5 Pieces of Advice Every Graduate Receives and Should Ignore

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Editor's Note:

Andy Boyle is a writer, comedian, web developer, and author of Adulthood for Beginners. He joins Signature to discuss the 5 most common pieces of advice given to graduates that no one should ever follow. Find him at and on Twitter @andymboyle.

It’s graduation season, and that means you’ll be hearing advice from everyone, usually in the form of clichéd phrases that could be superimposed over a photo of a mountain. Some of them are heartfelt and will give you the warm fuzzies. Others are super bad.

Here are my thoughts on some of the most clichéd phrases you’ll hear and why they’re not the best. (If you hear these, don’t worry: your aunt means well.)

“Follow your passion”

Your “normal” job should be what funds the things you love. Do you enjoy fly fishing? Or baking fancy pizza? Or writing poetry about the never-ending existential dread inside us all? That’s awesome!

But not many people can make money off doing those more creative pursuits. Instead, focus on getting a decent job, preferably with benefits, and pursue your passion in your free time. If you’re lucky and keep at it, someday it could become your job. If not, at least you’ll have an okay-paying job that allows you to self-publish your vampire detective novel for fun. (Title idea: Take A Bite Out of Crime.)

“All you need is a degree to get a job”

A degree just shows you can listen to instructions for maybe a half-decade from adults and do what they tell you to do at a relatively competent level, which used to be enough for a paycheck and weekends off. Now you instead need to prove you can do the job they’re asking you to do.

You get that experience either through internships, or jobs in similar industries. Many times to even get those gigs you already need to (shocker) have experience. To overcome that hurdle, here’s what I suggest: Start doing the damn thing already.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to design outfits, or design an ad campaign, or build a website, or do anything. If you prove you can do the job you’re applying for by having already done it outside of a “normal” workplace environment, that’s a sure way to prove you can do the job you want.

“You just have to put yourself out there”

When people put themselves out there, they usually aren’t doing it right. This usually means you’re networking like a gross person: slapping your business card into someone’s hand whenever you meet them, and asking them how they can help you.

Instead, start emailing people who do dope stuff that you wish you could be doing. Just tell them you like what they did and ask 2-3 questions about how they got it done. That’s how I’ve found (and continue to find) many of my mentors. Just remember: When people start messaging you about your awesome work, pay it forward.

“Stay true to yourself”

I’m 31 and I don’t even know exactly what my true self is. I’ve changed so many times–almost always for the better–over the past decade that I look back at who I was in my early 20s and I cringe. This is normal. If I stayed true to myself, I would’ve never grown as a person.

Try to find a set of values and principles that you can stick to, but know that your tastes, aesthetic, and everything else will change with time. (Just look at old photos of your parents. Everyone changes, thankfully.) Then surround yourself with like-minded people. Together you can grow, change, and challenge one another to be the best “you”s you can be.

“Listen to your elders”

We’re all just making this up. Some of us just have made more mistakes than others, which in turn led to this thing called “knowledge.” But here’s the thing: My alleged knowledge won’t translate perfectly to you.

Some guidance from others will help you. Some will be total crap. You get to decide which advice makes sense and which doesn’t. And if anyone ever tells you that you must go about finding success exactly like they do, you can probably stop seeking their advice.