Dear College Graduate,
I hate unsolicited advice...That being said, here’s a bunch of advice you didn’t ask for.
As I look back over my freshman year of adulthood, I don’t know if I would say that I crushed it. I’ve bounced between different internships and different industries, and while I am certainly nowhere near having my life together, I have learned a lot. I say that because I don’t want you to read these words as if they’re coming from someone who has figured out how to be a proper adult (I still don’t fully understand how mortgages work). Instead, this is coming from someone who has made enough right decisions and more than enough wrong ones to know at least a little bit about what differentiates those who flounder and those who flourish right out of college.
Below is what I’ve learned from doing my fair share of both. I hope this helps you flourish.
I imagine most of you are already familiar with the uncertainty that comes with trying to find a job right out of school. I didn’t get my first job until May, so trust me I get it, but spoiler alert: uncertainty doesn’t stop once you get your first job offer. Truthfully, it only increases. You may think you got the job you wanted in the city you wanted with the boss you wanted and the paycheck you wanted, but I promise at least one of those things isn't going to turn out the way you thought it would. And when that happens, when something unexpected happens and the neat plan you had all drawn up starts to fall apart, embrace it. Uncertainty will destroy you if you let it, but it will make you better if you learn to love it.
Don’t define your success (or lack thereof) by how it compares to the success of your friends
I promise you that one of your friends will graduate and immediately seem like they have it all together. Whether they have a job they love, a spouse they love, a house they love, a city they love, or a paycheck they love, don’t let envy turn that friend into someone you try to avoid. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There is a reason that phrase is a cliché. It’s true, and it never stops being true. Don’t define your personal success by how much better you’re doing than your friends. You’ll end up either hating yourself or hating your friends. Neither of which are good options. Learn to love the success of those around you and you’ll be more grateful when success comes your way (and if success never comes your way, it helps to be nice to your successful friends so they can pay for your rent and stuff).
Fight for your friendships
The biggest difference between college and adulthood is the convenience of relationships. When you’re in college, you are surrounded by people who have similar interests and your closest friends live within a few miles of you. When you graduate, everything changes. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by people who are different from you and some of your closest friends will have moved to different cities or states. First, you have to fight for the already existing friendships that matter the most to you. Keeping up relationships over the phone is hard, but it’s worth it. Don’t stop calling. Second, take advantage of being surrounded by different types of people and make new friends. You’ll be surprised by how fun new friends can be. It’s easy to lean one way or the other when you graduate. Either you lose touch with all your school friends and make an entirely new group of friends, or you stay desperately attached to your school friends and avoid meeting new people. Both extremes are bad. Keep some of your old friends and make new ones too.
Go to bars on Friday/Saturday and go to church on Sunday
Meeting people after college is a lot more challenging, and some times it feels like these are the only two places to meet people. While they both have their pros and cons I have noticed that my favorite people can be found in both places. On the other hand, people who are only willing to go to one or the other tend to be missing something. I’d recommend finding someone who can balance both. If you meet someone at a bar and then see them at church that same weekend, chances are that’s the type of person you want to be friends with. I’m not saying those who only go to church or only go to bars aren’t good people. I’m just saying those who go to both tend to be the best people. I’m not sure if this is the type of advice my pastor would condone, but there it is.
Don’t live in the past
The only way you can ruin your first year of adulthood is to spend it wishing you were still in college. My years in college were some of the best years of my life…so far. College is awesome, but there is so much more to life after graduation. I promise. Obviously, your first year after graduating college isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s a difficult transition for most (all) people, so don’t be surprised when you find yourself three months into the start of your adult life thinking back on how great college was and how you wish you could return to a life of skipping class, semi-formals, and faux responsibilities. I think that’s totally fair, and to tell you the truth I’ve been there, but here’s what I know: your present and future are defined by how you view your past. I don’t need to tell you how fun college was, but comparing the lifestyle of a college student to the lifestyle of an adult is a losing battle. Instead of living in the past, enjoy your present and prepare for your future. College was great, but what’s ahead can be better if you want it to be.
You’re starting a new life the morning after graduation, so be ready. When you wake up for your first day of adulthood, don’t hit snooze. Get out of bed, put on your new suit or your new pencil skirt, drink a cup of coffee, and eat some breakfast. Grab your things, walk out the door, and look the world square in the face. This life before you is yours for the taking. It’s scary and it’s full of uncertainty. You will succeed and you will fail. Things will change, but there is beauty in the mysterious unknown.
Welcome to the adventure.