I got my first job out of college pretty quickly. In fact, I started the day after I wrapped up my full-time internship. In hindsight, I probably should have asked for at least one day between, but I was too eager to please my bosses to do so.
Within two weeks of accepting the offer, I managed to find an apartment and a roommate. I left the last day of my internship with a mattress stuffed into my Honda Accord, enough clothes for the work week and little else. I figured I could move the rest of my things on the weekend.
That night, I ate takeout Chinese food on my mattress on the floor, and read my roommate’s copy of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” until it got too dark to see (I hadn’t brought lamp with me). That was how adulthood started for me.
Life after college gets real. Adjusting to being on your own can be a struggle, especially if you’ve been reliant on your parents to pay your taxes and schedule appointments and tell you to wake up before noon.
Here are some other things people might not tell you about life after graduation.
1. You Might Not Get a Job in Your Major
If you majored in basket weaving or worse, journalism, you might not find your ideal job right away. That’s OK. You have little experience. (Here are 50 tips for recent grads looking for work.) There’s no shame in taking an internship or even volunteering to brush up your resume.
You may also end up taking a job completely unrelated to your field of study. This is a good idea if you have student loans coming due. And you might end up loving the job. I have a friend who majored in geology and works as a computer programmer, and another who studied anthropology and works in property development and they’re both doing great. Your path will take you to unexpected places. Changing direction isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
2. You’ll Probably Change Jobs. A Lot
If it isn’t already, the idea of holding the same job for your entire career is fast becoming antiquated. Changing jobs is sometimes the best way to get a raise or a better title.
Because of that, you need to make sure your resume is tip-top, you’re charming in interviews and you don’t burn any bridges. A broad network of colleagues is going to be important throughout your career.
3. Money Isn’t Everything … But It’s a Big Deal
Taxes, saving for retirement, dealing with student loans, rent, dinner and everything else you’ll shell out for as a grown-up will occupy a big part of your brain power. Be sure you’re getting the right information on all these things. There’s plenty of advice on Credit.com and elsewhere online.
Many job-related questions should be directed to your human resources department. Your parents or peers can help you with budget advice. Be sure to ask if you’re confused about anything. Complacency with money can lead to long-lasting and damaging consequences. (That includes damage to your credit. Check on yours with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)
Money is complicated and not always in your hands. The economy can tank unexpectedly. You’re going to screw up. You’re going to have setbacks. But if you start laying a solid foundation now, you’ll have a better chance of bouncing back.
4. You Need to Develop Good Habits on Your Own
Adults don’t have gym teachers forcing them to exercise. Adults don’t have people telling them to wake up on time to pack their lunch.
No one’s going to make doctor’s appointments for you or remind you to brush your teeth. A big part of adulthood is doing all that stuff yourself, even though it’s boring, because it’s good for you.
5. You’ll Probably Live With Your Parents Again
Rent is expensive. Starting salaries aren’t great. That combination, plus the inevitable tumult of your 20s, will probably lead you back to your childhood bedroom, perhaps more than once.
This is not the end of the world. Many people aren’t lucky enough to have a fall-back place to crash. If you’re really worried, we threw together a few tips on moving back home.
Living at home might cramp your style, but it can also help you save money. Savor mom’s cooking, washing machine, couch, cable subscription and all the other perks while someone else is paying for them.
6. Your Best Advocate Is You
No one else is going to ask your boss to give you the raise you deserve. No one is going to make a better case for your promotion than you.
You might feel grateful just to get your first job after college, but you should absolutely negotiate your salary and make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth. Even after you get the job, you need to continue to advocate for yourself for raises, for added responsibilities or for promotions.
You might not feel comfortable with what can seem like bragging, but you can’t depend on your superiors noticing on their own how great you are. You need to advocate for yourself.
7. It’s Not a Race
You probably have Facebook, which means when your cousin or classmate lands their dream job or buys a house before you, you will know about it and feel like a loser.
Don’t compare yourself. Life is not a race. There is no prescribed timeline by which you’re supposed to make your dreams come true.
Someone, somewhere, will always be doing better than you. But if you are reading this on an electronic device under a roof, you are probably doing just fine.
It is unhealthy to base your happiness on how well they are doing. You, like everyone else, will get some helping of triumph, tragedy, boredom and ideally, about a third of the time, sleep. Your mileage may vary, but you need to deal with it on your own terms, not anyone else’s.
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.
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