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It’s graduation season! I couldn’t write this post without one for college grads now could I?

Graduating high school was a completely different monster from graduating high school. You grow in college. You get to indulge in exploring who you are, what you want and who you like. It’s as fun as it is intense. For the first time, you are truly responsible for the things you do. Your parents won’t be able to take your final exam for you or pass your classes. On the other hand, they also can’t ground you, tell you what to do or make you go to school. There’s a certain freedom and sadness that comes from that.

But then those 4 or so years are over. You may be relieved, anxious or a bit of both about your college days coming to an end. It’s understandable. The economy was bad when I graduated college, but certainly not like this. Although I can’t offer you any financial help, I can give you a few suggestions and words of advice I wish someone had bestowed to me when I left the safety of college and entered “the real world.” Read it, take what you need, leave what doesn’t fit and pass it on.

Give yourself time to transition to life after college.

This is especially true if you have lived away from home for the last 4 years. There’s some truth to the saying, ” You can never go home again. “Perhaps you feel wiser, stronger and older and returning to the place you’ve been prior to college stings. Those who knew you before may continue to treat you like a kid or they will be turned off by your new persona. Give it time. It took a summer for me to reunite with old friends, make new ones, establish new relationships and boundaries with relatives. Not to mention find a job. Speaking of which…

Your very first job will not dictate your future professional career.

I’ve had more than 10 jobs since college and I’m betting I’ll get to 20 in a few years. When I first started out however, I was paralyzed with fear about what job I would get. I graduated with a BA in English and a minor in Ethnic Studies. Writing jobs seemed slim to none when I started out so I took the closest job I could find in marketing. Since then I’ve done everything from work as a research assistant to a private investigator and a copywriter to a counselor. I wish someone had told me that the first few years after college would be a continuation of my career exploration. It’s okay if you don’t get your dream job right away. Keep at it and you’ll eventually get there.

Don’t stress about finding the right anything. It will come.

Most of my twenties were spent sitting on the floor of a bookstore reading books on relationships and careers. I thought I had to have it all figured out by the time I graduated college. I saw friends on their way to marriage, kids and enviable careers and there I was clueless and going nowhere. Or so I thought. I eventually found the “right” partner and the career. It took me a lot longer than I expected, but I realized everyone has different paths in life. Although you all start out in college at the same pace, some will find their ways faster than others. My biggest regret? That I spent so much energy and time worrying that I would never get there.

Never lose who you are.

In the midst of finding yourself, it’s easy to lose you in the process. You may develop unhealthy attachments to bad people, bad food or bad situations. Or you may find that in the fear of not knowing who you are or what to do next, you sacrifice the most important person to you-yourself. After college is a time of transition. Remember that you might be lost and confused for awhile. But never give up on your dreams or relinquish your power for someone or to something else. I think one of the greatest lessons you can learn is that you (the good, the bad, and the ugly) are the most valuable thing you can offer to another person, a job and to life itself.

Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a freelance writer who specializes in psychology and self-help articles. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and writes for several publications and websites. You can get more information about her here. She also blogs about inspirationwriting inspiration and psychology

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