1.  Your emotional intelligence is more important than any other type of intelligence.   

Emotional intelligence is a hot topic nowadays.  (EQ) has 5 components: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.  This is crucial to success in most workplaces where dealing with people in paramount.  Many otherwise intelligent and talented people have lost jobs due to lack of EQ, and many otherwise mediocre people have quickly moved up the ranks for the same reason.  While some people possess EQ as a natural talent, the good news is that it can be learned and improved with time and dedication.

2.  Know your audience: When to speak, when not to, and what to speak when you do.

This goes along with #1 (Emotional Intelligence).  I’ll never forget the time I was representing my company at a job fair for Asians in NYC, and as we were packing up at the end of the day, I smelled a distinct smell.  “Something smells like Chinese food,” I quipped.  Everyone just stared at me in shock.  At the time, I was genuinely curious if there was a Chinese food vendor nearby.  However, my discrete and politically correct coworkers looked at me with shock.  Only until later, at my 6-month performance review, did I understand the source of their dropped jaws.

In the “real world,” particularly the workplace, you must learn how to fine-tune your filter.  This is easier for some than for others.  There is a time and place to talk about how you got drunk at that party last weekend, or who to vent to about the boss.  Most people don’t respond well to negative talk so it’s best to keep things light and positive until you get to know someone.  Also know that not everybody is looking out for your best interest in the workplace- even those who appear open and friendly- and that what you say might travel to the wrong ears.  Knowing who you can trust takes time and perception.

3.  Grades aren’t as important as you think (unless you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or enter a doctoral program).

It was very important to me to get straight As in high school and college.  I spent countless hours, often going above and beyond, making sure I got that 99 instead of an 89.  I watched my peers party, socialize, network, participate in summer internships, participate in student activities and clubs, etc.  20 years later, those peers, many of whom were B or even C students, are doing exceptionally well.  Robert Kiyosaki’s 2012 book “Why ‘A’ Students Work for ‘C’ Students”  emphasizes that high grades aren’t everything, explained further in this article.  This does not mean you should strive for Cs or drop out of college.  It means that the highest grades shouldn’t be your number one priority IF getting them takes time away from other important things that increase your career and life marketability (like internships and student clubs).  The exception to this rule is for certain professions that require exceptional grades in college, like medicine, law, and doctoral programs.

4.  Everything that’s not expected of you in college is what’s really going to make you a well-rounded and career-ready human being.

At mentioned in #3, high grades are expected of you in college.  In addition to being a good and responsible human being, that’s about it.  However, there are so many things that enhance your resume and who you are as a person, not to mention help you understand further what you want out of life, that you could do in those 4 years.  There are relationships to be built, conferences to attend, jobs/internships/volunteer work to be done, clubs and activities to join, certifications to get, countries to visit, language to learn- the list goes on.  Research shows that it is absolutely worth investing the extra time in these things for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, it helps you understand who you are and what you want out of life.  Also, it will save you money and time in the long run, not to mention add years of career and life satisfaction.

5.  Yes, you can always change your mind and your career later.  But it’s going to cost you time and money, and it’s not as easy as it was for your parents and grandparents.

You may have heard well-meaning elders advise you to “just study something” because you can always change your mind later.

6.  Everything comes with a price and a sacrifice.

7.  You either have time, or you have money, or neither, but you rarely can have both (unless you’re ultra wealthy).  You usually need either time or money or both to make things happen, especially college.

8.  The “school of hard knocks” will teach you much more than you ever learn in college.

9.  Try not to pay living expenses as long as you can.

10.  Learn about how to manage finances early and avoid “the hole.”

11.  College debt weighs you down and for many careers, it’s not worth it.

12.  Self-confidence, drive, and sense of purpose in life is everything.

13.  It really doesn’t matter what other people think- except those in charge of your paycheck.  (And even then, you can change who is in charge of your paycheck).

14.  Yes, you can pursue your passions through your hobbies- but you need time.  It may be better and more efficient for that passion to be where you spend 8-10 hours per day.

15.  It is BOTH what you know and who you know- but if you have to choose, who is in your network is everything.

Amy Quinde is the owner and founder of Head & Heart International, a unique educational consulting & curriculum company with an overarching goal of preparing students successfully and authentically for their future.  They aim to enhance students’ social-emotional, life, & language skills through creative and purpose development endeavors with a cross-cultural emphasis.  In doing so, they strive to fill the many gaps left by our traditional education system.  Head & Heart International currently offers enrichment curriculum programming for K-12 schools as well as consulting services focused on career and college readiness for high school students and their families.