14 Things Every College Grad Needs To Hear Before Entering The ‘Real World’

Kevin Russ
Kevin Russ

1. It’s OK that you don’t know what you want to do with your life

To keep my one-track mind from forgetting all the things I needed to do before graduation, I wrote down every task in a little decorative agenda. I remember during one of my hourly freak outs about my future, I flipped to September of that same year and saw the empty pages of a life in which I had no idea what was coming. Uncertainty used to be one of my greatest fears.

I had no idea what I was doing after my summer job ended and it scared me half to death. As graduation approached, nearly hundreds (!) of people asked what I was doing with my life and it got to a point where I would just grunt and then walk away crying. I didn’t get into the graduate school I applied to, and I had no idea what jobs I could actually get with my seemingly useless double major. I didn’t know where I was going to live or what I was going to be doing and that was enough to keep me up every night. Without the support group I had nourished over the past four years in school, what was I going to do if everything went to shit?

What the fuck was I going to do?

Now that those days of September are full of events from my past, I’m not scared of the empty pages anymore. Life didn’t turn out perfect but it turned out fine. After all, there really is no such thing as perfect. What kind of life would that be, anyways? Would you even learn anything worthy of your time? So it’s OK that you don’t know what you want to do with your life because most of us never will. And it’s OK to change your mind about it as much as you like because none of us were ever meant to do only one thing with our lives.

2. Living with your parents does not make you a failure

You JUST graduated. Give yourself a break. Most people are so excited to explore their newly attained freedom that they jump head first into adulthood without realizing all the responsibility it comes with. And all of that is just the cherry on top of your bitter student loan sundae. If you can’t afford to live on your own, that doesn’t make you a failure. I know how hard it can be to move back in with your parents after being away at school for so long; but stay with them as long as you can. You’ll need all the help you can get. Plus, they will secretly love having you around.

3. Applying for jobs will be a full-time job in itself

The first job I got when I moved back home wasn’t exactly a dream. I was a sales associate at the most popular women’s clothing store in Canada and I absolutely hated it. It was just a way for me to make money while I looked for jobs in my field, but looking for jobs turned out to be another exhausting full-time job in itself. I spent hours every day saving jobs on Indeed, writing bullshit cover letters, and praying to the universe for SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Anything that wasn’t retail, PLEASE. I would go to work for nine hours, then come home and open my computer to work some more on job applications. It was a nightmare. But it paid off.

All those extra hours I put in finally led me to my first big girl job (you know, with benefits and expensive taxes and all that jazz). Applying for jobs isn’t going to be easy. It will be discouraging more than anything else. But please don’t give up. There is something out there for you – you just have to keep looking.

4. You are not “too good” or “too smart” for anything

Like I mentioned before, my first job out of school was in retail. I told myself I would never get a job in retail or as a receptionist because (a) I did not want to subject myself to gender roles, and (b) I didn’t work my ass off for a degree just to go into a shitty line of work. I was better than that. Or so I thought.

Because now that I’ve done both jobs, I realize that I’m not better than anything. And I’m sure as hell not too good or too smart for any job. Those jobs that seem so minimal and degrading are actually some of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. And they’ve taught me extremely important skills I need to get by in life. Like, for example, thanks to my receptionist job I don’t have phone anxiety anymore. I can now call the pizza delivery guy without rehearsing my lines first or having a mild heart attack.

5. Make Monday easy to wake up to

If you thought Mondays were tough when you were in school, just wait for it after graduation. Mondays actually get worse as an adult — unless you find secret ways to enjoy them. The weekends seem shorter and your nights off seem to disappear the second you get home and blink. I don’t like that common feeling of dread when I wake up on the first day of the work week, so I’ve discovered a few sneaky ways to make Monday easier to get up to.

Whether its drinking excessive amounts of caffeine, packing my favorite lunch, or making plans after work for something to look forward to; Mondays are becoming better and better. Mondays aren’t perfect. But as a fellow early-morning-hater, I do have to say that giving yourself something to look forward to can make Mondays less destructive than they need to be.

6. Don’t forget to make time for the things that you love

Seriously, don’t. This one is important. Because as adults we often get so caught up in our busy work schedules and nights out with friends and family dinners and other life commitments that we forget to make time for the things that we truly love. And what is the meaning of life if it’s not to spend as many moments you can doing what you love?

7. If you’re in a rut, just let it ride out

It’s ridiculously common, even expected, that you are going to end up in a rut during your entrance through the spiked gates of the adult universe. And surprise, surprise here: it’s not going to be your last rut either. If you are feeling stuck, let yourself be stuck. Wallow in it for a bit. Accept it. Do things that you weren’t able to do or have time for before you were in this rut. Make the best of it. Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. And then get off your ass and make a change.

Don’t sit around and wait for something to come to you. If you know what you want, make it happen. Seriously, just make it happen. Do whatever you need to do to get there. Just do it.

8. Your inexperience is expected and even appreciated

I know that almost every job application you see says you need at least a few years of experience. But how are you supposed to get experience in the first place if no one will hire you without experience, right? It’s the most vicious cycle out there for a young graduate and it will feel like the entire world is against you… Until you come across the job where a beginner’s level of work experience is preferred.

