Monday, November 4, 2013

From College to the "Real World"

As all college students know, transitioning from high school into college brings about a lot of change. How do people write 40-50 page papers? How can I handle 200 page reading assignments? What work is necessary and what isn't? How the heck do I do laundry? And cook? It's definitely a change for students, but through talking to your peers, older students, and reaching out to new friends, the change becomes easier to handle. Plus let's face it, the years you spend in college are some of the best you will have. But that doesn't mean that the good times stop when you leave college. As I became a senior and approached graduation, I felt like I was headed full speed to a cliff into the unknown. I was jealous of my younger peers, wishing that I could slow down time to stay a little longer in college. But in the end, the day comes when you celebrate graduating from college and start thinking about your future. Yikes! But as a young adult with 1 and a half years out of college under her belt, I have plenty of advice and tips to help ease you through the transition. Some of these tips can probably be applied to any change you may face in life, while others are more specific to the year or two post graduation.

I'll start with some advice for current college students. I know every adviser keeps telling you this, but try to do a couple internships. I actually did this co-op with Johnson & Johnson, which gave me 6 months of full time work experience plus pay and school credits. Seriously, it gave me a HUGE advantage entering into the work force. Having some professional experience really does make a difference, not only for your resume but for your piece of mind. It helps the transition from college to working a full time job not seem so daunting. With a internship/co-op with a start and end date, it helps you deal with all the changes you go though, since you know it's only for a set time period. You will learn skills and programs that companies will be searching for in their candidates. Have your boss look over your resume, guide you in applying to new jobs, and write a kick ass recommendation. You will thank yourself post graduation.

Another piece of advice I would give a graduating college senior is to enjoy having such a great schedule- you will miss the afternoon naps. I miss being able to do that. However, once you leave work as an adult, you don't have homework (usually) and you can enjoy the nights and weekends. If you are thinking about going to graduate school within the next 5 years, I recommend that you study and take the GRE/LSAT/GMAT/ whatever test you will need for that while your in college. I'm regretting that I didn't do that. Even if you want to work a couple years first, the scores usually hold for 5 years, allowing you to have some flexibility. Before leaving school, make sure you connect with your peers/advisers/favorite professors. Networking is key, and you mines well keep in contact with the people you already know.

Once you have that diploma in hand, the first thing you need to avoid is COMPLETELY freaking out. Seriously. Fake it until you make it. Looking for a job (for those of us who weren't offered awesome jobs in college like the engineers and accountants we know) can be tough. Set timelines for when you will search/apply for jobs, and factor in breaks! There is nothing worse than spending weeks on end filling out applications only to realize that you made no tangible progress. If you are close to home/college, definitely reach out to people. Even if you moved across the country like I did, it's important to meet new people and reach out. I ended up getting a lead for a job I got through a Pilates class I took on the rooftop of my apartment. You never know who will help connect you. Make sure you give yourself a break and get out to meet people. If you don't, you may go nuts.

Now I'm not going to get into all the things you should do during a job interview, but here are a couple of key things I did that helped. First, I outlined a bunch of projects that I did at my internships that can help answer situational questions. Even if they aren't perfect, at least you have some foundation stories to build off of. Remember STAR (state the situation, task at hand, action you took, and the result) when answering questions. Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your strengths that will play a role in the position you want to get. Stay calm, keep breathing, and act confident. If you plan out these things on a piece of paper before hand, it's very similar to taking an oral exam, which I'm sure your used to by now.

Finally landing that first position is awesome! But please keep in mind that it may not be as glamorous as you had imagined. You have to work your way up like everybody else. However, keeping a positive attitude, learning as much as possible, and working smart will help you gain recognition from your peers and supervisor. Make sure you schedule touch bases with your supervisor to make sure you are on the right path. They will help lead you to what's important to concentrate on and what can go on the back burner so to speak. Try to open up and meet your peers! They will help answer a ton of questions! Try to think through your questions at first so you aren't bombarding a person with 100 questions a day. The first couple months will be a bit confusing, but I PROMISE you will catch on. Remember- fake it until you make it. Even if you feel odd being a "real" adult with a "real" job instead of a college student, hold  your head high and before you know it you'll have a year under your belt, wondering where the time went.

Through this whole transition, there's a few things to keep in mind. Always have a support system of friends, family, mentors, old professors, etc. It really helps to have someone to bounce ideas and feelings off of. Second, make sure you join a gym or hit the pavement and run. Exercise will help ease the anxiety of the transition. I also highly recommend yoga, since you will not only get a great work out, but you will find a nice peaceful feeling afterwards. Don't feel stupid going to a yoga class! I was all worried people would judge me, but that's just another benefit of being in the real world- no one cares what hobbies you do! Embrace it. Schedule time for work and time to relax and go out. Going from a highly structured college syllabus run life to a new college grad can be tough. Ease yourself by making some kind of schedule. Finally, below are some sources I found helpful. And remember, your life doesn't end after college! I promise! --> blog on all different aspects of life as a young adult. i love this author so much. she also has a book, but let's be real, it's easier to go online. --> common interview questions --> this is another site with tips for the post graduate. a bit silly, but there is some good content in there. --> a silly book with some good life tips.

Things to think about- car insurance (if you move out of state- drivers license, license plate, and car title), renters insurance, health insurance (if your under your parents, you have until your 26), rent, taxes, college debt, savings, credit/debit card if you don't already have one, cable/gas/utilities/internet if renting an apartment, IKEA/target shopping trips for the essentials. phew that's a good start.
... and if all else fails, take a few deep breaths and eat some chocolate.

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