10 Lessons From a Working Recent Graduate
It’s been a little over a year since I graduated from college and I’ve experienced a lot in that time. I’ve gone on dozens of job interviews, negotiated salaries, interned, landed jobs, got laid off, freelanced, and still remain optimistic about my future career. And why shouldn’t I?
While I was at the gym today, I was talking to a woman in her thirties who looked at me point blank and said, “Why the hell shouldn’t you be optimistic? You’re 23!” It’s true, when you’re young you have plenty of opportunities and life is filled with possibilities. But before leaving college, no one prepares you for the bumps in the road you’ll inevitably hit after the safety net of parents and professors is gone.
Preparing for the “real world” can seem daunting to a college senior about to graduate this spring. Truth is, it’s still overwhelming even after you hang up your diploma. But for what it’s worth, it’s the most exciting kind of daunting that you’ll hopefully come to enjoy.
Here’s what I learned after one year out in the working world:1. It’s possible to get a job and a good job. I know what the news says about the job market but things are looking up. The market isn’t as sparse as it was a year ago. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it.
2. Be open. If you open yourself up to new opportunities and new ideas, you might just discover a passion or a talent you never knew you had. I discovered a passion for social media and tech. Now, I don’t go a morning without reading the latest on Mashable or TechCrunch. It’s a nice side to my green tea and breakfast bar.
3. Don’t wait for perfection. Many recent grads struggle with accepting a job offer because they think the perfect opportunity will eventually present itself. Eventually, I have no doubt that it will, but in the meantime, be realistic about your job prospects and don’t turn down positions that could be building blocks for you. It’s in these jobs that you learn new skills, network, and adapt to the professional world.
4. Moving back in with your parents is a blessing. If living with your parents after graduation is where you’ll end up, just remember, there are worse places to be. And just think of how much money you’ll save. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy because it’s not, but it’ll be worth it when your bank account actually has money in it.
5. Don’t lose touch with friends. This one makes me sad just thinking about it. If you thought it was hard keeping in touch with your high school friends after leaving for college, imagine how hard it will be to keep track of your college friends after you all disperse around the country come graduation. Facing life after graduation is rough, but coming back to your hometown and finding out you’re alone (with the exception of your dog and parents) really bites on the weekends when you’re looking for a party or a movie buddy.
6. Hit up those happy hours. Networking is so important. Most people find their jobs through connections these days. Just remember, this isn’t college. No one is lining up to take belly shots. Nurse a beer or a glass of wine and get to know the people around you.
7. Budget. If you can’t wait to get a place of your own, start saving ASAP, as in before you even leave college. It’s also good to remember that your “big girl/boy” status means Uncle Sam wants his cut. You have to account for taxes, so be prepared for when your paycheck takes a big blow each month.
8. Always be looking for a job. Even if you’re happy at your current job, you never know what the future holds. It’s good to be prepared and look at what else is out there.
9. Find a mentor and be a mentor. I know what you’re probably thinking. “What? Me—become a mentor? But I’m just starting out!” There’s a good chance you’ll end up at a company working for or with someone older than yourself. You’re a digital native, a natural whiz at computers and social media, and this other person might have those experienced marketing or sales skills you’re looking to learn. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t offer something. A mentorship should be a mutually beneficial relationship.
10. Have fun. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stress of your job or the job search that you find yourself sitting alone in a dark room feeling depressed and thinking about asking your doctor for some Prozac. Don’t let it get that far. You’re young and have your whole life to worry about making a decent living, paying a mortgage, and caring for kids. Take this time to explore and enjoy life.