You've spent your entire life as a full-time student, and you're finally graduating. You might not fully realize it yet, but you're not just going from one grade to the next anymore. Now it's time to enter the real world: no more long Summer breaks, no more guaranteed interaction with all your friends on a daily basis, and no more college-town-bubble to live in.
These tips will not only make the shocking transition a little easier, but they'll also help set you up for a comfortable, healthy, and happy adult life for the next few decades.
1. Work hard in your full-time job, but don't let it take over your life
Many companies expect entry-level workers to work extra and long hours, constantly volunteer themselves, and be available 24/7. College grads often have very few responsibilities (like spouses or children), so they're the perfect prey to being overworked.
If your manager has an expectation that you are willing to devote your entire life to your job simply because it's your first full-time job and you have to prove yourself, you need to set clear work-life boundaries. Don't turn into Anne Hathaway in "The Devil Wears Prada." You're more than your work.
No matter how low down the ladder you are, you're still a person and you deserve a life entirely separate from your job.
And don't worry that you're not doing enough. You don't need to attend every single after-work event or participate in every company initiative in order to build a strong network.
Here's an extra tip: if you expect to work over 40 hours a week due to the demands of your position, make sure there is overtime pay offered.
2. Stay creative with passion projects
After college, a lot of people tend to stop engaging their mind with creativity or problem-solving. When you're no longer a student, there's no more mandatory music, art, English, math or science class — yay! — but that also means you might stop learning for the sake of itself, and that's not good for your brain or happiness. This is your time to use that young, active mind and work on projects you are really passionate about. Whatever it is that gets you in your flow state, keep doing it!
3. Make an effort to do meaningful things on weekday evenings
Don't fall into the trap of spending every night crashed on the couch binge watching Netflix or scrolling through social media. Yes, work will be tiring and you deserve to relax. But if you let yourself do this day after day, years will pass you by before you know it.
Working full-time means your free time is limited, and that means you need to actively carve out time for things that matter. This includes quality time with others, self-care, community service or activism, whatever you find fulfilling. You should always have at least one or two medium or long-term goals or activities to do outside of work.
4. Join a fitness center that's somewhere between your work and home
Now that you don't have that free on-campus gym anymore, you should start looking to join one. Ideally, find one that is either close to home or work, so you can easily stop by on your commute in the mornings or evenings.
A gym is a great place to build a community of people you see regularly other than coworkers. Maybe you'll meet others who share your love for yoga, Crossfit, rock climbing, kickboxing...the point is that you have a healthy hobby that makes you new friends too!
5. Learn how to cook
Uber Eats is expensive. Start with the basics: pasta, rice, oatmeal, soup, vegetable stir-fry, etc.
6. Make friends with people your age
Unfortunately, making friends after college takes a bit more effort, but it's necessary, especially if you've moved to a new city for work.
Besides the gym, there's plenty of ways to meet people nearby. If you're moving into an apartment, find a roommate or two, and get to know them and their friends. Spend effort building friendships with your coworkers (especially ones around your own age). Go to local events like concerts and flea markets. Join community clubs or organizations. There are even apps like Bumble BFF for making friends!
7. Make an honest effort to keep in touch with your friends from college
No, I'm not talking about every single friend. I mean the ones you want to take with you into your 30s, and maybe even 40s. The ones you want at your wedding. You know, I'm talking about those classic "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother" college-to-adulthood friendships. Do your best to keep those alive. Post-college life is frightening and unknown, but you'll survive with your best friends at your side.