Remember those days when the most significant decision you had to make was whether to go to that 8 AM lecture or snooze for another ten minutes? Or when “cooking” meant adding water to your instant ramen? Well, welcome to the wild side now. That transition from college to the real world, affectionately termed ‘adulting’, is a bit like upgrading from a kiddie pool to the Pacific Ocean. Before you panic and buy another self-help book, take a deep breath, grab that leftover ramen for old times’ sake, and let’s dive into this guide to surviving the shift from college life to adult life. And yes, keeping your inflatable arm bands on for now is okay.
Money Matters, But So Does Your Happiness: Straight out of college, it’s tempting to splurge on things you couldn’t afford as a student, like that fancy latte or those designer shoes. It’s almost too easy when you remember you have your own money now. But remember, financial freedom isn’t about splurging, but making informed decisions. Live within your means and understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need.’ Just because you can buy 20 lattes, doesn’t mean you should. (Though one won’t hurt, right? It is PSL season, after all!)
- Set up a monthly budget using apps like Mint or YNAB. Track your income, bills, and recreational spending.
- Save a small portion of every paycheck, no matter how little, and gradually increase it as your income grows.
- Open a retirement account, even if it’s with a small initial amount. The power of compound interest is real!
Home Sweet (Safe and Sound) Home: While living in a posh high-rise might be tempting, finding the right location is crucial. It’s not just about aesthetics but also safety, convenience, and affordability. Do you want to be paying off a penthouse while eating canned beans?
- Visit potential living areas during different times of the day to gauge safety, noise, and activity levels.
- Make a list of essential amenities you can’t live without.
- Review lease agreements thoroughly before signing. If possible, get a trusted friend or family member to double-check.
The Job Jungle: In the professional wilderness, finding the right career path is a bit like choosing the right trail. Sometimes, you might have to take a few detours before finding the perfect route. Don’t settle. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. You spent years studying for this; make it count!
- Update your LinkedIn profile and resume with relevant experiences and achievements.
- Schedule coffees with people who work in industries or positions of interest (ask me to connect on LinkedIn).
- Attend career fairs and networking events –bring your business cards!
Never Stop Learning: While you may have waved goodbye to formal lectures and exams, the real world offers many learning opportunities. Consider additional courses, not just for the certificates, to genuinely add to your skill set. And remember, YouTube tutorials count, too! Who knew fixing a leaky faucet could be so satisfying?
- Explore online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or Khan Academy for courses that pique your interest.
- Attend workshops or seminars related to your industry – the Leadership Institute has so much great online and in-person programming.
- Set aside a dedicated ‘learning hour’ each week to read industry-related articles, books, or journals.
Networking: Not Just for Computers: Building a professional network isn’t just about donning a suit and handing out business cards. It’s about genuine connections. Sometimes, it’s not about what you know, but who you know. And yes, your college pals count. Who knows? The roommate who borrowed your notes might be your future business partner.
- Join professional organizations or groups in your field.
- Reconnect with college professors or mentors; they can be invaluable in introducing you to industry professionals.
- Attend at least one networking event a month, even if it is virtual – or join Rules of Networking, my free professional development platform.
Embrace the Grind: Hard work is the name of the game. There’s no shortcut to success (unless you win the lottery, but don’t bank on that). Embrace challenges and remember: the most significant growth often comes from the toughest experiences. Like surviving on instant noodles, but more challenging.
- Set short-term and long-term career goals. Review and adjust every six months.
- Create a daily to-do list and prioritize tasks based on importance.
- Set boundaries: Designate specific times for work, rest, and play to avoid burnout.
Keep Your College Contacts: While you’re building your new network, don’t forget the old. Your college friends, professors, and alumni are valuable connections. Who else will reminisce about that notorious dorm party or that unforgettable college trip?
- Organize monthly or bi-monthly catchups with college friends.
- Attend alumni events or reunions.
- Offer and seek guidance; share job opportunities or leads within your college network.
Balance is Everything: While hard work is essential, striking a balance is also crucial. Remember, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy and a very stressed one. Find hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and occasionally indulge in that fancy latte.
- Allocate specific ‘me-time’ each week, even if it’s a quiet half-hour with a book or a short walk.
- Explore stress-relieving activities like meditation, yoga, or keeping a journal.
- Plan regular breaks during work hours – the Pomodoro Technique is a great method to balance work and rest.
Transitioning from college to the mysterious realm of adulthood might feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. But you’ll survive and thrive with patience, a sprinkle of humor, and maybe a self-help book (or two). Dive into the Pacific and make waves! And remember, even if the water gets rough, you’ve got those floaties. And if those don’t keep you going, the Network of enlightened Women will. You’ve got this!
Along with serving on the NeW advisory board, Patricia Rausch serves as the Vice President of Education at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. Leading the charge on new learning initiatives, she develops and executes career-connected educational programming and resources aimed to transform and advance the distribution workforce.