5 things I want new graduates to know

‘Tis the season for advice giving and taking. Commencement addresses provide forums for reflection on present accomplishments and encouragements for the future. And even if some of the guidance sounds like the same old stuff that's drudged up every year, there’s still room for inspiration in being told to “follow your dreams!” and “be passionate about your life!” and “don’t forget to give back to your community!”

Graduation is a special time, but since founding Minute Mentoring, an organization that simulates speed dating but substitutes awkward personal moments with mentoring for young professional women, I’ve realized that being open to hearing more practical advice tied to those larger inspirational themes is quite helpful.

Here are five nuggets of advice that have stuck with me since our latest event last week:

1. Find your hero.

Someone always has had it tougher than you and thrived despite the challenges. For me, this person is my great-grandmother. She came to America at 16 from Torino, Italy. She spoke very little English, homesteaded a small ranch with my great-grandfather, and raised nine kids. She did this mainly on her own as my grandfather worked in the coal mines. The ranch is still working today. Whenever I feel challenged in my professional life, I can’t help but think how small my obstacles are compared to hers and it helps me keep things in proper perspective.

2. Remember, you are your own best advocate.

No one else can, will, or should represent you. Your talent, hard work and determination will showcase what you can do better than anyone else. Give your colleagues and superiors every reason, through your actions, to be open to your ambition and to see you as a person who can take on more responsibility…and do so cheerfully!

3. Ask for what you want, but be mindful of the timing.

This advice came to Minute Mentoring from a friend and one of the strongest leaders I know, Tina Constable, Senior Vice President and publisher of Crown. Today’s economy is providing challenges for everyone, and sometimes the bosses sweat just to make the monthly payroll. Whether you work at a company that has a hiring freeze or you work at a company that is laying off workers. The question to ask now may be, ‘What else can I do to help?’ as opposed to, ‘Can I have a raise?’ When times are better, then you’re more likely to be rewarded if you’ve used this approach.

4. Don’t spend too much time pondering the “work-life” balance.

It is elusive. There is no perfect formula. In fact, I don’t even know who coined the phrase but it sounds like it was concocted just to drive women crazy since it’s yet another thing you’re supposed to do but find impossible to achieve. Thinking there’s an answer to balancing all the demands and desires of your life can undermine our confidence about what we have to do – taking care of your families, working if you choose to or need to, getting in a workout, reading all the latest trade magazines, running the charity auction, etc. Give yourself a break on finding balance -- the last thing we need is another manufactured and unattainable goal.

5. Your talents and achievements will ultimately be your strongest guide.

When the time came for me to take over as White House press secretary, I did not feel ready – I’d been happy being behind the scenes. That is when I received a piece of advice that I carry with me to this day: You are better at this then you think you are. It was former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who said that to me. When I think of him, I always remember a great piece of advice and an even greater man.

This is all good advice that’s a welcome reminder at any time of our lives. Congratulations to all of the graduates – and to the parents who helped get them there!

Dana Perino is a former White House Press Secretary. She is co-host of "The Five" and a Fox News contributor.