What They Don’t Tell You About Graduating From College

You finally received your diploma after (hopefully only) four years of blood, sweat, hangovers and tears. Your whole post-graduation life as an alumnus is now ahead of you. And that life becomes a checklist.

Finding a job with full-time benefits: check.

Scoring an apartment with rent that won’t break the bank: check.

If you were fiscally savvy, you may have also nabbed discounted furnishings for your apartment or upgraded from the beader you were rolling around on campus to a nicer “grown-up” vehicle: check and check.

But there’s a laundry list of things that no one shares with you once the ink is dry on your diploma.

The day you sign the lease to your new apartment does not also sign you onto a roster of new friends.

For me, the most difficult realization after surviving the panicky first weeks of being on my own — and I mean, truly on my own for the first time — was that I did not have any close friends or family in my new community.

I was going to have to make new friends. (Eep.)

The harsh truth is that when you begin from scratch in your career and in a new town, odds are you are going to have to start from scratch with a new squad too.

Four years inside a protective bubble of college grants one with endless privileges like food already prepared for you in the cafeteria (sometimes you just don’t feel like making dinner when you’re forced to “adult,” OK?), a syllabus that literally tells you what to do and what to expect for 13 weeks and, most importantly, a concentrated hub of friends that are only a hall away from you at any moment in time.

I’m telling you this for your own good, so listen up: once you graduate from college, you actually have to make an effort to not only stay in touch with your friends, but you actually have to go out and greet the great outdoors in order to meet new people. Any introvert’s most acute nightmare. But, if you ever paid attention in psychology class, turns out that Laslow’s hierarchy of needs is true: you need love, social interactions and feelings of inclusiveness in order to survive.

This is a lesson that I am slowly learning to accept and execute. Because, truthfully, making friends has never been that easy for me. And the ironic thing is that I’ve gone out of my way to avoid people my age — now I have been working to go out of my way to seek out other millennials.

Because too much of a good thing can be a step backward.

At my job, most of the employees who work with me are of the Baby Boomer or Generation X demographic. Which, intellectually, makes me feel like a kid in a candy store because, in a way, I finally feel like an equal and a peer. But, socially, it’s incredibly disheartening to be the only individual that does not have a family (or … TOTAL BUMMER … a pet) to come home to, or a wingperson to hop wine bars with after work.

It. Sucks. Major.

When you move to a new town, be sure that there are opportunities to get involved where you can meet and network with people your age.

As you can imagine, working with older generations also means that there are older generations living in the community too, making it difficult to meet other young adults and professionals.

During my job search process, I never looked into whether or not there were community and “extracurricular” activities, if you will, for young professionals to meet other young professionals and increase their network. And as it turns out, there are actually very few here.

But meeting new people is a process, and I’m just an impatient person. When you take the plunge into a new town with new faces, it’s easy to get caught up in the desperation to quickly replace the support system you were used to for four years — it’s easy to forget that in order to cultivate and nurture a genuine relationship, it takes time and patience.

Grown-ups don’t hold each others’ hands at work. And you should not expect them to hold yours either.

Don’t get used to The System in college, because it will not treat you the same in The Real World.

Even though college is meant to be a place where students are supposed to learn individuality and independence, let’s be honest for a second that some professors really do engage in hand-holding. They take the time to remind students to at least check the syllabus, announce due dates and even provide instruction as to what they’re looking for in an assignment, rather than leave you to generate the creative juices yourself.

In the corporate world, waiting to be told what to do next is a dangerous place to be. Ask questions, attempt to find information on your own, or deduct an educated guess. But do not wait to be instructed on your every unsure action. Take accountability for your work, and strong reasoning behind your decisions.

That email reminder that you have an exam next class period? A friendly announcement that your staff meets promptly at 10 a.m. and to be sure that you have printed off a copy of the report? Where was that again? Did I even get that email? Nothing.

Anticipating and preparation are your new work friends.

Your college education is still not going to be enough.

But remember that you are enough.

It’s easy to feel discouraged some days at work when you sense that the new processes and operations you are being introduced to just do not click. And it’s even easier to be quick to blame your education for not preparing you for things like this.

Know that your learning never ends if you choose to allow it. There’s a reason why “Work Experience” is a common header on standard resumes. It’s because you learn invaluable skills and lessons while on the job. Skills and trades that not necessarily can be learned in a classroom. That’s why I have always been such a fan of internships — where else can you find yourself connecting textbook information with real world application?

Trust that you still have a long ways to go in your learning, both professionally and personally. And your eagerness to learn will accelerate your ability to understand and master the skills needed to rock out your current position.

But, good news, you will eventually get your mojo back.

The harsh matter of reality that no one tells you about graduating from college is that Real Life packs quite a few punches. (Why didn’t anyone tell us that you need to basically lay down a full month of rent for a security deposit? Aren’t the tears from my bank account enough!?)

But I guess that’s what earns one the title of Grown Up. You live and you learn what it takes to be a responsible young adult — through both your successes and failures. The key is to continue waking up in the morning, dressing your best and going to work anyway.

Make a few phone calls home to mom. She really does know best. Because she’s been there before.

Join an organization, say yes to new opportunities even if they’re intimidating, update your LinkedIn profile proudly, push the boundaries with your new ideas and speak up during team discussions, try a new class at the gym, smile at strangers on the sidewalk, pick up a new hobby.

Do what you have to do to get your mojo back. Chances are your company hired you because they want your positive energy in their work culture too.

And you know what else they don’t tell you about graduating from college?

That everything is going to be OK. ||


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