5 things every college graduate needs.

This month, college graduates will have a hard time finding jobs because their parents refuse to move to Florida. It’s not the pythons, alligators, sharks, panthers or bears preventing the exodus to the Sunshine State, it’s the money.

Boomers can’t financially afford to retire like they used to. In a 2014 Gallup poll, half of the Boomers said they plan to work past the age of 65. They’re not leaving their jobs, which means they’re not vacating positions for Gen X employees.

My generation bumps into them and has a hard time climbing the career ladder, because the top positions are filled already.

Millennials then graduate and bump into Gen X employees who have not been able to move beyond entry level and middle management positions.

This reality creates a job traffic jam.

Maybe you’re a college senior about to enter the workforce. Maybe you’re a parent with a son or daughter who is on the verge of receiving a diploma. Maybe you’re a relative or friend who has been invited to a graduation party and doesn’t know how to help a college graduate.

Fear not, though the situation is challenging, it is by no means impossible.

There are 5 things every college graduate needs.

1. Time
College graduates need some runway to put their lives together. We adults tend to think it will happen instantly. As if perhaps when they get their diploma they will also get a job, an apartment, a life purpose and a golden retriever who wears a jaunty bandana. They won’t. Those things take time. (Except for the bandana, you can get those anywhere.) Don’t put undue pressure on an already pressure-filled moment. Give college graduates time.

2. Connections
One of the best ways you can help a college graduate is by opening your rolodex. (That reference just made it seem like I graduated 17 years ago and am super old.) Share your network of connections. It might sound cliché to say “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” but it’s true. One of the best gifts you can give a graduate is an introduction to someone you know who can help with a career opportunity.

3. A sneak peek into the future.
We adults aren’t just adults, we’re time machines. We’ve been to the future and can tell graduates what we’ve learned. For instance, now that I’m 39 I can say confidently that the 20s can be a lot lonelier than anyone tells you. It’s hard to make friends as an adult. You have to work hard to build community. When I tell a college graduate that, I give them a sneak peek into the future. Step out of the Dr. Who Tardis that is adulthood for a minute and tell a college graduate a little about where he or she is headed.

4. Gift cards.
Money is awesome but it tends to disappear quickly. Give college graduates gift cards instead. Starbucks, The Home Depot, the grocery store, everyone has a gift card option and instead of the money getting swallowed up by life, they will actually use the gift card for something they need.

5. A copy of Do Over.
Most graduate gifts are boring and useless. A college grad doesn’t need a lacquered piece of wood with a motivational statement on it or a hamper for dirty laundry. (They can buy that with a gift card.) They need a guide to one of the biggest career Do Over moments they will ever face, graduation. They need a fun plan to build the four investments every great career requires (relationships, skills, character and hustle). There’s a reason hundreds of parents have already given Do Over to college graduates and Library Journal said it was “highly recommended for the college graduate just beginning a career.” (You can get one at Amazon or a even a signed edition at Barnes & Noble.)

Graduating from college can feel like an overwhelming experience, but it doesn’t have to be.

Give graduates a fighting chance in a world where it’s increasingly hard to find a job.

Give them these five things and then make them pay for Starbucks with a gift card next time you go out for coffee.

About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff


  1. I wish I could buy a copy for everyone of my Cosmetology students. Luckily we teach many of the principles in Do Over. Hopefully they have character when they come to us! We teach them the skill, we show them how to build relationships with their clients and we light a fire under them to get them to hustle out of school. We tend t see that the flame still burns when they get out.

  2. Fantastic timing – I’ve got a college junior and we’re working through this same challenge. The thing I struggle with is how long a runway we’re talking about. Too long and it starts to feel like the proverbial 30 year old in the basement. Too short and you’re setting them up to fail.

  3. When I raduated from college with a Graphic Design degree, I put a lot of my self worth into my ability to find a job. There are so many designers in the world, and it was more than overwhelming and easy to see my career choice as being a mistake because I wasn’t half as good as the majority of the people I was seeing in my field. I settled for minimum wage jobs at small companies, and my parents and family were appalled at those choices. Finally, in the last year, I found a wonderful company that was willing to give me a chance, despite my lack of experience. If I could have had a “Do Over” book about three years ago, that would have been such a help.

  4. JK Riki

    “We’ve been to the future and need to tell generations behind us what we’ve learned.”

    An interesting idea, and one I’ve been considering lately. Not sure I agree.

    I can only speak for myself, but when I was 20 I didn’t care what some 39 year old had to say, and I CERTAINLY didn’t take the advice of the wise 90 year olds who had already been around the block. Will some college age kids listen? I guess maybe, to a tiny degree. I don’t think you’ve lived long enough to know the benefit of listening yet, though. You’re still riding the high of “knowing everything” that comes from the teenage years.

  5. I love this. Time is a wonderful thing. It’s the currency we see God use to do all kinds of works that blow our minds. Sometimes we’re in the midst of the changes when we recognize it, but most of the time it’s in hindsight. And parents: as a recent college grad, hooking your kids up with great connections is a far better gift than most checks you will write as graduation gifts. Checks help kickstart life in the “real world”, but connections are what help your kids grow roots that are going to weather the storms ahead. That way you don’t have to keep writing checks to keep them alive. It’s a win-win.