I studied Graphic Design in Guatemala and then did a remote online Master's in Editorial Design in a university from Barcelona. While I was still a student, I got to do, every once in a while, some freelance jobs for people that knew me or friends of friends. I was still learning, so it was very cool to have real clients with real projects that counted on me. Of course, many mistakes happened, and I didn't know how much I should charge or how to talk to clients, but I think these were very important experiences before I graduated.
I live in Berlin now, and it's a huge difference from my home country - Guatemala. Here, a lot more people give design an important role in their businesses, and there are many talented designers and illustrators. This made me wanna get better every day to keep up with all the amazing work out there. Fortunately, I haven't had problems finding clients here because as many talented designers there are here, the same amount of people (or more) are looking for designers. And there will always be someone that loves your style and wants to work with you :)
I think it's very important that they are confident in their work, that they search for solutions online when they get stuck doing something, or learn how to use a new software when they get a client that requests for something they don't know how to do. Accept the challenge, and learn on the way! I also think it's important for a graduate to not be afraid to fail, because it's what will make them better designers.
I think the style of an illustrator is a never-ending process. I started out doing tribal illustrations on my early years of uni, then that evolved into anatomic illustrations (skulls, hearts, skeletons) on my last years, and finally on the past 3-4 years I have been gradually working on my current style. I think it's important to find a style that you feel comfortable with, and with that comes a lot of practice and trying out every possible style, and mixing styles until you find your own. I would recommend to read the book "Steal Like an Artist" by Austin Kleon for this.
There are so many meetups here, even for different brands of design, like UX/UI, illustration, etc. There's also the annual character design festival, Pictoplasma, and other events for designers like Ladies Wine & Design which was founded by Jessica Walsh. Berlin truly is the right city for creative people, and I'm sure there are many more blogs, organisations, or events going out there that I'm not aware of yet :)
Everything in life is a struggle (unfortunately), so you have to choose what's worth struggling for and stick with it :)