I’ve been a graduate for about three months now, and obviously, I have everything figured out. Wrong. So wrong. The past few months have definitely proven some difficulties with transitioning out of school-life into adult-life. When I actually sat down and thought about it, I realized that ever since I was 5 years old, I have been in the school system. I never took a break or time off from my studies for one reason or another. Being a student, my responsibilities were low key and I depended on my parents for most of my necessities; this lasted 21 years of my life. Now that I am a post-grad out in in the world trying to adult, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I would like to pass on some advice to those about to leave college, or those who just need some life advice. Hopefully if you read this, you can learn from this and not make some of the same mistakes that I have (if you do, it’s ok! Just read below).
Take a break. I was one of the lucky few who was blessed to receive a job offer straight out of college. My job wanted me to start full-time the Monday right after Commencement. However, I asked to wait a few weeks before I started full-time. Since the office needed me ASAP, I couldn’t completely go off-grid for a few weeks, so I negotiated with working part time for a few weeks before going full-time. My bosses agreed to it, but now that I’ve been working for a few months with the 8-4:30 job, I do wish I wasn’t working for at least those first few weeks after graduation. The transition from student to adult is a long and can be, difficult process. Take a break to process what the new phase of your life will be like, and more than likely, you’ll need a break after many years of schooling - especially depending how your senior year goes! Don’t forget to just take general breaks and rest, or else you risk being burnt out too quickly.
Don’t overextend yourself to make others happy. Throughout my life, I would say “yes” to more responsibility, leadership positions, or jobs when I really shouldn’t have. It’s ok to say no to people who are asking extra work of you if you know the responsibility will end up hurting you in the end. Do what makes you happy, and don’t keep saying “yes” when you are already overextending yourself.
It’s ok to make mistakes. I struggle with this one a lot. It is definitely ok to make mistakes. That is how you learn and grow as a person. When you’re in college, making mistakes is expected, so enjoy it. Make the mistake, brush off the dirt, and learn from what happened. However, I don’t condone breaking the law or putting you or someone else in mortal danger. I made many, many mistakes while I was college, and I continue to make mistakes as an adult.
Stress is a good thing. People say to not be stressed, and there is a negative stigma attached to the word. However, there is an upside to stress. Good stress will propel you to work. It will increase your heart rate and get you going. I know many people who work well under pressure and deadlines because they’ve learned to harness the stress and use it to their advantage. Stress also reminds us what we care about most. If something is wrong and we stress over it, then it must be important for us to care so much about. Use your stress as an aid to help you succeed.
Learn all the things. First off, never stop learning. Try new things, gain new skill sets, and just keep learning. Even in the adult world, you will continue to learn. That being said, learn all the things that you may not need to know at this moment, but you will need to know if the future. Stuff like budgeting, insurance, 401K’s may not seem exciting, but it is good to learn how to handle stuff like that before you even have to.
Travel. You may have heard that it’s harder to travel after graduation. This can be very true depending on what your post-grad life looks like. While you’re still in school, you can take ahold of an amazing opportunity with study abroad - that way you get class credit AND can experience a new culture and country. Unfortunately, my program in college did not give me enough wiggle room to do study abroad. Now that I am working full-time, I’ve realized it’s hard to find a good time to jet off to Europe. You have more responsibilities, and you can only take so much time off of work. It is important to travel because it will give you a different mindset and viewpoint, and you can have a life changing experience! Also, if you do study abroad, generally your tuition is covered already and you can stay in the country for longer periods of time. However, if you don’t do a study abroad trip, traveling in general will give you great benefits as well.
It’s ok not to have your life together. After graduation, you may or may not have a job starting right off. Here is the straight up truth: most people don’t. Like I said, I was very lucky and blessed that I have my job, but that definitely does not mean I have my life together. On the contrary, my life is just as a mess as those unemployed right after graduating. I’m just adulting differently. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel bad that you don’t have your entire life put together right after you graduate. You’ll be going through a transition you most likely haven’t encountered before. Be kind to yourself and remember that you don’t need to have everything figured out right off the bat.
Make friends that are completely different from you. No matter where you are in life, having friends with completely different viewpoints, values, ethics, and personalities from yourself will make your life richer. These friends will help you grow, see things differently, and will help make your values and thoughts stronger.
Your friends will change. Graduating college is like graduating high school: you’re entering a new part of life. Some friends will continue to be part of your life, and others will eventually leave your life. It’s not a bad thing. Friendships ending are a natural part of life. There will be those people who will stick around for the long haul. Those are the golden nuggets in life. Figure out who you want to keep in your life for the long term, and make sure to nurture that relationship.
Find Community. A community can be large or small, but no matter the size, the people in the community need to be able to support and help you. In return, you need to be able to do the same for others. Always remember, sometimes it takes a village to get through life. Your community can come from church, a stable friend group, or someplace you volunteer at. Whatever it is, find that group that you can lean on when adulting gets hard. I’m lucky that I found many pockets of community among different friend groups between college and church. I know I can turn to any of these groups for help when need be.
Figure out your priorities. I believe there is no such thing as a perfect work-life balance where EVERYTHING is balanced out. Some things will take more priority than others at different times. For instance, if you need to focus on your family at the moment, then other stuff like work and friends may slide to second and third place. That is ok. I’ve struggled with trying to give everything 100% of my attention and do all the things. That doesn’t always end well. Something has to give. However, keep this in mind: at the end of the day, would you wish you spent more time working, or spent more time with the people you love and care about?
“Life after graduation can be discouraging only if you let it.” This was said to me during a portfolio critique. I asked the graphic designer what advice she had for me as I prepared to graduate and get ready for post-grad life. It’s important to keep a positive mindset. Giving into the fear and uncertainty can push you into a dark hole. It can be comforting to know that you aren’t alone in the post-grad adulting struggles.
Don’t take it personally. This was also said to me by another graphic designer at the portfolio critique. She did not say that about my work, but as her piece of advice. No matter what you end up doing in life when someone critiques you at the job, don’t take it personally because in the end, it’s the job.
You don’t know everything. So, you have this degree that you probably worked really hard to achieve. You took classes and learned stuff in order to possess said degree. Guess what. You don’t know everything. When I first graduated and started working, I felt the need to prove that I know what I’m doing, and that I was some hot-shot because of 4 years of classes and learning about my area of passion. In the end, I would consistently get knocked off my high horse with every critique and edit made on my work. However, I needed the reminder that I don’t know more than my coworkers; 4 years of learning does not mean that you know more than a coworker that has been in the industry more than you've been in school.
Stay Healthy. Whatever you end up doing, make sure you exercise and eat right. Your physical health is extremely important. It will help you live a happier life because exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Another part of being healthy, is your emotional and mental health. Sleeping, taking time for yourself, doing things you LOVE will contribute to your overall health. Take care of yourself.
Find a mentor. Whether this person is someone in the career you wish to go into or an adult figure that you can admire and look up to, find a person that you can turn to for help. This person, preferably, is older than you or has more experience. You don’t need to literally ask the person to be your mentor. Find someone you would like to learn from and then contact that person asking questions about the career field, how to handle work situations, their own advice for adulting.