I recently asked you guys what you would like to read about as a college grad, and almost all of your answers have included something along the lines of getting out on your own, starting a professional life, and just plain adjusting.
While the transition from college to couch to corporate can seem tough, frustrating, and simply hard, there are a few things to remember while you and your diploma enter the real world.
If you’re still in the process of looking for your first job, that’s okay. It’s actually more than okay – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Now is the time to explore the options, make your connections, and learn to stand on your own two feet. You’ll easily apply to over 100 jobs before your first one comes along. But when it does, those hours of applying will be worth it. For those who are finding themselves in the first few days, weeks, or months of your new job, the switch can be just as hard, confusing, and questionable.
After five weeks in my new, “big girl” apartment, and four full weeks at my first job, the following is the best advice I can give you, from the bottom of my recent-college-grad-heart:
- No one is going to hold your hand, and that’s a good thing. Sure, you may have lots of people who are willing to hold your hand, but it doesn’t mean that they will, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should let them. Part of growing up and entering the real world is learning to fall down and only having yourself to pick you back up. Mistakes are good. They mean you’re trying. Having people to fall back on is always wonderful, but don’t get too used to it, because you can’t rely on them to be back there forever.
- The only constant thing in this world is change. This is actually something one of my co-workers said to me last week, after seeing numerous people in our office leave to start a new chapter in their lives. Yet it applies to so much more. This point in our lives is all about change. We, as young professionals or even just as human beings, are constantly growing, changing, moving. It’s hard, and it might be scary, but have faith in the idea that everything you come across, every change you experience, is all part of the bigger picture. The sooner we realize that change is constant, the better we become at handling it, and the less it will surprise us when it occurs.
- You will be alone. A lot. There are times you will feel so alone because you moved to a new town, you’re the newbie in the office and feel out of the loop, or maybe because it seems like everyone is moving forward while you feel unbearably stuck. As Dr. Seuss said, “I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games, too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you. All alone, whether you like it or not. Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.” What most people don’t realize is that alone isn’t always a bad thing. Having time to yourself, mentally or physically, is good for the soul. When you have time to think, without others around influencing how you think, you just might surprise yourself with how comfortable alone can feel.
- Money isn’t important. You’re young, you see a world full of money and those who have it, and you figure, okay, I did what I was supposed to do. Bring on the fat paychecks. But quite honestly, the only jobs that are attainable for college grads in today’s economy, pay very little. And that’s okay. If you made all the money in the world at your first job, you would never be motivated to move forward. I work for a non-profit who does so much for the community. Do I get paid awesome money? No. Am I doing something I love for a company I believe in? Yes. And at this point in my life, I can’t think of anything more that I need. I don’t have a family to support, I don’t own a home, and I have enough money coming in to live comfortably. What else could I want? I know other college grads with entry level jobs who are getting paid the same, or even less, so there is never a reason to feel unlucky for what you have accomplished – no matter the pay.
- Stay connected with people who influenced your past in a good way. I still email and visit with professors, mentors, and connections I’ve been lucky enough to have come across over the last few years. If they made a difference for you once, they’ll most likely do it again. Don’t ever wander too far from the people who were with you before you entered the real world. They want to watch you grow, but that doesn’t mean you should leave them behind.
- Stop judging people around you before you know them. No, I’m not trying to lecture you on how to be a better person, but it’s a fact you have to grasp if you want to make it anywhere in this world. You just came from a place where all people do is judge: college. What it’s time to realize is that now, you are an adult, and while cattiness might have been necessary to survive growing up, you’ve just entered a world where judging others is only going to harm yourself. You will meet so many people in the first half hour of entering a new company or any other professional atmosphere you may find yourself in. It’s easy to look around and think the worst of people. I hate her outfit. This guy is so conceited. I’ll never be able to work with any of these people. Stop. Here’s the only thing you have to remember: In the professional world, you never know what people have to offer. You also will not get along with everyone you meet, but you will most likely have to work with them, so find a happy medium and stick to it. Judging is the first step to preventing yourself from growing: personally and professionally.
Your first job will more than likely not be your last. So if you hate it, too bad. Don’t give up just yet. It might have more to offer than you realize. Everything in life itself is an experience, and the same goes for your career. Every crappy little task you’re handed only means you’re getting past the hardest time in your profession: the beginning. If you’re still searching for that first job, don’t stop. Patience is key, and so is realizing that everything is not a competition. Every interview you are lucky enough to have is a learning experience, even if you don’t land the job. It’s all apart of the wonderful things that are ahead, so wherever you are, keep moving.
*Author’s Note: I’m growing, too. These are just a handful of things I’ve learned in my first few weeks in a new town and a new job. I’m still learning, just like you. The more I grasp, the more I’ll share. Keep checking back for updates! If you have any “real world” advice, I’d love to hear. Share your ideas, thoughts, and comments with me. Thank you for reading! -C