I just finished my first full year out of college.
I graduated May 23, 2013, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was beyond excited to get out of school and “start my life.” I naively thought that with a diploma in hand, I was ready for it all. Like a typical millennial cliché, I was very wrong.
Unlike a lot of my peers, I had a signed offer for a job over a month before I’d don my cap and gown. It was a job in my chosen field (publishing), with a decent salary, and conveniently right near Penn Station, so commuting from home on Long Island would be a breeze (or, at least, as much of a breeze as an hour and a half trip could be). So, I quit my beloved part-time job at Apple, took a deep breath and jumped headfirst into the workforce a mere week after graduation.
Not surprisingly, it was too good to be true and I was laid off within just a few months of starting. My boss cited “budget cuts” and I took the whole thing terribly. My shiny new life on the cusp of beginning suddenly became cracked, dull, and utterly terrifying. Since then, this past year has been a whirlwind and it’s one that has been filled with more things unexpected than expected. So, in light of all you new graduates accepting your diplomas and singing “SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER!” at the top of your lungs, I give you a few nuggets of wisdom from my whole year in the wild. Grain of salt sold separately.
Save money. This either seems obvious or ridiculous to you, but it’s actually something I wish someone had ingrained harder into my brain before graduating. In college, “broke” meant you couldn’t go out one night or your meal of choice for the next week was a pack of hotdogs. In “real life,” being broke can mean defaulting on student loan payments, barely paying the minimum on credit cards, and having zero social life. Nest eggs are the difference between sinking or swimming. Download the Mint app — it’ll make saving a whole lot easier (I’m newly obsessed). Seriously, if you find yourself out of a job, a nest egg will keep your credit from being destroyed and food on the table. Also, it’ll save you the tail-between-your-legs chat with your parents.
Make like Chumbawamba: If you get knocked down, get up again. I failed miserably at this but you shouldn’t. I’ll give it to you straight: I was hugely depressed after losing my job. I was convinced that I was a failure, a feeling that was only exacerbated by the amount of interviews I went on while looking for a new job. I interviewed — yes, interviewed — with 19 different companies over a period of four months. My printer died from printing out so many copies of my resume. I was pounding pavement, chatting up HR employees all over the city and praying to whatever god that would listen that I’d find something. I wish that when I told myself, “It’s all going to work out,” that I genuinely believed it would. I cried night after night because I was convinced I was going to have to forfeit my dream of being an editor so I could pay the bills. In just one year out of college, I know I’ve gotten thicker skin. I gave myself a reality check: “DUDE, YOU’RE 22. CALM DOWN.” Do yourself the favor and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s definitely going to happen and it’s definitely going to get better.
Try harder in your friendships. The diaspora of friends as they leave the collegiate bubble is no joke. For your whole life, your friends have been easily accessible. They’ve been in the next room, across the hall, around the block. And then suddenly, after graduation, your best friends have detached themselves from your hip and moved to Cleveland (or, in my case, Boston. And Virginia. And Florida). It becomes very easy to let days turn into weeks without talking or checking in. Friends you once knew everything about become these people that you just sort of know. Seeing them and actually learning about their day-to-day activities takes serious effort. Put the work in for the friends that matter to you — set out time every week to talk to them. Have “Skype Session Sundays” and you’ll never be out of the loop. There’s nothing that feels more like a punch in the gut than finding out from Facebook that your best friend is engaged.
Work hard. This is a “mom” piece of advice but it’s definitely valid. Get to work on time, don’t drink every single night of the week (or do so in moderation…), stay positive, and fight for what you want. No one’s going to be a bigger advocate for you than yourself. If you want something, don’t be afraid to ask for it. And if you don’t get it? Well, perseverance goes a looooooong way.
Welcome to post-grad life, my friends, and here’s to a good first year out. Maybe yours won’t end over a pint of ice cream and “What’s My Age Again?” on replay but I can’t make any promises.