During my senior year of high school, I couldn't go anywhere without someone asking me about college. Where was I going? What would I be studying? Was I nervous? Then after the questions came the advice. There was no shortage of tips and tricks as people constantly offered me their two cents about college life. Needless to say, I felt pretty prepared by the time move-in day rolled around to face the next four years of my life.
However, once the end of my college career was upon me and graduation day crept closer, the advice didn't come as often. There were still plenty of questions. Did I have a job lined up after graduation? If so, where is it? What would I be doing? When was I going to get a place of my own? So on and so forth, but like I said, there didn't seem to be as many tips and tricks to navigating life after college.
So I've compiled my own list of things I wish people would have told me before I graduated a couple years ago. Let's face it. The season after you graduate college is the first season of life that isn't really planned out for you. Think about it. You start kindergarten. You finish elementary school, and you're off to middle school, then high school, then college. But there's no set destination after that. This is a season full of possibilities, uncertainties and opportunities but no guarantees. With that in mind, I hope this short list will make this season a little more bearable, and the transitions to come a little smoother.
1. No one cares what your degree is in. They just care that you have a degree.
This was probably the most heartbreaking realization I came to after graduation. I had just spent four years studying communications so I could score a job in that field... only to find out I could have earned a degree in microbiology, and it wouldn't have mattered. What matters is the glorified piece of paper, not necessarily what's written on it.
2. It's all about who you know.
Thinking back on all the jobs I've had, from cutting my grandparent's grass to working with computers, I can say that every single one has come from knowing the right people. References are a big deal to employers. I can't stress enough how important it is to network, introduce yourself to people and use your resources. Even if you aren't looking to change jobs now, you might be in the future. The connections you make now could be a big help down the road.
3. A bachelor's degree does not guarantee a job.
This, along with the first list point, was heartbreaking to me. When I started college, I had every intention of just focusing on school for four years and working at an ice cream shop over the summer to make some extra spending money. That was until I'd heard from about 472 people that you can't just get a degree and expect to get a job the week after graduation. You have to have something else to offer. So get an internship, or two or three. Volunteer on the weekends. Coach a sports team. Join clubs. Get involved in whatever you're passionate about. But don't just bury your face in textbooks and think that your 4.0 is going to make up for your lack of experience.
Speaking of experience, did I mention how important it is? I'm not going to repeat everything I said in list point three, but you should probably go back and read it again just in case. I had a guest speaker from CNN come to one of my classes, and he said they don't hire anyone who hasn't had at least two internships already. And if I was a betting woman, I'd say CNN probably isn't the only company with this mentality.
5. You will have nightmares about not graduating.
I honestly didn't believe people when they told me this while I was still in school, but I promise you it's a real thing. For the first couple months after graduation I would wake up super early thinking I was late for class and then was relieved to realize that I still had another hour to sleep before I had to get up for work. Good news is, once my diploma came in the mail, it stopped happening.
6. Dress to impress... no seriously. Do it.
During my freshman year of college, I managed to make it through both semesters without ever wearing sweats to class. (You're probably thinking "Why the heck would you do that?" Don't worry…I've asked myself that question every day since). As time passed, my wardrobe leaned more towards the comfy side, and that made for a very difficult transition when I started working. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given is, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have". Whenever I dress nice for work, I automatically have more confidence and take myself more seriously. The way you carry yourself affects how other people approach and interact with you. So if you want people to stop treating you like a college kid and instead view you as a competent, responsible and capable adult, then dress like it.
7. Better job culture is more valuable than pay.
After being poor for four plus years, you're ready to make some money by the time graduation rolls around. The more zeros at the end of your salary, the better. Heck, you'd probably be fine with just having a salary instead of getting paid hourly. However, you shouldn't settle for an unhealthy work setting just to make more money. Before you know it, you'll be miserable, and the paycheck won't be worth it anymore. Instead, if you choose to work somewhere that has a positive work environment and a healthy staff culture, your work life and your personal life will benefit.
8. People won't take you seriously just because you have a degree.
Once you're (finally) working your first post-grad job, you will most likely go back to being at the bottom of the totem pole. Everyone has a college degree, and everyone else probably has at least a little more experience than you do. So you can't just go around saying "I studied this in college." You have to earn the trust and respect of the people you work with. Build relationships. Be intentional. Contribute to conversations. Listen to learn, not to reply. Before you know it, people will start to notice you and not because of the diploma hanging above your desk.
9. You have less free time than you did while you were still in school.
I always said once I graduated college I would start working out since I'd have more time on my hands. That lasted for about three weeks. You don't really have more time. You just learn to fill your time with other things. Before you know it, your calendar will be full of meetings, work deadlines, coffee dates, church activities, sporting events, weddings and a bunch of random crap you have to do just because you're an adult. Don't worry though. You can always pencil in one night a week to lock yourself in your room with Chinese takeout and your best buddy, Netflix. Or, if you stick to your goals better than I did, you can go workout.