I can remember it like it was just yesterday – college graduation – confidently walking across the stage in my black and gold cap and gown, ready for the real world. At the time, I was so eager to close my college chapter and begin my adult life. I was confident that I was prepared to walk into my first career job, and my degree, resume and self-confidence would take me there. I remembered my older cousin stressing to me throughout college to enjoy school because when the day came to enter the real world, things were going to dramatically change, and life would never be so easy. It wasn’t until I started interviewing for positions that I realized what my cousin really meant. I was walking into a whole new ball game. I was so ready to finish school that I didn’t see how easy I had it. Post graduation, the real world may not quite be what you expected. Here’s how the real world surprised me after graduation and some of the greatest lessons I learned along the way.
Finding Your First Real Job Is No Walk in the Park
Several weeks before I graduated, I applied for a paid internship position back home with one of the largest communication companies in my area. When I got the call back for an in-person interview, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. After the interview, I was confident I had the position. I was told I had one of the best resumes they had seen come through their office. I was not only taken on a tour of my potential work place, I was also invited to meet a young woman who I would be working directly with who told me I was the first person they had brought back for her to meet and she was confident I had the position. She even told me that she looked forward to working with me. Two weeks later I got the phone call that they had gone with another candidate. I was devastated. I had planned everything around this position and now I was back to square one. But I didn’t let this moment define me. I applied to a number of other positions and dealt with the same confidence through the interview, and disappointment when I didn’t get that final call back. I didn’t realize that those failures had prepared me for what was to come. After several weeks, I was more confident than ever and more prepared than ever. After several face-to-face interviews, four months after graduation, I found the position that was right for me. I realized that everything that happened in those job hunting months had happened for a reason and I was right where I needed to be.
Finding your first real job may not be a walk in the park, and it may take awhile to find, even if you have a stellar resume and the confidence to back it up. Despite the disappointments, you have to hold your head up high, not take things personally and trust that the right position is coming your way.
Your Schedule Will Change
Remember college evenings and weekends – having the energy to hang out late nights and early mornings to study, do work and party with your friends? This will change when you enter the real world. No longer will you have little responsibility and the choice to rest when you choose to. No longer is it a matter of “choosing” to work. Work becomes a reality. Bills have to be paid. Once you land your first position, the only thing you will think about doing on evenings and weekends is catching up on your zzzs. Even when you want to hang out with your friends, you can be so exhausted that you’ll opt to pass. Luckily, once you get into the rhythm of work, you’ll find more balance in terms of your personal and work life. Just know that your schedule will change and it will be an adjustment.
The Bills Are Real
I didn’t have a lot of financial support from my parents during school, but I was always able to get by. Student loans helped me get through college. I also got involved in a work study program that provided some additional support. When I got out of school and had to deal with the realities of my student loans and the taking on of new “adult” bills, I realized that managing my finances was not as simple as I thought it would be. Every day that I didn’t have a position post-graduation, the more important landing a position became. Once I let go of my part-time job to pursue a full-time job search and my graduation gift money began to dwindle, the bill reality became more apparent. You may be accustomed to having the support of your parents and student loans, but the reality kicks in once those bills become your full responsibility. If you’re in the position to save, I highly advocate it. Don’t go down the road of not paying those bills and thinking they won’t come back to haunt you. Keeping your credit score in good standing is important now more than ever. Don’t set yourself up for failure later.
Your Friendships May Change
Your friends will change. This was one of the hardest pills for me to swallow. I was surprised how many friends I lost contact with from high school when I went off to college. While I developed friendships for a lifetime with some great people I met during college, given we all moved to different places post-graduation, it made seeing each other not impossible, but difficult. When I graduated and moved home, I just knew I would reestablish friendships with old friends and our relationships would be like they used to be. I had no idea how wrong I would be. During those college years, people change. They meet new people, end up on different paths and head in new directions. You may not reestablish the same friendships with those you left back home and that’s ok. Some of those friendships may end and it’s nothing to take personally. But you will establish new friendships. I am so grateful to have developed friendships not only at work, but outside of work with people who share similar interests that make the days a little easier. Trust this direction you are taking in life and that you will develop relationships with friends that support the path you’re on that make you happy in the process.