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What We Wish We Knew

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We asked College alumni what they wish they knew when they first graduated and what advice they’d like to share with you, the newly graduated Class of 2020. See the inspiring things they had to say!

Kareem Carryl CC’15

Kareem Carryl CC'15

“A few years ago, a mentor of mine told me three words that changed my perspective on life: You are enough. Today, I want to pass this message on to you. As you all embark on this new phase in your lives, do not waste any time doubting yourselves or your abilities in your new jobs, new schools, or wherever life may take you. Do not spend a moment questioning whether you belong. You do.

The unique experiences you have had in your lives—especially the four years you have spent at Columbia—prepared you for more than you may realize right now. You have gotten to this point because of who you are, not in spite of it. You are enough. I know it. Your Columbia community knows it. Now, let the world know it too.”

Andrea Sofia Viejo CC’15

Andrea Sofia Viejo

“It is okay to take risks professionally this early on in your career. Quit your job if you are not happy, move to a new city if you are seeking the adventure, and it's okay if you do not know what your “dream job” is. Also, make sure you still find time to keep yourself engaged in extracurricular activities and causes that you are passionate about. Don’t let your 9-5 job define you.”

Julian Richardson CC’14

Julian Richardson CC'14

“Keep an open mind and embrace the moment. I was not passionate about my first job, but it acted as a springboard for the international opportunities I was pursuing. After a year, I secured a move to Europe, traveled the globe for work, and made some incredible friends in the process. Even if you feel stuck, keep building your skills so that when the window of opportunity presents itself, you are ready to pounce on it like a lion.”

Michelle Kaiser CC’87 PH’92 PS’97

“Transition can be stressful, but you have proven to be among the best and brightest. Have faith in yourself and in your future. Contemplate your passions and priorities. How will you balance and fulfill them? Take a risk and reach out. Life has ups and downs, missteps and lessons learned, but true friends stick. Good karma comes back ten-fold. Work hard, listen to advice from people who love you, and confidently choose your path. Treat others as you would like to be treated along the way. You can be the positive force that makes a difference. Enjoy the journey!”

Daniel Liss CC'16
Daniel Liss CC’16

“It's tough to see it when you've just graduated, especially in light of current circumstances, but I think this would have been helpful to know: Everyone I know who graduated Columbia went onto something really meaningful. There’s a valuable future ahead of you too.”

Stefanie Katz-Rothman CC'88

“I wish I knew that a career (and life) is a journey with many stops along the way and where you start will likely not be where you end. My senior year, I assumed I was picking a career for life but my first job was just a stepping stone on a long and rambling path that still continues 30+ years later.

Find jobs that inspire you and make you happy. Learn as much as possible from every experience and apply the knowledge, skills and competencies to future, even unrelated, roles. Leverage the critical thinking skills you gained from the Core—they apply universally. Finally, find and use formal and informal mentors—from Columbia College Odyssey Mentoring, your jobs and other life experiences. Be open to the unexpected. I cannot wait to see where life will take you!”

Art Spector CC’68

“The future is bright with unlimited opportunities. Like your class, the Class of 1968 graduated in the midst of challenging times. We went through the Vietnam War and anti-war demonstrations on the Columbia campus. We saw the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The country was divided and the site of great civil unrest. We spoke up, were heard and lots of changes took place. It was a great lesson for us all.

Columbia was a great place when we were there and an even better place today. Don’t forget to go back to campus and support those who follow after you—through the giving of funds, good advice, good cheer and good counsel. Your network of Columbia classmates is a great gift. Congratulations, Class of 2020.”