A washed up graduate’s advice to recent grads

It’s been a year since I’ve graduated and I don’t care how corny it sounds – the year has flown by. I couldn’t have envisioned what the future would be like one year ago today. I was a few weeks away from starting a new job, moving out on my own into an apartment with strangers, and starting a life in a city that I had called my own my entire life but hardly knew.

I know what it’s like – the mixed emotions, the good with the bad, the same sinking pit in your stomach that you felt entering your first day of kindergarten and during every exciting/terrifying major life beginning that followed. For the most part, you’ll be navigating this part of your life without any kind of roadmap. But here’s a little guidance I’ve gathered based on what I’ve learned in my one year in the real world:

Everything’s about to change; that’s okay

Never again will you live in the same apartment building as all of your friends, nor will your life be confined to a couple square acres of campus. The entire world is your campus now and it’s time for a new kind of education. Consider the world as you know it entirely flipped on its head. You’re about to gain an entirely new perspective, and you’ll be all the better for it.

Make time for the people in your life that matter

It’s impossible to stay close with everyone you met during college or before that. As you leave school and enter a new job, perhaps in a new city, you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating away from some of the people you’ve held close – that’s okay.

But it’s important to make time for those who matter to you. Call your mom! She likes to hear your voice. Make plans to visit friends states away and toss those you know you won’t see too often a “How’s it going?” text every once in a while to let them know you’re thinking of them. You’ll be happy you kept as many connections as you could.

It’s time to start acting like an adult

Now’s the time to become accountable for your own actions. You’re probably going to have to do a lot of adult things at once whether it’s signing a lease, buying a new car or making your own adult doctor’s appointment for the first time (or all three, if you’re like me). Learn how to cook a meal or two, even if it’s just spaghetti and sauce. The trial period is over – it’s time to start taking care of yourself, for yourself.

But you still need to make time for fun

If your college experience was anything like mine, you didn’t have much time to keep up with or begin hobbies. Between class, internships, campus jobs, extracurricular activities, Greek life, there wasn’t any room in the schedule for much else that wouldn’t qualify as a resume-builder besides partying. Discover what you love to do and make time for it! If you’ve always wanted to start a blog, start a blog! If you want to take up painting, take up painting!

Start taking care of your finances

Getting your first job probably means making your first real salary. Making your first real salary probably means moving out on your own. With moving out on your own comes a whole slew of expenses you’ve probably never had, which likely will make you lament your childhood – the days when bills were nonexistent and life was free.

It’s time to make a budget! Bills add up quickly, and if you aren’t paying attention it can be easy to overspend. It’s probably the most stressful and confusing part about adulthood, but taking responsibility over your finances is so important.

Your job isn’t everything…

Don’t let yourself get consumed by your work now. Working hard is important, but playing hard is equally important if not more so. Getting burnt out at 22 is not cool, and neither is creating a healthy obsession over work. Don’t put your email on your phone, and make it a habit to only answer emails during work hours. Once you’ve established yourself as the person who’s always available, there’s no turning back.

…but now’s the time to prove yourself in your career.

Take every opportunity you can to learn and grow. Even if you dislike your first job in the real world more than you like it, see what kind of knowledge you can gain from it. First jobs are perfect for almost no one. Figure out what you don’t and do like from your job, and carry that knowledge forward in your career, wherever it takes you. Don’t lose sight of the end goal, whatever it may be, but keep your options open.

Take every opportunity you can to learn

The days of structured classroom seating charts and two hour lectures are over. Chances are, the only time you’ll be required to use your brain is when you’re at work. Try to take at least a few hours every week to learn something outside of work. Your brain is a muscle that requires exercise!

You’ll be alone a lot. Learn to embrace it

This one goes out especially to anyone moving out of their house before their friends like I did, or moving to a new city where you know no one. Going from living amongst all of your college friends to being in a new place by yourself is an anxiety-provoking and often lonesome situation. But it’s exciting! Take the time you spend by yourself to learn, grow and explore in every way possible. It may seem difficult now, but taking this next step is all worth it in the end.

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