Life Design Community / Tips for Designing Your Life

Graduation Advice from the DYL Community for the Class of ’23

In our last DYL newsletter, we asked you to share your advice to the 2022 graduating class. As usual, we were impressed by your thoughts. Here’s what the community had to say!


From Trevor in Columbu, Ohio, Grad 1995 – 

Don’t feel rushed. Your friends may be starting careers, getting married, buying houses. If this isn’t you, that’s FINE. That’s their path, not yours. There’s no finish line for where you are now…take your time, do what’s right for you. There’s no rush.”


From Gwen, Mechanical Engineer & Owner of BTF Designs – 

“Apply to any job that looks interesting, fun or challenging. Don’t stick to only those openings that you meet all the requirements for. Also research the companies you wish to join, and if you find a company you like but no posted openings – email them anyway, ask if they are planning to post any openings soon ect. As always, ‘The Answer’s No, unless you ask!’”


From JP, Grad 2007 –

“Find a challenge to solve, not a job title to fit into.”


From Anonymous, Grad 1988 –

“It does not matter where you begin. Focus on what you learn from each experience. Not just the skills and knowledge but what you learn about yourself….what you like, don’t like, and what you are curious about. Use these insights when you make your next step.” 


From Ranjini, Executive Coach in Bangalore, India, Grad 1997 –

“Be Bold. Be Courageous.Take risks and keep learning from mistakes . Don’t forget to have fun . Create your own destiny. You are your life’s architect!” 


From Mark, Cedar Rapids, Grad 1987 –

“When you face major decisions, sometimes you have to be willing to bet everything on yourself.  These are the key points of your life.” 


From DTL @ UC Santa Barbara – 

“Reach out to senior executives (specifically, a possible future you) asking for a meeting to gain their career guidance on your next career steps to attain <fill in the blank>. In the meeting, ask them about the decisions they made to reach their current role (do not ask them about their career, you can read about that on LinkedIn!). Eventually, ask which roles they think are a good fit for you NOW considering your experience, skills, and interests.


If you are in a hurry or anxious, DO NOT APPLY for ANY role that you aren’t willing to take this first step (above paragraph) either before or at the time you apply. You may get lucky with any application, but your time could be better spent engaging with senior managers to hear what roles they think fit for you.


If you are in a hurry or anxious, DO NOT ask anyone for a job until you have had a discussion of your experience, skills, and interests. CEOs (and other senior execs) will make time to give you guidance. CEOs do not know what jobs are available and thus will send you to HR –  you have learned nothing.


<fill in the blank> can be one of several options. Choose the one that makes sense for that contact as long as it’s still a possibility for you.  VP of Product Management as a target, then <fill in the blank> may be product manager (or if product manager is your goal, then VP of Product Management is your target).


Spending your time on anything else will be lower return-on-effort, but you could get lucky and sometimes you just need to do something else for fun or a break!”


From Anonymous, Grad 1995 – 

“Remember the Triangle of Health for a better, more productive, and happier life  (something I learned from William Dement’s Sleep and Dreams Course): Eat Health, Exercise Daily, and Enough Sleep. I usually draw this as a triangle with labeled corners and a happy face in the middle. :-)”


From Jess in Chicago, Grad 2008 –

“There is no right answer to the question of what to do with your life. Just the answer you choose and you can always change your mind later!”


From Michael, Host of the Career Cloud Radio Podcast, Grad 2003 –

“Commit to consistent learning. Invest more time, money and energy in yourself than any other thing. Investment in yourself carries a higher return than any other investment vehicle known to mankind.”


From Cristina, a German visiting Italy, Grad 2000 –

“It’s a joy to share with other people the things you love.”


From Scott, Career Coach, Grad 1977 –

“Get connected to every one of your classmates, professors and college staff on LinkedIn.”


From Debbie, Grad 1992 –

“Politics is not a gravity problem.  You can do something about issues that are important in this world.  If your life view values something in society and you are turned off by the political noise, prototype an alternative to make change.  You have options to act.  Don’t get stuck.”


From Sarah – 

“Congratulations! Way to work hard and play hard to realize your goal of earning your college degree. Your focus on the goal no matter the obstacles will benefit you throughout your life.


As an adolescent, I formed a compass within by exploring the mountains and the ocean with my family. It’s provided me with a lifelong inner guidance I draw from again and again.  


What I’ve come to realize is where I’ve chosen to spend my time and with whom plays an enormous role in who I’ve become. I see my family relationships as the most important relationships in my life. I realize I will experience many places and people, yet the memories that leave the greatest impression are the ones when I’ve followed my inner compass.”

From Lara, Regret Coach & Professional Life Designer, Grad 2011 –

“Listen to your gut. 

