Whether you choose to do a gap year, travel, or immediately start work after graduation, everyone experiences the transition from college to a full-time job at some point. For me, I knew I wanted to start work right away and was lucky enough to find a job before I graduated college. My place of work wanted me to complete some training before I even graduated, so I had a good idea of what the company and my future position would be like before I started full time. However, I still had to transition from living comfortably in my dorm with full access to deliciously cooked meals, a 24-hour free gym, and being walking distance from all my friends to living completely on my own and working a job with hours different than a traditional nine-to-five. The transition wasn’t the easiest, but it definitely will be one of the most valuable experiences of my early 20s that I can look back on in the future. Here are some things I learned that might help ease your own transition.
I personally found the most stressful part about my transition was finding housing. If you are fortunate enough to be able to live with your parents rent-free during the first few years after graduation, I would recommend taking advantage of it! Because I was moving far from my hometown, I had to find affordable housing on my own. Living in Los Angeles as a recent college graduate is super difficult (just like any other major city), and I had to spend several hours a day looking up housing that was within my budget and a reasonable distance from my workplace. Those who plan on living alone after college should prepare by researching early, setting a budget, and looking for a roommate several months in advance. Ask your friends and family, or reach out to your college community for help! There are also several apartment apps available for smartphones. Airbnb and share houses are great ways to find temporary housing if finding permanent housing is a little difficult at first.
Related to finding housing in your price range, setting a budget is something all people should be prepared to do after college. While you may only have to worry about a few expenses as a student, you need to worry about rent and utilities, transportation, insurance, groceries, loan payments, and more after college. While many professionals have different ideas about saving and budgeting, the most important thing is to make your own decisions that are feasible for your income and lifestyle and stick to them. Set a rule for how much you should save each month and how much you want to spend on each category. Have a plan if you have to go over that budget and what you’ll do if you have any unexpected expenses (e.g., your car breaks down or a family emergency requires you to travel home).
Enjoy the times you can call up your friends in the late hours of the night, because after college, it will take a lot more effort to meet up with them. It’s much more of a challenge to see your friends with a full-time work schedule, and not being able to see your friends every day may be hard for some people. Understanding and accepting the fact that it may be difficult is the first step, but thanks to technology, it’s a lot easier to keep in touch! Make plans with your closest friends on how often you want to meet up and/or call every month. Other than friends, it may be a lot harder to see your family too. While during school you got two to three months of summer vacation every year (plus multiple breaks), as a full-time employee, you may only get one or two weeks off a year—and depending on your field, you may not be able to take time off during regular holidays.
From elementary to high school, we sat in school for six or seven hours a day. Then in college, we only had maybe three hours of class a day with the rest of our time free for clubs, part-time jobs, studying, etc. At a full-time job, you’ll be working for at least eight hours a day. Depending on your job, you may have to travel and be on your feet a lot, or you may be sitting at a desk for the majority of your shift. Adjusting to working the majority of the day without major breaks (or a nap) can be tough for new graduates. In addition to the hours, the actual content of the work may be challenging. It can be easy to get overwhelmed during training. Always ask questions, take good notes, and practice, practice, practice! You aren’t expected to be a perfect employee at first. Your personal qualities and potential stood out as a reason to hire you, so don’t fret too much.
Sometimes it seems unfair that we have to be thrown into the world of adulthood after being coddled for so long. While no one is perfect, being willing to learn and humbly accepting mistakes is a major key during the transition from college to a full-time job. In no time, you’ll look back at all the things you struggled with in your early 20s and realize it wasn’t so bad after all.
For more advice on how to succeed at your first job after college, check out our Internships and Careers section.