I watched as my students picked up their cap and gown and carried it in their arms like a newborn baby. I smiled, said a few last words of encouragement, then asked, “You graduated… now what?”

Most talked about college. Many laughed about building a bonfire with their textbooks. Some just wanted to sleep.

What I realized is that for the first time in their lives, my students have a choice.

Instead of having to go to school, they could choose to go to school. If they want to work, they could choose to work. And if they want to dream, they could choose to pursue their dreams.

The act of choosing, however, can be overwhelming — especially since the school system design does little to build a student’s autonomy. Great teachers, principals, and parents can only do so much with an outdated school design.

So, like most teachers, I want to help my students one last time as they embark on their journey.

I interviewed successful business leaders, changemakers, and entrepreneurs and asked them to share tips to help graduating students become self-reliant and happy.

If you prefer to listen, here’s a 10-step audio podcast I put together to help guide students in building their life on purpose.

Read more for 10 Quick Tips for Graduating Students To Build a Life on Purpose

The keys to the doors that you need open are in other peoples’ pockets. It’s up to you to build the relationships needed to open the doors.
– Michael Roderick

Before graduating from college, Ashley Stahl had a team of mentors to help coach and guide her career. She dreamed big and wanted nothing less than to land her dream job straight out of college. That millennial dream came true when she walked into the U.S. Pentagon for her dream job in foreign affairs.

Long before crossing the commencement stage to get her degree, Ashley did something many millennials don’t know to do. She built up her team of mentors and asked for advice whenever possible.

Instead of waiting to start her career after graduation like many students do, Ashley began her career with one cup of coffee and a conversation to build up her network.

One particular mentor really helped Ashley out. A colonel in the U.S. Armed Forces offered advice to Ashley and introduced her to key people who were able to help Ashley land her dream job.

Ashley left her career in foreign affairs after the puffy white clouds of her dream job dissipated. She began feeling like a cog in a bureaucratic engine, and has continue to rely on mentorship and coaching to break career barriers and rise above plateaus. She’s gone on to start up a successful coaching business, writes for Forbes, and has spoken on stage at TED.

Asking a mentor for help and networking, however, seems to be something many millennials are uncomfortable doing, especially if they come from the struggling working class.

A study by Jessica McCrory Calarco found that whether or not a student asks for help depends on his/her background. Working class students tend to ask for help far less than middle-class students.

This behavior can continue into adulthood when some struggling mid-career professionals ask for help and others shy away from it.

Like Ashley discovered early on in college, one person’s extraordinary success has an iceberg effect: what you see as the tip of success has a mountain of mentors underneath it.