Girl, do you even “adult”? Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not sure how — college life and life on your own is quite the transition. Between groceries shopping for yourself, the upkeep of an apartment or rental house, cleaning your own toilets and making friends in your new work environment, it’s no wonder adults wish they were kids again.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. We’ve put together a list of the most important things to consider as you make the transition from student to grownup. Read on and prepare yourself for the real world — we promise, it’s not as scary as it seems.
Landing the New Job
Starting your first job after college is your first big transition. Your job might take you to a new area, sometimes a new state, and could force your into a new living arrangement. Your first work gig also may not be your dream job.
Every movie about post-grad life shows the protagonist landing his or her dream job either right off the bat or after a few humorous trials and tribulations under an overbearing boss. We hate to break it to you, but you should probably expect the latter.
No matter how much work experience you have prior to graduation, it’s not likely you’ll land that top-tier position as soon as you have your diploma. But that’s okay — you are only beginning your career, and it’s important to be gracious and kind to yourself as your work your way up to where you need to be. Do some research to find tips on nailing an interview if you’re job searching!
And… Keeping the New Job
If you’re working an office job, you’ll be sitting for prolonged periods of time without breaks like you might have between college classes. Remember to take care of yourself, get up and move around every now and then, and come prepared with snacks and water every day to stay motivated and focused.
In addition to this emotional and mental adjustment, your circadian rhythm will change. Instead of having classes at times that you probably had relative control over, and being able to take a midday nap if you want to, your new schedule will be far more demanding — which probably means an earlier bedtime.
The days of staying out late and getting to sleep in on weekdays are over, sister! Save those for the weekend. The good news is, you really do gain a newfound appreciation for the weekend when you’re living in adult land. Whether you like to go out on the weekends or catch up on rest, try to take care of your body. Your ability to perform at work will rely heavily on the amount of sleep you begin the day with. You can also brush up on a few ways to get the most out of your night’s sleep.
Don’t Ignore Your Loans
It might be tempting to spend your entire first paycheck on something super special — and, by all means, you should be treating yourself for your hard work. However, a big mistake many new graduates make is to put off loan repayment or to pay back the minimum for as long as possible.
Instead, make a point to put as much as reasonably possible toward your loans so you’re not repaying them for the duration of your working life. Something as simple as reading the fine print and understanding the interest rates on your loans can make a huge difference in your repayment schedule and how much you pay over time.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go
If your employment takes you to a new town or state, there are a few things to remember about changing locations.
First thing’s first regarding your workplace — traffic! Instead of living on a campus where everything is close by, you may be somewhere where traffic patterns need to be considered when figuring out how much time you have to get ready and get to work. Always afford yourself as much time as possible to shower, do your hair and makeup and pack a lunch — the first 30 minutes to an hour of your day have a huge impact on the rest of it.
Once you know how to get to work and when to leave, you’ll have to consider the legal side of moving. It’s important to contact your insurance company and update your mailing address, and then your bank to update your billing address. Taking care of those right off the bat will ensure your mail comes to the right spot, and that your bank account information is up to date.
Always prepare for the worst, and always prepare ahead of time. Prior to moving, you’ll want to make sure that your credit and reference checks are all in order. Whether you’re renting or looking to be one of those super-legit-millennial-homebuyers, you’re going to have to undergo background checks.
If you don’t have credit yet, consider applying for a credit card with a local department store or a credit union — it’s generally easier to get accepted, and you can start building your credit right away so that you’re more likely to meet qualifications for future credit cards and credit checks.
The next step to consider is your doctor. Your health insurance can help you find a primary care physician, which will be the doctor you go to first before visiting any specialty doctors (such as a gynecologist, dermatologist, etc.) and for any general wellness check-ups.
Did you hear us say “pack a lunch” earlier? Yep, that’s right — you’re back in elementary school, baby!
Well, not really. But preparing your meals for the week will be essential in helping you get to work on time, and will provide you with the benefit of sustained energy once you’re there. A good way to do this is to pick a day for grocery shopping — popular days for this are usually Saturday or Sunday — and cook/pack your lunches then.
When organizing your lunch and your grocery list, keep the food pyramid in mind! Taking care of your body should come first to ensure you’re able to work effectively. Buy and pack fresh fruits and vegetables every week, a whole grain carb (like whole grain pasta or sandwich bread) and a lean protein (like beans, chicken, nuts, etc.). Treating yourself is important too, though! Allow yourself at least one “cheat” a day, so you can have a pick-me-up at work.
Eating healthy sounds overwhelming, but it will improve your mood, self-esteem and work ethic! Check out these tips for eating healthy on a budget to get started.
Mental Health and Relationships
Remember that your ability to take care of yourself physically, land a good job and live independently weighs heavily on your mental health. Moving and starting a new job is challenging emotionally, so give yourself grace and allow for some tears if you need to.
Never stay there, though. Keeping active and engaged is good for your mind and body, and will prevent you from wallowing in anxious, stressful thoughts. Consider mindful meditation if you need some quiet time. Picking up a good book before bed will help calm you down before you sleep, and will provide an escape and distraction when times are tough.
Finally, make a point once you graduate to keep in touch with your closest friends. Research has shown that bona fide adults actually have a much harder time making friends than their student counterparts. Everything from work to building a family to moving to a new place gets in the way of forging close bonds with new people.
Of course, you can’t hang onto your college friends and your college friends only. You will have to branch out, especially if you move somewhere new after graduation. However, maintaining your friendships will help you feel more connected as you embark on a new phase in your life. Having so many vestiges of the best time of your life will make it a little easier to grow up. College may be over, but life has just begun. If you’re prepared and eager to take on the challenge, there really is so much opportunity out there.
The most important part about adulting is approaching life with optimism and determination. You made it through college, or perhaps a technical or trade school. It may not always feel like it, but you’ve got a good head on your shoulders — take care of it, and take on the world!