So, you’re about to graduate college… Bravo! Congrats! Mazel Tov! You’re probably on cloud 9 right now, and you damn well should be. Seriously, way to go– that’s a huge accomplishment!
My guess is that you are now focused on getting your resume out there, finding an apartment in the city, or planning that last-hurrah trip to Mexico. And I don’t blame you. I did all of those things but, if there was one thing I didn’t do– that I wish I would have– it would have been to better prepare myself for what’s to come.
Now, I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but the cold hard truth is this: graduating from college sort of sucks. Leaving behind school, your friends, and the life you’ve spent the last 4+ years perfecting (including no classes before 10am and pool breaks at least 3x a week) … is really hard.
Naturally, you’re probably not thinking about any of those things right now…Viva-la-Mexico!
And maybe, you don’t want to! (I know I sure didn’t!) But if you do want to get a head start on preparing yourself, emotionally and financially for the real world, read on!
While I’m no life expert, and I’m certainly not a financial expert, sometimes advice from someone who’s just like you — who’s been in similar shoes — is just the kind of advice we’re looking for. So, here are my 8 post-grad philosophies to live by to help you survive, and thrive, in the real world.
You don’t have to have everything figured out as soon as you graduate. It sure feels that way when your best friend has already accepted a job in New York, and appears to be on the fast track to success…but remember this: Your life is yours alone. Relax, take some time to get in touch with your post-grad self, and find out who he/she is, and what he/she likes! Because I promise you, who you are and what you want to do, is ever-evolving!
2. Forget your degree.
Ok, this may seem extreme, but seriously: don’t let your degree define you! Just because your degree is in psychology, doesn’t mean you cannot and should not pursue something in marketing. Trust your intuition, try things, find out what you like, and find out what you don’t like. Don’t let your education limit you, your education is foundational, but your potential is limitless!
3. Say Yes 90% of the time.
Friends aren’t as easy to come by as they were in college. One of the hardest parts of leaving school is leaving our social circles! In comparison, the real world can feel like a lonely place. If a coworker asks you to lunch, say yes! If your neighbor wants to organize a puppy play-date, say yes! As you get older, one of the most valuable skills you can learn is when to say No… but, when you’re just getting started, try to push yourself to be open to new activities and opportunities.
4. Start saving.
Nothing slaps you into adulthood quite like a $2,000 bill from the ER. Maybe you are one of the fortunate ones who can count on mom and dad for a little support, but, trust me, the time will come and sooner or later… you will get cut off. Preparing and planning for unexpected costs is zero fun, but it’s a part of life that’s inevitable. The sooner you can grasp the idea of always having an emergency fund that’s for emergencies only, the better off you will be.
5. Build your credit.
Dave Ramsey might slap me on the wrist for this one, but building up your credit score can only benefit you when it comes time to buy a car or a house. This doesn’t mean opening up a bunch of credit cards. In fact: don’t do that! Instead, make sure to pay your bills on time. Even if you have no formal credit history, paying your rent and bills on time shows responsibility that can boost your credibility as a borrower, and even help your credit score. And if you do decide to get a credit card, be smart! Pay it off, every month! (Seriously. I’ve watched way too many friends get into serious trouble with credit card debt. Don’t ever just make the minimum payments– pay it all off, every month.)
6. Accept being a beginner.
Just because you completed 4 years of school does not make you an expert! Like I mentioned earlier, your education is foundational, but it does not make you worthy of that senior-level position. Swallow your pride, be vulnerable, and open yourself up to learn, make mistakes, and grow. You’ve got to be a beginner before you can be anything else!
7. Know your worth & make a plan.
Like I mentioned above, accepting your place in the world as a beginner is a good thing, but being a beginner often means making a beginner’s salary. No one likes barely affording bills, or living off of ramen noodles, but the fact is, you’re probably not going to make what you think you’re worth for a while. So, the way I see it, you have two options: 1. You can complain about your salary and let it weigh on your self-confidence, or 2. You can fully embrace the fact that your worth is not measured by the size of your paycheck. That is not easy. Pretty much everyone in our society will tell you differently (usually not directly, but with how they act)… so if you can learn this lesson, you’ll be way ahead of the curve. The best part? Once you’ve established that you are valuable, outside of your paycheck… you’ll be in a better position to devise a plan to meet or exceed your goals. That may be a better salary, or it may be something else, entirely. Remember when I said that you are in complete control?
8. Suck it up.
One of my favorite fitness quotes is, “Nobody cares, work harder.” Admittedly, this would be pretty harsh if someone else was saying it to you… but it can have amazing power if you are willing to say it to yourself! Obviously, you know (or I hope you know) that there are people in your life who care about you and your success, but the key takeaway at this stage in life is this: You cannot depend on other people to bear your burdens for you. Self-pity won’t help you. Perseverance will. So, the next time you are feeling sorry for yourself, feeling beat down, burnt out, or both down and out, recite this quote out loud to yourself. Then, pick up the pieces and get back to work.
The post-graduation stage is not all growing-pains and disappointments, it’s actually a really fun and exciting time! A time for self-discovery, growth, and pursuing your dreams! So whether or not you find yourself in a similar position that I was in– somewhere in between, What’s my life’s purpose? And how do I pay for groceries? I hope that one or more of these principles resonates with you!