Seniors here in Billings and surrounding are getting ready to put on their graduation caps and gowns and get handed the coveted diploma they've worked so hard for. Seniors in high school and seniors in college... congrats! This is what you've dreamed of and you are almost there!

I've had the privilege of wearing that infamous cap and gown twice. Once for my high school graduation and again for my college graduation from Oregon State University. I learned a lot in the following months and year of both and there are few things that I wish people would have told me. Yes, I loved hearing the congratulations and that I can do anything I put my mind to but there are some practical things that I learned that I wish would have been communicated. So, thought I'd share:

1. Don't live beyond your means.
Whether you are graduating high school and getting a job or going to college or you are graduating college with a job or trying to find one.... Live well within what you have. Don't spend money you don't have. And definitely do not buy things that you can't afford and especially not to impress other people or your parents. This is THE number one advice I wish I could give everyone. There is nothing worse than being in debt and especially over just some stuff!

2. Work hard then play hard.
From someone how has been in the work place for 10+ years and has managed people before.... do your time and show some diligence. Work hard and show dedication. Volunteer to work the extra hours or the extra event or to cover for people. There is nothing more impressive than someone who shows up to work and does just that: works! If you are brand new somewhere try and wait 6-12 months to take a vacation or extended time off. Get in there and make a name for yourself. Being a flake or flusy just doesn't cut it!

3. Take a job you don't love.
Both my husband and I didn't get jobs right out of college in our fields. While that sucks a whole lot.. You know what sucks worse? Going to live with your parents again at 23 years old. If you get offered an okay job but you aren't having any luck getting the job... take the just 'eh' job. Number one... it pays money (which you don't have if you don't have a job). Number two... you can learn skills at every jobs, use that time to learn all you can. Number three... if you get really good at just the 'eh' job then at least you have a professional reference who can give you a good word once you do find THE job!

4. Don't grow up too quick.
I don't mean don't get married or have kids, etc.... What I mean is do the things that young people can do!  You don't have to buy a house right away... Take time to pay off your student loans and do some world traveling!  Take time to explore where you live. Keep in touch with your friends. Go camping. Don't try to accomplish the things that 40-year-olds are doing at age 18. You only get to be 18 once. Do it right :)

5. Mistakes can be a good thing.
Most people have the misconception that all mistakes are bad. In some cases... this is true. Regular mistakes in the airline industry would be bad. Just about everywhere else in a regular persons life - it's fine. You know what mistakes do? They redirect you. You learn from them. Risks sometimes have the greatest reward and unless you take them you'll never know. And if you do take a risk and it becomes a mistakes then you will be a wiser person for it. I took a job once thinking it was going to be awesome and got a few months into it and realized it was the WORSE job ever and the boss was bats**t crazy. Mistake? Yes. Did I learn stuff? I did and I also learned what NOT to do!

6. You can change your path.
Don't buy into the lie that once you've picked something to do then you have to stick to it. Not true. While being dedicated and having longetivity somewhere is a very noble trait, don't stick with something that you know you hate or aren't passionate about! Did you want to be a Veterinarian but realized a year or two into school that it isn't for you and you'd rather be a graphic designer? Guess what? YOU CAN BE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER! Or maybe you got your degree in business and you're working for a bank and you'd rather own your own coffee shop. GREAT! Use your business degree and transfer it into something that you want to do for the years to come. Don't get stuck. Find what you love.

7. Help others.  
Soup kitchen. Homeless shelter. Single mom with two kids. You name it and there is an opportunity to help. I didn't realize till I got a little older that helping other people is rewarding for not just the receiver but also myself. I love that feeling of community and like I'm making a difference somehow. Go read to little kids after school. Volunteer to walk your elderly neighbors dog. Whatever serving looks like to you - do it. The world is a broken place and needs young people to give it passion and time. A little can go a long ways!

Well, Class of 2017. Congratulations!