By Joe Rector

Congratulations, graduates! You’ve reached milestones in your lives. Some of you have survived or even thrived in a high school setting, and now are ready to receive your diplomas and turn toward what lies ahead. Others have put in long, arduous hours studying for classes or partying with friends, and you are now ready to receive specialized degrees and find jobs which offer the work for which you’ve prepared. After the hoopla is finished, you graduates can take a peek at what real life is about to offer you.

Now that you’ve finished your formal education, it’s time to begin your education in the real world. First off, you’ll need to find a job. Yep, it’s time to cut the apron strings and jump into your own life. Now, it might come as a surprise, but most of you have no chance of becoming the boss of a company unless you start one up yourselves. For the most part, you are entry-level employees. That means you now must spend a few years learning how businesses “really” run. Yes, theories are wonderful, but too often they bear no resemblance to reality. You will begin at the bottom, so don’t think for a minute that your salary will be equal to what you think you’re worth. Promotions come as the result of employee production and value to the company. No longer do you live in a world where “everyone gets a trophy.”

Also, you no longer can rely on parents to help you at work. Helicopter parents are never welcome at companies. No matter how much your mom calls to protest your pay scale or delivers excuses for your misbehaviors, you alone are held accountable for your actions. Most companies aren’t interested in how you feel about yourselves. They follow the logic that an employee can feel good about himself or herself after working and succeeding in a job. Yes, they want their workers to have a good outlook, but for the most part, that is something that comes from within the individuals.

The world runs on a set of rules, especially in business. It is incumbent that each of you learn those rules and follow them. For example, it is no longer acceptable for you to arrive tardy on a consistent basis. Doing so will lead to your dismissal. At the same time, not showing up for work too many times will lead to your firing. Some companies have dress codes, and you are expected to follow them, even if you don’t agree with them. Your boss has the right to tell you what to do; the subject is not up for negotiation unless the request is for doing something illegal or unethical. If you don’t like these things, that’s tough. Someone once said that what makes America great is that if you don’t like your job, you have the right to find a new one.

Responsibility falls on you like a ton of bricks now. That student loan that too many used to buy cars and rent plush apartments and purchase all sorts of toys is now due. No amount of complaining will make it go away. Your borrowed the money, and now it’s time to pay it back. That’s how loans work. Develop with institutions a workable payment plan and stick to it.

It might be wise for you to set aside a portion of your income for retirement. Folks, social security might not be around for you, and if it is, it won’t come close to covering your expenses. Don’t become someone else’s problem. Take control of your future by preparing in the present.

Politically, it’s time to use more head than heart when choosing candidates. Usually, extremes on both sides should be avoided. This election cycle we have a man who is an avowed socialist trying to “start a revolution.” For those of you who have become enamored with this revolution, here’s a definition of socialism:

“a system of society or group living in which there is NO private property: a system of condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.”

I’m not sure that such a revolution is one that American democracy favors. Realize that in most socialist states that tax rates take a majority of your income. The individual desire to succeed is blunted. Think about how such a revolution might impact your lives.

The other side offers a man who seems to be in love with himself. He would rather hurl insults and buy opponents with dirt. All the while, he presents a hodgepodge of ideas about which he changes his mind daily. Be careful what you believe and whom you support.

So, I hope you celebrate and enjoy your special graduation time. Life is about to get much harder; it’s a good ride, but it’s not easy. Buckle up and get ready for adulthood and the real world.