Most students are eager to start their post-college lives, but there are some truths that they should be aware of. Here are some of the top aspects of post-college life that you need to know about before graduation and how you can prepare for them.
1. Networking should be natural
Everyone you meet before and after graduation will tell you how important networking is. Here’s the thing they don’t tell you: it can’t be forced.
Networking should be a natural part of your post-college life. Meet people you want to meet and maintain relationships with the ones who share similar interests. Don’t go to events and conferences for the sole purpose of meeting people who can give you a job, because you’ll come across as inauthentic and you won’t succeed in your goal.
Try sending out a networking email to people you’re familiar with. While it may seem like limiting your options, this is one aspect of your life where quality is more important than quantity.
Networking is a good start to get you on the path to your goals, but networking alone won’t get you a great job—you need to send out applications on a daily basis to get noticed. Plus, networking isn’t a catch-all for success. Some people get jobs through the connections they make, while others get a break from the applications they send. It’s definitely worth trying both options to cover your bases.
2. Your first job probably won’t be the best
Getting your dream job is something everyone hopes for, but, in all honesty, it might not become a reality for everyone. The first job you land after college may be a starter position where you tackle the 9-to-5 daily grind just to pay your bills and have a roof over your head. It may not be fun; you may want to be challenged or given more responsibility.
Everything will happen in its own time. Be patient. Remember that this first job will help you get into the market and provide you with experience so you can go on to bigger and better things. First jobs can teach you how to write professional emails, work in teams, and manage your time—skills you will need to better your career.
3. Volunteering should be a lifetime commitment
Volunteering is an important part of high school and college life, but once they join the workforce, people often let volunteering fall by the wayside. You should make time to volunteer in your adult life too.
Not only is volunteering a good way to give back to your community, but it also helps you meet people from different circles of life. In fact, volunteering could offer you networking opportunities and be the gateway to landing a job. If not, it can at least provide you with great references that will help you get a job. Just don’t take on more than you can handle!
4. Communication skills are crucial
There's one thing about adult life that students are rarely told: the amount of emails you will be sending is countless. You’ll be emailing job applications (if you aren’t filling them out on company websites) and sending follow-up emails after interviews.
Within the workforce, emails are a primary form of communication, and you’ll be constantly emailing coworkers, managers, and third parties. When you aren’t sending and receiving emails, you’ll be communicating with your fellow office workers via chat apps. In other words, you need to hone your communication skills before you enter the workplace, but also continue working on them after you land a job. It isn’t only the volume of communication but how you communicate that you need to be mindful of—keep in mind the importance of listening and giving and receiving feedback.
5. Presentations don’t stop after college
One of the most convenient skills you’ll pick up during your college years is the art of presentations. Don’t forget that skill, because you’re going to need it. In the workforce, you may find yourself doing presentations often, and it’ll need to become second nature to you.
Initially, you’ll probably be making presentations for other people instead of presenting them yourself, but the higher you climb the corporate ladder, the more presentations you’ll have to give, often to important, high-position people. Learn how to use a chart or graph maker to make your presentations look more insightful and attractive—a good presentation could be just the thing to get you a promotion.
6. Saving money can be hard, but it’s important
Everyone around you will be telling you to save money. You’ll be told to put aside a portion of your salary every month, don’t spend on anything you don’t need, and check your bank account constantly.
All that is helpful advice, but it doesn’t take into account how expensive life is right now. Rent is higher than ever before, and electricity, Wi-Fi, and even the price of food seem to be rising exorbitantly, without a similar increase in salaries. Plus, many post-college jobs are just gig jobs offering only six-month to one-year contracts with no benefits and less pay but with the same working hours as salaried employees.
Saving isn’t easy, no matter how frugal you try to be, and without student discounts and insurance, money may become a major issue. Here are a few things you can do:
- Look for sales and discounts whenever you can to avoid buying anything at full price.
- Track all your expenses in as much detail as possible.
- Make the full payment every month on any credit cards to avoid high interest costs and credit card debt.
Save now so you can spend in the future!
7. Freedom comes at a price
The cost of post-college life may be high, but the freedom to be on your own also comes with its own price. Not having the flexibility of college is hard to get used to when a 9-to-5 job and a potentially long commute take up a lot of your time.
If you’re living away from your parents for the first time, you'll also need to learn self-discipline. There’s nobody to tell you when to go to sleep, where to go, or what to do. That sounds like fun until you realize that you have to do everything yourself. All those dirty dishes in the sink? You have to wash them and put them away yourself. You need to cook for yourself, get yourself where you need to go, make decisions by yourself, and face the consequences.
No one has everything all figured out, and it’s okay to admit when you’re overwhelmed. Talk to your loved ones about what you’re dealing with for advice or just a friendly ear, but remember in the end, you’ll need to handle life independently. Eventually you’ll get used to life after college, and you’ll find your own routine. The longed-for freedom you always wanted will be worth it. Just give it some time.
This advice about life after college should help you adjust to your new circumstances. It won’t be easy at first, but you’ll become accustomed to life on your own and start to enjoy the stability and possibilities that come with building a career.
Find a job to start your post-college life off right with advice from our Internships and Careers section.