period of travel. Stroup and Middleton both suggested students join the peace corps or teach English in a foreign country. Middleton said these are experiences that can prove useful once graduates do get the job they are looking for.
Professors said students should be proactive and focus on networking when looking for a job after graduation. "It’s stressful finding that first job but you’ve got to have a different mindset and you’ve got to treat it kind of like a job to get the job," Moncrief said. "Network really hard," Stroup said. "Don't have any shame." Williams reminds students to use "weak ties" to their advantage, as well. Weak ties, another term coined by Meg Jay, refers to people you're not necessarily close to, but that you may know through mutual friends. Williams said those can sometimes be the ties that led you to that job.
Whether traveling, volunteering, or actively searching for job, professors agreed students should use this time to take risks and self-reflect, but also must give themselves a timetable.
School's not out yet...
While most graduates are celebrating the end of exams, homework, and required reading, some are gearing up for even more education. Students going to graduate or professional schools will be embarking on another chapter in their educational career. Professors said these students should be prepared for very different experience than they had as an undergraduate student.
"You'll gain all sorts of experiences and you'll look back and love it, but you've got to really dive in." -William Moncrief
Dorraj said graduate school is much more demanding and students should be prepared to not have much of a social life for a while. Both Moncrief and Diel said students should treat graduate school as job. Moncrief said students should put lots of time in and Diel said students should really focus on impressing their professors. "You'll gain all sorts of experiences and you'll look back and love it, but you've really got to dive in," Moncrief said. Middleton warned students that they will have to dive into their research without professors holding their hand like they did when students were undergraduates. Faggella-Luby also told students to throw themselves into graduate school.
To deal with the stress of being a graduate student, Dorraj suggested students start a exercise routine and find a support system of friends and family. Williams stressed the importance of sleep to get through graduate school. While Faggella-Luby encouraged students to do all their readings, even those that aren't required, Williams advised the opposite. "If it means skimming or skipping some of your reading in graduate school to get some sleep, then I recommend doing that," Williams said. She also said students should switch from a grades mentality to a learning mentality. "You’ve proved yourself. You’ve gotten into grad school," Williams said. "Now turn your brain in a different direction."
"You just put behind a very exciting chapter in your life, but excitements are yet to follow." -Manochehr Dorraj
After all the professors shared their wisdom, they also had congratulatory words for the class of 2016. Professors said the class of 2016 should feel very proud of themselves, grateful for the four great years they've had at TCU, and excited for the next chapter of their lives. Congratulations class of 2016, you made it!