The Next Steps: Tips for Grads From a Young Professional

05/23/2016 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

My daily business interactions are filled with global leaders, business professionals and everyone from entry-level millennials to high-level executives. I recently sat down with Chloe Ropner, an avid writer, aspiring public health worker and graduate of the Class of 2015. A year down the line from her own graduation, Chloe had many tips and insights for the Class of 2016 as they begin to take their next steps. Here's what Chloe had to say:

2016-05-23-1464018303-5900151-gradtips.jpg

It's that time of year. Your anxiety of entering the real world is imminent. All the work of seemingly endless days is compiling into one singular piece of paper: your college degree. Here are five reasons why receiving your diploma and starting your life on your own terms is the most excitingly wonderful moment of your twenties.

Do what you want to do.
Remember thinking of all the exciting things you want to do at some point? Perhaps teach English in an incredible foreign community. Perhaps it's finally working at a position or internship you've been eyeing but never had the time for. Now, for the first time in your adult life, you have that time. Don't just think about all the ways you can grow and the things you want to do. Get out there and make it happen. Research the opportunities you have been dreaming about. You have time and flexibility to meet people, change paths, and gain experience in all different facets of life. This is a time when you don't need to have it all figured out, truthfully few people do. But it is valuable time where you have the freedom to test what you want.

Take time to travel.
Depending on your work situation you may be absolutely free as a bird. Take this time to travel. Adults in this last decade are marrying later, entering the workforce later and having kids later. Before you engage in these exciting and important commitments, go explore.

Three days after I graduated I hopped on a plane. After a month in Europe, I returned home, worked and saved for a few months, and then my boyfriend and I decided we were still curious for more adventures. With five days of planning we packed up the car and drove 11,000 miles all across the United States. We visited 27 states and interacted with amazing communities and incredible people. When we got home, we realized we had left our hearts on the road and recently moved to Austin, Texas where we are beginning our next adventure.

You never know where an adventure is going to take you, what it will teach you, or what it will give you a taste of. If you want to go on a cross-country road trip, you can save and make it work. Gap years are common across the globe, and while you have the time and freedom, exercise it. Explore, make mistakes, meet people, interact with the world and connect with the incredible opportunity you have.

Move to a new city.
Whether you moved away for college, or are still in your hometown, you can start anew. With more and more millennials moving to urban areas, you finally have the time to save money and the flexibility to start anywhere you would like. Use this as a time to connect with like-minded people across the country, finally support yourself, and begin life away from everything else that has defined you. Now's the time to define yourself.

Make connections.
Seek mentors and ask questions. There is a huge push for mentor and mentee connections and research has shown that both are receiving better training and more promotions. If you want to work, immerse yourself in that while saving money and connecting to higher ups in your field. If you are taking some time off, reach out to people you admire on LinkedIn or in your community, and gain insights from their career path. If you are looking at grad schools, connect to peers and alumni and find out which schools are the best fit for you. People are happy to help out most of the time and can give you solid information and possible job opportunities down the line.

Begin your story.
For years, basically your whole life, you have been going to class, buying books, taking notes, and partially being defined by institutions and communities. For the first time, you have the freedom to create your own story. Take the time to fill yourself up with everything you love and are passionate about. Future employers stress the importance of a personal narrative, a story of how you came to be passionate and how you came to want what you want. Take the time to begin life on your terms and write this story.

Enjoy the friends you have, the places you love, and get ready to fly. The real world may seem scary, but for the first time, it's fully your world. Get out there and make the most of it. Congratulations on everything you've accomplished!

Chloe Ropner is a Cross-Cultural Content Marketer with Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide who spends her days writing, adventuring and advocating for human rights. As a contributing writer for Elite Daily and a passionate aspiring Public Health professional, Chloe's passion resides in bettering the world, the lives of others, and sharing important stories. She graduated from Westminster College in Salt Lake City with a B.S in Neuroscience and a Public Health minor. When she isn't road-tripping, backpacking or writing, she's out in the community. Feel free to connect with Chloe at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cropner, follow her on Twitter @chloe_ropner, and keep up with her adventures at packthepassport.