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College is a time for exploration and creativity, where you can focus on daily campus life and not worry too much about the working world. However, things change pretty quickly after graduation. The reality check of finding a job (without having much experience on your resume) and paying student loans can be overwhelming for many graduates. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The vast majority of twentysomethings are in the same boat, and there are plenty of common-sense strategies to propel you towards a desirable career. Below, we’ve outlined seven secrets to help you transition into post-college life.
First and foremost, it’s going to take some time to find a job that satisfies you. After sending out dozens of applications, you might not even hear back for an interview, but don’t get discouraged. As a recent graduate, you probably don’t have much job experience yet, and there are hundreds of candidates with similar qualifications applying for those positions. Rejection is inevitable, but once you’ve accepted that fact, you can start looking for opportunities that are within your reach. Before settling into a career, you may need to support yourself with a few “jobs” (i.e. waiter, bar back, canvasser, assistant) to build credibility and connections.
In college, most students don’t have to worry about bills, but they also don’t have much pocket money. The typical college lifestyle consists of cafeteria meals, cramped dorms, and on-campus entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, when you’re 19, you shouldn’t expect to eat artisanal food and live on your own in a fancy loft. However, this minimal lifestyle can continue for a year or two after graduation. Student loans typically kick in six months after receiving your diploma, so your expenses will start to rise quickly. You’ve learned how to be frugal, though, so take that experience and apply it to your post-college life.
As an undergrad, life can sometimes feel like a constant blur between studying and partying. At that age, it’s much easier to handle the consequences of pushing your body so hard. Once you reach your mid-20s, though, it’s essential that you get consistent sleep. Eight hours a night is not just a suggestion — it will ensure that you stay productive, lucid, and healthy. It may be tempting to push yourself in the hopes of securing a job or attending every social function, but people have their limits. Just take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you’re only human. You can’t do it all.
When it comes to the dress-code, college students can wear almost anything around campus. Flip-flops, sweatpants, and pajamas are an unofficial uniform for the undergrad. Not so in the working world. Unless you’ve somehow landed a role at a cool tech startup right out of college, you’ll probably have to dress up a bit. That means button-down shirts and slacks for men and presentable dresses and blouses for ladies. Frankly, everyone should invest in a respectable wardrobe, because you’re going to need to impress hiring managers when applying for jobs.
At face value, this tip might seem a little strange, but consider how the average college student spends their time. If you’re only focused on grades and academic honors, you’ll probably have your nose buried in books and won’t devote much time to socializing. Likewise, if you’re only going to parties and sleeping in, you probably won’t graduate. In today’s economy, GPA is almost never as important as your social connections. When a friend or former colleague at a company vouches for you, it’s far more likely that you’ll get the job. Use the college environment to make close friendships, and then help each other out whenever possible. Who knows, you might be co-workers one day!
There’s one exception to our GPA argument: grad school. Here, grades matter, just like they did when you were applying for undergraduate programs. If you’re dead-set on becoming a lawyer or doctor, we wish you the best on your academic journey, but for those on the fence, we ask that you do some soul-searching first. Remember, you’ve already amassed significant debt to get to this point, and grad school programs can be even more expensive, so you should be certain about your motivations before taking the plunge. There’s no downside to taking a few years off, exploring your options, and then returning to graduate studies.
Finally, we ask that you give yourself a break. Having dreams and ambition is commendable, but not if it comes at the expense of your health. Likewise, many graduates still won’t have a clear direction, and there’s nothing shameful about that either. Everyone is following their path of self-discovery. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others — i.e. the guy or girl who seems to have it all figured out — because they’re dealing with their own personal struggles. Instead, look inward for guidance and don’t be afraid to take risks along the way.