Advice I gave, but never got.

As I age, I find myself saying advice-like words. Most of the time the advice is solicited, sought out by individuals who I swear I’m the same age as. Until I realize that I am no longer eighteen or twenty-one. Hence why I can give out advice (is there actually an age at which you are “legally allowed” to give out advice?).

I try not to hand out advice like the women at the mall with their stinky free fragrance samples that they force under your sniffer whenever you accidentally make eye contact. Please stop me if I ever do that to you.

Sometimes I gag out cliches that are silly and stupid. Words that I kick myself for actually knowing and saying.

Sometimes I surprise myself with the insight and wisdom I am capable of dispensing. Words that come from me – my brain, my heart, and my experiences.

And sometimes, like on Monday, I spill out advice that I wish someone had dumped on me so I could have soaked it up once upon a time.

I oozed advice and enthusiasm to a group of bright students. College students. At my alma mater. The purpose of my visit: sprinkle a handful of need-to-know-information pixie dust and stand tall in front of students who most likely don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. To stand in the classroom I once sat in and say, “I did it. You can do it.”

The visit brought me back to my junior year of college. The year when so many fun and frustrating events occurred in my life. I smiled as I parked in a lot I used to fight tooth-and-nail for a parking space in. I awkwardly opened doors that I no longer had a student ID card for the scanner to read. I signed in as a “visitor” to a building I used to spend my life in. I inquired as to the class room number, even though I knew it hadn’t changed. It was all the same.

But totally different.

No one knew me. Not like I was Miss Popular back in the day, but in my college days, I knew enough people that I could typically see someone I knew.


But on Monday, I knew no one. No students looked familiar. I wasn’t going to run into my friends, classmates, roommates. I wouldn’t see my friends studying at tables. No one would bump into me and say they were glad to see me or wished I had come to the movie night the night before.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t see anyone I knew, I still looked.

When I walked up the stairs to the classroom where I spent hours and hours listening and learning, I looked in the window and was pretty sure I’d still see a friend. It was very Christmas Carol-y. Because I saw us – my classmates and friends – sitting in that room four years ago. I saw us listening and learning; working and studying. And then I blinked. And the only person I knew was my former professor.

She is a woman I respect. A woman who taught me life lessons. Someone who challenged me and cheered me on. And in my years after college, we have kept in contact – exchanging e-mails and meeting randomly for tea and talks.

When I arrived, her class was just returning from some in-class group work. As they settled back in, I caught up a bit with my former instructor. She knew what I was planning to talk about; it had been cleared ahead of time. She knew the advice I was going to toss out to her current crew.

And we talked about that advice.

We discussed how the mindset of my class had been different. Due to the economy and job market, we never really heard the advice I was about to dish out. Because it wasn’t as necessary back then. Yet, had someone told us, we probably would have been much-better prepared. But back then, no one told us the advice, because no one knew it would be necessary. It was a confusing reality we sadly noted before moving onto the here and now; the students we can now properly prep.

My former instructor turned to the present and introduced me to a younger version of me and my classmates. I stood in front of the students, staring into their young faces with their wide, bright eyes. I presented my advice. I told them that at one point, I had sat in their very chairs. I pointed to the student sitting in the non-assigned seat I always sat in and said that had once been my spot (the spot where my friend sat on my left the first day of class and grabbed my knee in shock and fear when she saw the 30 page plus syllabus – I was more shocked when she death gripped my knee than at the size of the syllabus).

I told them I know. I know what they are thinking and feeling. I know what they are up against and capable of.

But most of all, I gave advice that I had never been given. Advice no one had ensured that I hear. Things people didn’t encourage me to follow.

Because no one knew I’d need it. No one knew we’d (classmates and graduating class) need to know it.

My advice to you – young high schoolers and college students – take it, whatever we give you, from us. We’ve walked in your shoes (very recently). And we know what it takes. We’ve seen our friends make it and break it.

And make sure that someday, you also give advice that you never got. Because there will come a day when that occurs. I’m just preparing you now.

*The advice I doled out was super specific – but what I can tell you is to get as much real-life-on-the-job experience NOW. Don’t think that your degree alone will get you in any door.

For more information and advice on this topic, head over to Bennis Inc (Stephanie Bennis’ site) for some great advice for college students.


I ask. You answer.

  1. What advice have you given but never heard?
  2. What would you like to tell current students at your alma mater?

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