College graduation season is fast approaching, but a degree does not equate to instant opportunities. It takes hard work, both personally and professionally, to enjoy success. Keep reading for practical advice on how to live your best life once college has come and gone.

Set goals

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to set goals for yourself. Rather than generic ones—like “I want to be successful” or “I’m going to travel the world”—they should be very specific. It’s important to have “intent and focus” about your future.

In other words, the most attainable goals are those that follow SMART methodology. This means that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited. An example of a generic goal versus a SMART goal is this:

Generic: “I want to get a job and make money.”

SMART: “I want to apply for a new career at X company by June 1, so that I can begin working and living independently by August. I will polish my resume, practice my interview skills, and ask my professors for advice.”

The difference between the two is obvious. Generic goals are too broad and can feel overwhelming, while SMART goals can be broken up into attainable steps by which you can track and measure your progress.

Position yourself to move up the ladder

Once you have achieved your goal of employment, it’s time to look ahead. At some point, you’re going to be ready to move up the corporate ladder. Glassdoor recommends documenting your successes. This doesn’t mean continually bragging to your bosses, but instead quietly keeping track and making notes of the things you do that improve operations or save the company money. For example, you should acknowledge if you write a software program to streamline a certain function or implement a process that makes information more attainable across your company.

Network

You can begin building a professional network well before you graduate. Attend industry-specific events or volunteer at organizations, where you are likely to connect with business leaders in your area of interest. Keep in mind, however, that your goal is to get to know people. Don’t focus so much on their position; even the janitor of a company could be an important contact down the road. You never know who you might need to contact in the future, especially if you plan to start your own business.

Don’t be afraid to hustle

Back when our grandparents were growing up, people were tied to the same job for most of their lives. Those days are largely over, and we aren’t stuck clinging to a single prospect. Time magazine explains that you are no longer limited by your physical location. In other words, your ability to be financially successful is bound only by your desire and willingness to grind.

You can launch a successful side business while you’re still in school and use your experience to bolster your chances of landing a higher-paying position. Be prepared to give up your free time in the beginning. Money Crashers cautions that starting a side job means you have to commit your weekends to work, especially if you’re already employed full-time. Nonetheless, the benefits of even part-time entrepreneurship are that you have the flexibility to control your own financial path, and you give yourself the tools to continue building your own empire of success.

Dive into eCommerce

Starting a business comes with a slew of benefits: You don’t have to worry about being laid off or fired, you learn new transferable skills, and—perhaps the best perk of all—you’re the boss. One particular industry many are flocking to is eCommerce. Should you choose to go this route, consider relying on dropshipping—seeking suppliers of products you want to sell and having the sold products shipped directly from your suppliers to your customers. This takes the burden of keeping inventory off your shoulders. A successful eCommerce business also includes selling unique products, maintaining stellar service to customers, and operating a customer-friendly website that can be accessed on mobile devices.

You put in years of hard work in school. You’re going to have to put the same amount of effort into building your future. Be SMART in how you plan, and don’t shy away from creating your own network. Ultimately, you are in control of your career. Remember that, and you will not only have the power to own your mistakes, but also the mindset to enjoy your successes.

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