Fall is here. Leaves crunch under eager footsteps as campus buzzes with wistful excitement…Or at least that is what I would imagine it’s like, based on most teenage movies I’ve seen about college.
Although I started my job in July, it didn’t hit me that I’m officially a member of the “real world” until September. For the first time in my life, I traded in my perfectly calculated class schedule that allowed for sleeping in and 3 day weekends, for a 6 AM office commute. “Oh, THE HORROR!” you’re thinking.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about what it’s like to be a post-graduate. Most college students live in fear that as soon as they get their diploma, the world ends in a terrible meteor explosion and they spend the rest of their lives droning on in the eternal hell known as “work”.
Now, I’m not claiming to be an instant know-it-all about post graduate life. It’s only been 3 months since I finished school. But I’m here to debunk some of the myths. My commencement speech left me bright eyed and dreamy when reality doesn’t always have the same plans. I’m here to tell it to you straight, based on my own personal experience.
The Slight Post-Graduate Depression
You return home to your parents house with your tail in between your legs, and begin the sad, lonely process of unpacking as you realize that your days of college independence are in fact, gone forever. Or, if you’re like me it’s three months later and you still haven’t unpacked.
Regardless, you spend a lot of time watching pointless TV shows, wasting the days away eating Taco Bell and loathing every person younger than you who still gets to attend school as you bask in your own misery. Maybe you’ll polish up your resume, maybe you’ll send a few emails here and there…But you really just don’t feel like doing ANYTHING. Including your dishes, so lay off, Mom!
Put down the phone and don’t call the psychiatric ward yet – this whole “depressed, jobless post-graduate” thing only lasts for a little while.
I read a book that helped me get through it called Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. The book discusses how humans are wired to constantly think about the future and if we’re not living up to our expectations, we get depressed. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because guilt keeps us motivated.
However, don’t let it dictate your daily life. Get out there and enjoy yourself because for the first (and maybe only time) in your life, you don’t have any obligations to anything. Travel, explore, and wander – even if it’s in your own neighborhood. You’ll be surprised to discover things you always used to look over.
Getting a job is HARD.
For some reason, people (especially adults) are under the impression that getting a job right out of school is like putting a tooth under your pillow and waking up to find the tooth fairy visited. The reality of it is that getting a job right after school is extremely difficult. It takes a lot of rejection and a lot of days wondering if you’ll ever survive in the real world.
Unfortunately, most people won’t take you seriously because you’re young. At the same time, you’re somewhat naive to think that you know what you’re doing just because you graduated recently. There’s a lot that you only learn when you experience it first hand. People above you have been through those experiences. You may think your idea is the best thing since sliced bread. You may think you know everything about the digital world because you grew up with technology. The truth is, you have only scratched the surface.
…But don’t get discouraged.
The good news is, it’s still okay to learn. And there are always people willing to help you.
Just because you graduated, doesn’t mean that you have to know all of the answers to everything. You don’t have to find a job or do what anyone tells you. You’ll actually find yourself caring less and less about what people think of you. You’re still young, and now is your time to make mistakes, sort them out and live your life.
Be patient and stop worrying.
I’m a true believer in the idea that being nice to people pays off. Think about it – are you more likely to help the car that cut you off right before the exit, or the one with the “honk if you love puppies” bumper sticker that slowly edged in and gave you a polite wave as you let them into your lane?
I call this theory “practical luck”. I was extremely lucky to get a job one month after graduation. The stars aligned and everything worked out for me. But that’s not to say that I didn’t work hard to lead up to that moment. I was lucky when the situation arose, but I was also prepared to shine in that interview because I had worked hard to get to that point. Getting a job does come down to luck, but remember that you also have the power to decide your fate. If you want something, figure out what steps you need to get there. Then, be patient and let the universe work in your favor.
So, what’s the “real world” really like?
To be honest, I was terrified to graduate. I wanted to stay in my fun bubble of social parties, fake advertising campaigns, and occasional classes forever. I didn’t want to say goodbye to friends leaving for different destinations across the globe.
As you get older, you develop more obligations and you have to remind yourself to have fun more often. They never tell you how hard it’s going to be to land a job or pretend like you know what you’re talking about when you’re going over bank statements and withholding taxes. The hangovers are also brutal. But the world doesn’t end.
Having a job doesn’t mean you’re tied with a shackle to some unforgiving life of excel spreadsheets. And if it does, then maybe it’s time for a career change. One of my favorite parts about post-graduate life is seeing how bright the future is for everyone. It’s really rewarding to see all of my friends hard work pay off when they excitedly tell me about their new job or their adventures overseas.
The truth is, the real world is not all that bad.