It hit me today that I am one year out of college. There is a new horde of graduates receiving their results and planning their summer and subsequent future right now, just like I did last June.
As I’ve said countless times before on this blog, your college results aren’t a reflection on how good you are. There’s this myth that floats around that says in order to do well in life, you have to do well in school.
It’s simply not true. No matter how much tutting you get for not getting a first, or getting a 2:2 or even a fail. School and college structures sometimes don’t suit people, courses are not always examined in the right way, or even some degrees are not what they’re cracked up to be. You could be good with science but the course you chose just wasn’t what you wanted. Examining intelligence in one medium is not indicative of that intelligence.
(Note: I’m not making excuses for anyone who simply didn’t make the effort.)
Your first year out of full-time education is going to be difficult. There’s absolutely no denying that. I’m out one full year now so I’ve decided to dispense what I’ve learned in the hope that any new graduates won’t get the surprises that I did.
I’ve made mistakes, I’ve taken risks and I’ve placed bets on things with no idea of how they’d transpire. I’ve felt crap for a bit of it, and felt like I could take on the world.
But the one thing I have realised is that the real world isn’t as scary as you think it is.
#1 You Need To Put Yourself First
Above anything, you and only you come first. Your health, whether it be mental, physical or emotional, all take precedence before anyone else’s. Meaning particularly that if you feel you’re in a situation where these things are being compromised, you need to change your situation. Play the game on your terms and don’t agree on something you’re not happy with – whether it be job based or a relationship.
#2 Honour your commitment
In this ‘gig-economy’ world, it’s easy to quit because things get ‘too hard’ or ‘ugh effort’. Short-term jobs are almost the norm now with pop-up concessions, event management and the works.
However, there is a lot to be said for keeping a commitment. Whether it be working towards something or working on a team, honouring a promise to see something through is almost more impressive than the quantity of jobs you have held. Working late, or being the first one in, going that extra mile, creative problem solving and conflict resolution are all examples that you take your work seriously and will earn you that promotion, paid role post internship or stunning reference.
#3 You don’t need to do what you want right away
My first job after leaving college was a retail job. Do I see myself in retail in the future? No way but it was a start. Working full time taught me valuable lessons in discipline, inter-personal skills, and teamwork, all that contributed to getting a dream job some nine months later.
Working a job to improve yourself instead of waiting for that dream job to land in your lap is far more important to not only employers but yourself.
#4 You’ll get bored
Without a shadow of a doubt, you will get bored at some point. That’s expected. You’re so used to being in college five days a week with study at the weekends that finally having some time off during the autumn and winter months will be unnerving. But don’t let yourself freak out. It’s easy to panic and worry that you should be doing something when in fact, this is your time to figure out your next big step. Take the space to engage in some hobbies you neglected during your final year, or pick up something new.
#5 You’ll Miss Learning (yes, even a little bit)
School or university may not have been for you but learning is inherent to human nature. You are constantly learning new things, educating yourself and picking up new skills. It doesn’t stop at college. You might find times where you miss learning a new topic or challenging yourself to different opinions or views to yours. Thankfully, there are places that allow you to expand your horizons whilst staying firmly out of the college realm. Sites like YouTube, Coursera, Khan Academy or Lynda.com all give you the opportunity to keep learning at your own pace. No deadlines, no pressure.
Even Harvard and other Ivy League universities, Google, and The Open University offer courses that you can get a degree in (for a small fee) that looks really good on your CV.
They are the perfect places to fall in love with learning again.
#6 You’ll learn the value of patience
It’s easy in college to get things on demand. Constant gratification is everything. Outside of college, things don’t work at such a fast pace. You could be trawling for weeks for a job, days to hear back from an interviewer, saving up for months to go away. The real world works much slower. This is where patience comes in handy. You’ll learn the value of a well crafted email, of taking your time to create the perfect cover letter, of learning to work and negotiate your way efficiently.
#7 It’s hard work but not impossible
Working a 9-5, which could go on til 6 or 7pm, working early or late shifts, or simply living on irregular hours is not easy. But with anything, it gets easier. Just like in college, real life is all about routine – or keeping one to the best of your ability. You’re up against a lot of competition, the pond is much bigger than the 20-odd-thousand you encountered in college, you need to value yourself more than you do now, and know your strengths. There’s a lot of ‘survival technique’ involved but no one is out to get you. In fact, most people want you to succeed and will do what they can to help, if you’re willing to let them. Make and foster contacts, be daring, and go above and beyond your role.
#8 Take Chances
Apply for that job, go to the interview even if you know you’re not qualified enough, reach out to people you knew long ago. Date that person, if even for a few weeks, save and splurge, book that visa, secure the apartment, take that internship even if it works you hard. These years after college are for you to experience life to the best of your ability, to take chances and bet your arm. You’re young, fresh-out of education, and have the world at your feet. Take the world for all it has. You’re worth it.