Think back to those early days of college when you stepped onto campus for the first time as a newly admitted student. Family, friends and even social media all told you to enjoy college because it was about to be the best four years of your life. Can you remember that time? When everything was new and graduation was a far off thought? Fast forward to today and finals are approaching. With it, for many of you this also means graduation and the end to your undergraduate college experience. This can be a terrifying thought for you, but fear not! You are not alone! Most of us left college not entirely knowing what we were going to do next, let alone what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives, myself included. The transition from college to “the real world” can be difficult to navigate. The difference between college life and the working world is the uncertainty but also endless options. On the bright side, there’s no more homework (usually)!
So, now that you’re on this journey to post graduate life, what do you do? In an effort to help ease the way, I’m sharing some lessons and advice on a few things I’ve learned since graduation all those years ago:
1. It is ok to freak out a little, just not too much. Leaving the comforts of campus can be scary. You’ve adjusted and gotten used to a certain lifestyle. Everything you could possibly want is generally a short walk away including access to your friends. Knowing this convenience and ease of access is ending can be overwhelming, so it’s completely normal to freak out. However, don’t freak out too much. Just because you’re now considered a real 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 to put a little effort in to making it happen. 2. It’s ok if you don’t have a job lined up by graduation. There will undoubtedly bea handful of your peers that will have a job lined up by the time graduation day rolls around; however, that’s generally 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! Enjoy the break you’ll have between graduation and starting work, as this will most likely be the last time you have that. 3. Update the wardrobe. Ladies, crop tops and/or leggings are not appropriate work attire. If you’d wear it to the club or fraternity party, it’s not meant for the office. Update your wardrobe to reflect a professional working woman. I suggest building your new wardrobe slowly, no need to drop hundreds of dollars right away. Select classic pieces that can be mixed and matched into multiple uses. It’s worth investing in quality pieces over quantity, as the old adage “you pay for what you get” will really ring true here. Not sure where to start? I love browsing Pinterest capsule wardrobe ideas to help inspire me for ideas of what to get and what I might already have that I can integrate in.
4. Don’t get discouraged. We all need to work to support ourselves (yay, adulthood!). This may mean that you work part time somewhere at first, whether that’s bartending, waiting tables, answering phones or working in retail until you find something more permanent, it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with having an interim job. However, make sure you don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Always be on the hunt for a job that is more aligned with what you want to do. If you aren’t sure right away, that’s ok too. Try different positions to get a feel for what you do and don’t want to do. I myself took a circuitous route to my current career path. I worked in positions that slowly put me into position to gain the skills, knowledge and experience I would eventually need when the dream job finally came my way. 5. “Balance” work/home life. Once you land that job (congratulations!), remember that this job is NOT your life. I love my career; however, I live by the philosophy that I work to live; I don’t live to work. I’ve also learned that work/life balance as stated isn’t so much of a thing. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to balance because sometimes it’s just not possible. I suggest integrating the two. Making time for the things that make you happy will make life so much less difficult. It can be easy to get caught up in your responsibilities at work (which can be a good thing), but don’t forget about the other aspects of your life that make you feel good and uniquely you. Be sure to make time for your friends, family, romance and hobbies. Make sure you don’t neglect your health as well!
6. Plan for your financial future. I know, it’s not exciting to think about retirement when you’re barely into your 20’s but it’s important to build those good habits now. One of the best things my parents ever instilled in me is to contribute to the retirement program my job offers. If your job offers a matching program in which it will contribute a match of what you contribute up to a max percentage, contribute the max percentage if you can! It may be disheartening to see the amount of your paycheck when you do that, but down the road, you will thank yourself. In addition to retirement, consider creating a separate savings account that has a decent APR in which you automatically transfer money from your paycheck into. Setting up the auto transfer helps to prevent you from “accidentally” spending that money. I’ve also taken to increasing that auto deposit each time I get a raise so that my savings grows further and I’m still living in my original budget window. Putting away even as little at $10 a month to start can make an impact as one day you may want to buy a home, get married, take a fancy vacation, or deal with an emergency that was unexpected.
7. Meet new people. Putting yourself out there is really scary! But, when you do, it can lead to new friendships and, if you’re lucky, career opportunities. Networking can be awkward and uncomfortable (even after all these years it still is for me) but it will make all the difference for you both professionally and personally. If your workplace hosts social and/or professional functions, make a point to attend and put yourself out there. You never know what connections you might make by going. Meetup is also a great resource to meet and network with others in your local area who share similar interests and goals.
8. Instagram is not reality. It’s hard not to compare yourself to your friends and peers. With social media, it’s often right in your face with just the tap of an app. Try to remember that perception isn’t always reality. If you think that your friends have it all figured out already, STOP! They usually don’t, and even if some of them do, it doesn’t mean that you should feel lost or that you’re behind. Try to avoid making decisions based on where you think you "should" be. The key is to do what feels right for you at your pace. Take your time growing into the professional you know you can become. Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and there will come a time when roles are reversed. It’s all part of the journey.