Life after college graduation is an exciting time: Armed with a shiny new diploma and big plans, the future in post-college life is wide open. Whether the graduate you’re celebrating is your son or daughter, a nephew or niece, friend or godchild, this pivotal stage is an opportunity to launch them on the path to success.
Some of the greatest (or at least most famous) thinkers of our time have struggled with the same joyful burden. Here’s hoping you can find some spark in their words, and from your own basic “lessons learned,” to craft the perfect, personal approach:
“Just Get On”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shared some good advice with Harvard Business School graduates in 2012 that she’d been told early in her career: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
This is a clear, gripping image from a leader at a respected company. Surely you have an example from your own life when you took a leap of faith, when opportunity knocked and you opened the door, even if you weren’t sure what was waiting on the other side. Tell your grad about it.
This Rocket Wall Clock can serve as a sweet, sentimental reminder that life after college graduation is all about looking for opportunity—and that grads ought not scoff when they find one.
Don’t Worry about Mistakes
Pressure to make the right choices can be overwhelming in post-college life.
Talk show host Conan O’Brien told Harvard grads in 2000 to relax about making errors: “Fall down. Make a mess. Break something occasionally. Know that your mistakes are your own unique way of getting to where you need to be.”
Since we’ve all made mistakes in life, it shouldn’t be hard to share the experience of a mistake you made—and what you learned from it. To do so with levity (and leave them with something that will be useful wherever they end up), send them off into the world with this Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Variety Tub, 6 pk.
Be a Fool Sometimes
“Will saying ‘yes’ lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise.” That was part of Stephen Colbert’s 2006 commencement address at Knox College.
This is a reminder to graduates that post-college life is a positive time. Did you ever wear your heart on your sleeve when taking a risk and then have it all go wrong? Did it all work out just fine in the end? Show your recent grad the value of playing the fool with a light, fun, smart read by Christopher Moore. This book tells the tale of Shakespeare’s King Lear from the perspective of his beloved fool, who, with his pure heart and honest observations, brought clarity to this tangled tragedy.
Invest in Yourself
This basic financial advice doesn’t need a famous name behind it. Encourage your graduate to start saving right when they start working by enrolling in their employers’ 401(k) program, if there is one, and max out the contribution to the company match. If you’re in a position to do so, get them started with a little something extra.
Remain a Student of Life
Life after college graduation doesn’t mean the learning is over: Tell your grad to read, read, and read some more. Tell them to keep their eyes and heart open and meet new people, pursue experiences over possessions, and commit to their community (like they might have done with dorm parties). To remind them that they’re a student of the world now, hook them up with a coupon for a class in art, cooking, or whatever interests them from LivingSocial.
WIth a little wisdom and a couple of thoughtful gifts to keep them occupied and grounded, your grad will be ready to face the the real world.