Advice for soon-to-be college grads

Some of our (and probably your) favorite Richmonders offer inspiration, encouragement, perspective, and…well… a healthy dose of reality for graduating seniors.

Bidding adieu to the college experience brings with it quite a mixture of feelings: a sense of accomplishment…relief…paralyzing fear, maybe.

But fear not, young scholars. As you look at your respective futures with equal measures of excitement and uncertainty, find comfort in the fact that so many have come before you, feeling the same things you’re probably feeling right now.

Here fellow Richmonders (representing a variety of ages, professions, and walks of life) share advice on navigating “what’s next” in life–both in the immediate future and a little further down the line. We hope their thoughts offer you inspiration, encouragement, perspective, and…well…a healthy dose of reality, too.

But don’t worry, guys. You’re gonna be great.

— ∮∮∮ —

Dr. Edward L. Ayers, 61

President, University of Richmond

Keep your options open. That means getting the best, broadest, and most challenging education you can, specializing only when you have to.

— ∮∮∮ —

Tiffany Jana, 36

CEO, TMI Consulting Inc.

No job is beneath you. Each task is a stepping stone toward understanding the big picture. Always do your best, be kind, and you’ll be awesome!

— ∮∮∮ —

Brian R. Marks, 36

Founder and CEO, Bonfire Funds; Founding/Managing Partner, Belle Isle Craft Spirits

Three things determine your success. How hard you work, who your advocates are, and timing. You have ABSOLUTE control over two. #findsolutions

— ∮∮∮ —

Jennifer L. McLellan, 41

Virginia House of Delegates, 71st District

Don’t be afraid to fail. All successful people failed at something, and the lessons learned were necessary ingredients to future successes.

— ∮∮∮ —

John Mills, 43

Founder, Release The Hounds

Always be the second smartest person in the room, even if you’re the first.

— ∮∮∮ —

Danna M. Geisler, 29

President, Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce

Live by Wayne Gretzky’s words: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

— ∮∮∮ —

Dr. Dana T Bedden, 47

Superintendent of Schools, Richmond Public Schools

“Make a commitment to do something […] that prepares you to be a productive citizen in society–something that is a balance between what you like and what will create employment opportunities.”

— ∮∮∮ —

Patience Salgado, 37

Kindness Worker

Everything good starts small. Work really, really hard. Push yourself to all the places that make you uncomfortable. Plant yourself in something you believe in with your whole heart.

— ∮∮∮ —

Erin White, 29

Web librarian, Virginia Commonwealth University

Life gets a lot easier once you realize that nobody really knows what’s going on. Go forth with confidence, breathe, and fail open.

— ∮∮∮ —

Christ Bopst, 47

Human being

Never be afraid to quit a job you hate. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Remain engaged. Follow your bliss even if it doesn’t involve money.

— ∮∮∮ —

Karri Peifer, 37


Exhale. Travel. Try things. Move. Try out different jobs. Be on time. Know you don’t have to have it all figured out. Not in your 20s. For the love of god, move out of your parent’s house.

— ∮∮∮ —

Kristen Ziegler, 31

Owner, Minima Organization & Redesign

Figure out what your unique gift is and make sure that you’re using it in your job. Don’t be afraid to change careers completely.

— ∮∮∮ —

Erik Bonkovsky, 36

Pastor, City Church of Richmond

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” — Annie Dillard
“At the heart of each of our stories are the promises we make” — Christine Pohl

— ∮∮∮ —

Johnny Hugel, 34

Producer, Mobelux

Dress for the job you want, not the one you have…Or was it make your own job and dress however you want?

— ∮∮∮ —

Susan Winecki, 48

Associate Publisher, Richmond Magazine

Things will always go wrong. You need to think on your feet, correct what you can, and move on.

— ∮∮∮ —

Chris Peace, 37

Virginia House of Delegates, 97th District

Be sure to answer the question, “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” and do that.

— ∮∮∮ —

Maya Smart, 33


You are powerful. Everything you do and say makes a difference. You are building a reputation, a life, a legacy every day. Act accordingly.

Photo by: Jason Bache

  • error

    Report an error

Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

There are no reader comments. Add yours.