Your inexperience actually makes you appealing to employers because they can start fresh and mold you into the position as you go. They won’t expect you to know everything (because no one on the planet actually does) and they can teach it to you in their own way. Your inexperience does not make you unable to find a job; it will help you find the one where people can appreciate you the most.

9. You find out who your real friends are in the most heartbreaking way possible

When I was an undergraduate, recently graduated seniors used to make post-grad life sound so miserable. They kept talking about how hard it was out there (true) and how much they missed their friends (accurate). But what people didn’t mention was how many friends you are going to lose.

It’s the harsh reality of growing up and moving on: You are going to lose a lot of people. No matter how much you loved them or how many pictures of theirs you still like on Instagram; sometimes people just grow apart from you. Sometimes they stop caring. You start talking to certain friends less and less and soon you have no idea what goes on in their life anymore. Friends stop replying to your texts or asking how you are and you can’t do anything more about it since you live so far away from all of them. You can fight it for as long as you want, but eventually you’ll get tired. You won’t have anything left for the people who actually do care about you and when that time comes, you have nothing left to do but accept the losses and move on. Give yourself time to grieve and miss the people you lost, and then begin creating more joyful moments with the amazing people who are still by your side.

Those annoying post-grad students were wrong. Life is not miserable. It’s hard. But it’s not miserable. The people you lose will help you appreciate all the good things that still exist, the great things to come, and the life-changing moments you shared with old friends that have made you who you are.

10. Spend your money on experiences, not things

In school, it seemed so necessary to spend money on clothes and shoes and decorative pieces for my bedroom. It was a hard habit to get out of even when I started paying for rent because I felt that those tangible things filled a hole in my heart – one that had been dug out by people who took too much from me in the past.

But as time flew by I noticed that the more stuff I surrounded myself with, the less happy I felt. I then decided to spend more money on just hanging out and doing fun things with people I care about. I bought tickets to concerts, planned trips to visit best friends and dug into my savings account so I could cross some things off my bucket list. I’ve given away over half my closet to women’s shelters and consignment stores and thrown out all the other things I don’t need. Because we don’t need any of it. Experiences are what nourish our soul. They are the only thing that help us grow into the next person we are going to be. We will never regret spending our money on that.

11. There are WAY more people out there than you think there are

The world is small. But it’s not that small. There are tons of people out there for you to build relationships with and no two people are the same. You may run into your ex on the occasional grocery shopping trip if you live in the same side of town, but that’s really not so bad compared to how often you used to see them when you were in school. Trust me, the real world is so much bigger. There are more people to meet and more places to hide.

12. Date as many shitty people as you can

I wouldn’t suggest purposefully dating people that you already know are shitty, but don’t be afraid to take risks once in a while. Give chances to people you wouldn’t normally consider because you never know what you will learn from it. All relationships have the ability to teach you something valuable. You may even get something out of it; like a best friend, acquaintance, significant other, or a free meal. Or he may lead you on and then dump you over a text message three days after meeting your parents. But hey, you never know unless you put yourself out there and try. The more shitty people you meet, the surer you will be of the kind of person you want to end up with. Or maybe you won’t want to end up with anyone at all, and that’s OK too.

13. Be your vulnerable self and the right opportunities will come your way

I used to think this was bullshit. I really did. I’m very experienced in the line of work that is hiding who you are to get what you want. In university I hid my obsession with comic books and graphic novels from everyone because I didn’t want it to stop people from thinking I was cool. I hid a really big part of who I was and I wish I hadn’t. Because people saw me as someone completely different than who I actually was.

After I graduated, I decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I like being a nerd. I like it so much that I even let it slip at times during professional interviews. For my first big girl job, I mentioned to the two women interviewing me that I was a Ravenclaw. Realizing that they probably knew nothing about Harry Potter references, I called my mom after to tell her that I didn’t get the job. There was no way I could have gotten it after that. But a few days later I got the call from my current boss asking me to join her team. Turns out, they liked my personality. And my nerdy quirks are what attempt to keep this office job fun for everyone I work with.

14. There is no such thing as “having your shit together”

A couple years ago, I was trying to describe a girl I knew to my family. The only way I could think to describe her flawless success in life was by saying: “She’s the only 22-year-old I know who actually has her shit together.”

“I had my shit together at 22,” a friend said. And all I could think was, I definitely won’t. No freaking way. That’s only a year from now. Low and behold, I’m 22 and have my “shit” together. Whatever that actually means… Because yes I have a full-time job, part-time writing opportunities and a house I rent with two other friends. I volunteer at an animal shelter on the weekends and have a car of my very own.

I remember to go to the gym and eat breakfast, and I even make time for my family and friends. So on the outside I guess I could see that I do, in fact, have my shit together. But in reality, I have NO idea what I’m doing. I’m late for work every morning because I can never decide on what to wear. I will drink at any time of the day as I still believe alcohol is acceptable for any and all occasions. The other week I was eating scraps and expired food from the fridge because I decided to spend all my money on makeup instead of groceries.

So as you can see, I am a disaster. So are you. And so is everyone else. The most important thing I’ve learned about adulthood is nobody actually has ANY idea what they are doing. Not even our parents who we’ve always believed to have all the answers. They are not invincible nor have they ever been. And there is an undeniable comfort in that. TC mark

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