The top 5 regrets of the dying are as follows;

1) “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

2) “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

3) “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

4) “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

5) “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

With these in mind, remember that a BIAS TOWARDS ACTION and REFRAMING are game changing tools in your everyday life. 

People most often regret the things that they DID NOT do over the things that they did (Power of Regret, Dan Pink).

So grab life by the horns: express yourself, be authentic, always make time for the people who are most important to you, and be a lifelong learner. You’ll never do it all perfectly, there’s no avoiding the up’s and down’s – but there’s a way to live full-heartedly. Embrace your moxie.”


From Anonymous, adapted from Jennifer Gonzalez – 

“Look for the marigolds in your life and be a marigold for others.”


From Nicole, HR Professional, Grad 2006 –

“You don’t need to have life figured out when you graduate. Enjoy the journey and focus less on the final destination.“


From Jeff in San Francisco –

Check out 80,000 Hours and the Center for Humane Technology for some valuable input on how to spend your life. 


From Jessica, Kansas City, Grad 2010 – 

“Embrace this next step in your life and never stop trying new things! You just never know when you might find your next passion! Congrats!”


From Jrene in Switzerland – 

“Ask yourself every now and then: Is it just comfortable here or does it really make me happy?”


From Terry – 

“Reconcile your tolerance for risk with that of your boss. Just have a conversation about each other’s tolerance for failure and how failure is viewed within the organization. That knowledge can help guide decisions. But I say take risks and embrace failure if it comes.”


From Anonymous, Grad 2010 –

“Passively expecting the degree title or institution’s prestige to set you apart is unlikely to work in most industries. Aim to build an acute awareness of what you have to offer.

Take some time to go back through your time and build your awareness of what you have really learned and what you can do right now as a result of your academic study and other experiences. 

Do this forensically! 


As well as subject matter, look for evidence of broader employability skills that show you are work ready. 

For example, saying you have good planning and self organizational skills is…well generic and meaningless. 

Describing how you used project management concepts to map out your semester timetable so you could juggle competing assessments and part time work is better, having real evidence to show, better again, and throwing in a real example of assessing and rearranging priorities in an emergency sets you up well. 


There are thousands of free templates and tools to help you do this, it may feel overwhelming at first but nudge yourself through – you’ve studied your butt off, this is where you can start to make sense of your effort and see how it meets the needs of the world of work.


PS it’s likely your institution has a careers support team hidden away somewhere trying to cut through all the other marketing and messages being pushed out to students daily, seeking them out, as well as exploring in detail all the alumni resources.“


From Melanie in Squamish, Grad 1995 –

“Have another ‘thing’ in your life besides your job. Whether you’re part of a choir, or you play on a sports team, or you volunteer, or something else, it is extremely beneficial to have an identity and a community beyond your ‘job’…”


From Anonymous – 

“Congratulations. You’ve been jumping through hoops and navigating a packaged and streamlined world to a tangible goal and made it! Now entering the ‘real world’ you have to undo the hoop jumping habits and learn to be present, mindful and kind in all you do. This will take more than a lifetime to learn but will become your legacy. It is with these traits that you will help build diverse communities in which your deep understanding, skills and vocations will help us survive with and for the Earth, our shared paradise. I wish you luck and love in these first steps of your thousand miles.”


From Dalena – 

“Try to think about just the first year or two of your career. Don’t try to think too long term, or you will be overwhelmed. And, if you’re uncertain about where to start, just pick a direction that interests you. Give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out, then course correct. Little by little, you will learn more about what you enjoy and what you’re good at. No one has to have everything figured out at the very beginning!”


From Sean, Grad 1991 – 

“Slow down.  Look around.  Appreciate where you are and who you are with now.  The future is coming, relax and enjoy where you are now.  You will miss it.”


From Brenda, Grad 2021 – 

Take life one day at a time. Life may not be all that you hope for, but the process counts. Keep showing up to do what you love. 


From Jerry in Houston, Grad 2002 –

“Don’t settle for what others think success is.”


From Susan, Social Worker Entrepreneur, Grad 1983 – 

“Your college life has been quite the journey given the world events. Hopefully you take away the lessons of flexibility, resilience and spending time with  the people who lift you up. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Think about what is important to you and what you want to be saying about your life when you are sitting on that rocking chair in old age. Gather the experiences that align with that vision. Congratulations!”


From Carol, Carol Read Consultancy, Grad 1993 – 

“Be bold, embrace serendipity, innovate and recognise the world works in amazing ways.  The role you will end up enjoying has probably not been invented yet!”


From Tierria, Grad 2022 –

“Set goals! “A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry”


From Kimyung in Atlanta – 

“If something doesn’t exist in the world, create it. Be kind to yourself and others. Learn to live on less than what you need and save your money. Never stop learning. And of course, read ‘Designing Your Life!’”