Success tips for new graduates

Saturday, 1 July, 2017 - 09:45
Fitzwilliam College Cambridge PhD student Milan Gritta

To celebrate #cambridgegraduation, Fitzwilliam PhD student Milan Gritta (Computational Linguistics 2015) shares his top 10 tips for success for those graduating today.

A bit about Milan: He is a second-year PhD student at Fitz, where he also did a Masters in Computer Science in 2014. When he is not researching, Milan blogs/vlogs about 'personal leadership', which is all about 'where to go in life and how to get there'. He was born in communist Czechoslovakia and has had at least 15 careers! In his blog Milan also talks about health and fitness, and emotional intelligence, his other passions. For a longer description of his rather unusual life path, you can visit his personal blog here.


1. Don’t copy others’ ambitions, most people don’t know what they want - The compulsion to do what others do means you have not taken the time to clarify what you want. Once you're clear on that, what people say or do is of little significance. Trust me on that! So the good news is that only you get to define your future, empowering!

2. Exam grades won’t matter in five years’ time - Yes, you want to do well anyway because right out of university you may not have a track record of results. But 10 years from now what will matter is REAL LIFE action and results. Do grades equal holistic success in life? In some cases, yes, in many others, no. What you will make happen in the dirty, messy, real world is what will matter for your prosperous future.

3. IQ is not enough - We also need to learn EQ (emotional intelligence) and creativity/innovation. Anyone who is successful and brilliant at something in life got there by trial/error and practice! EQ will equip you to lead yourself first and then others. Creativity is becoming increasingly more valuable so get practicing.

4. Holistic success – There is nothing wrong with chasing financial success, but remember to excel in health, family and wellbeing as well. Some time ago I learnt from one of my many mentors that "career success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure." True.

5. Be yourself – If you adhere to others’ ambitions and wishes instead of following your own interests, you’ll never love your life. If you remember nothing else from this video/blog, this is it: don’t succumb to others’ demands and expectations, it will be the greatest source of misery and unhappiness in your life. Allow yourself to be different, authentic, unique. Because you are.

6. No such thing as a wasted career - Don’t overthink it at the beginning. Some of the choices you make will seem like mistakes but they aren't. Learning about what you hate is just as useful as knowing what you love. Steve Jobs once said: “You can only connect the dots backwards, not forwards. It will all make sense later, there is no such thing as a wasted job or experience.”

7. Why you get paid, what you get paid - Congrats on your Oxbridge degree, this is only the start. A company pays you for providing solutions to problems. The bigger the problems you can alleviate, and the better the solutions to the problems, the more you get paid and the faster you get promoted. That means saving someone either time or money, help them avoid something they hate doing and you’re in business. The odd thing about education is that employers don't pay for grades, people with terrible grades can do extremely well and vice versa. Grades are a moderate proxy and a somewhat good indicator of how you will perform at work.

8. Your character is a huge asset - If you’re good at your primary skill/competence, that’s great. But there is something else for you to develop: your character. This means how you treat others, how you work with them, whether having you around helps or hinders projects, etc. Developing a character that can serve as an example for others to follow is HUGELY valuable. More so than a degree or skill.  Be a JOY to work with!

9. University is just the beginning - Continuous learning and development are absolutely mandatory otherwise you will be obsolete in five years’ time. You should never be done with learning...

10. What people think of you today won’t matter in a few years’ time - "Don’t let other people’s opinions become your reality" was the advice I got years ago, and it really resonated with me. Everyone possesses a unique combination of preferences, dreams, ambitions and lifestyle choices. You will likely change significantly in the next 10 years so what people say or think about your personal choices today is irrelevant (even though at present it seems important when they say it).

Good luck Billygoats!


This is an abridged version of Milan’s post. You can find the original text and video here >>