When people tell you to enjoy college because it’s the best four (or five, or six) years of your life, you typically shrug it off. Until you graduate. Because then that advice clicks.
Gone are the days of skipping class to sleep in, being hung-over on a Tuesday and drinking red bull with a side of Adderall. You suddenly miss procrastinating, a constant flow of free food and Margarita Monday’s. Fraternity t-shirts are no longer acceptable, as is drinking excessively on a Wednesday night. Your friend group disseminates as you all move on to new cities and new careers and you’re left with a piece of paper that feels worthless.
You’ve hopefully got a job that allows you to have some sort of stable income, which will go mostly towards bills, rent, and food. Maybe you’ll be able to save up a couple thousand dollars if you’re lucky.
Adulting sounds awful, doesn’t it? But, it doesn’t have to be.
Even if you’re working 40 + hours a week at a dead end job, making $13 an hour and possibly even moved backed home with your parents (heaven forbid, right?). Maybe you’ve got a decently paid position and are just trying to adjust and transition into being a full fledged adult. Or you’re pushing towards different goals like grad school, traveling or pursuing a hobby full time.
Let’s go back to when you were a freshman in college. Did you have a clue what you wanted to do? Did your college career pan out exactly the way you thought? Did you switch majors? If you’re anything like me, the admissions office was sick of getting requests to change majors from you (7th times a charm?).
The fact is, most of us didn’t know what we were going to do when we got to college. And the fact is, most of us don’t have a clue where were going when we graduate college. You’re not alone in this boat. This boat is filled with friends and thousands of other twenty-something’s who now have a super expensive piece of paper that proved that you are a smart, capable human being who knows things.
So now that you’re on this boat to post grad life, what do you do? Here are 10 things I’ve learned as a post grad:
1. Make sure you enjoy your graduation day. This is a once in a life time thing that you’ll look back on and think “how the hell did I get through this?!”. You survived years of papers, homework, essays and the dreaded group projects. You worked your ass off and got to the point where you now have a degree. You’re considered an expert in your field now.
2. Freak out a little bit, but not too much. Leaving the comforts of campus can be scary. You’ve adjust and gotten used to a certain lifestyle, so switching it up can be a little daunting. It’s okay to freak out. But don’t freak out too much. Just because you’re now a functioning adult doesn’t mean you can’t take vacations, hang out with friends or binge watch Netflix. You can still do these things; you’ll just actually have the money to do them.
3. Know that you don’t need to have a job lined up the day of graduation. There’s a handful of grads that will have a job or internship lined up the day graduation hits. But, that’s not the majority. You are no less of a person because you don’t have something lined up right away. Continue to apply to jobs, prep for interviews and relax- you just graduated college! Remember that boat you’re in? A ton of people don’t have a job right after school. Enjoy the break between graduation and starting work.
4. Update the wardrobe. Ladies, crop tops are not appropriate work attire. Guys, you can’t wear Sperry’s to an interview. Update your wardrobe to reflect a professional. I recommend doing this the middle of senior year to avoid spending way too much money at one time. I had the mentality that work clothes were ugly clothes. I was totally wrong. Work clothes can be super cute and comfy, but be prepared to spend a little more. Quality is key here; you pay for what you get. On the plus side, at least the new clothes you buy won’t get ruined after the third wash.
5. Search AND hunt for your job. Apply for jobs that you actually want. Don’t apply for something that you think you’d hate doing. This is a trial and error phase; try things you think you’d like. Even if that means making less money and longer hours- you’re hunting for a job as well. You have to be proactive and be okay with being at the bottom of the totem pole for a while. That whole corporate ladder thing? You’ve got to climb it. However, you work for yourself. You want the company to value you, just as much as you will value a paycheck from them. Be mindful in your hunt.
6. Don’t get discouraged. We all need to work to support ourselves (yay, adulthood!). So, maybe we work part time somewhere at first, bartend, wait tables or work in retail until we find something else. There’s nothing wrong with having an interim job.
7. Balance work/home life. Once you land that job (you did it!), remember that this job is NOT your life. You have to get that balance and learn to leave work at work (if you can). Still keep that off work time for yourself. Date, workout, get a new hobby, find a new show on Netflix… just remember that you need you time.
8. Find your niche. You’ve started your job and are trying to mesh with co-workers, responsibilities and meet deadlines. Good! Find your niche in your job- one thing that you really excel at, and continue to grow that niche. Maybe you’re really good at a specific aspect of your job, or picked things up really quickly and can train others well. Find what you’re good at and foster it into being great.
9. Save, save, save. I know, it’s hard to save when you’re not making a lot of money. But try. Put even $!0 away per month. A little bit will go a long way. Make a habit of putting a little money away each month for an emergency fund.
10. Breathe. This is the time in your life where you call the shots. Want to travel? You can. Want to get a dog? Go for it. Think you want to try a new career field? Look for a new job. You are now in control of what you do or don’t do.