Summer is over. For the first time in a long time you're not going back to school. But let's be real. Back when you first thought of your college graduation, your heart did happy somersaults -- you counted down to the day when you could throw out the ramen, toss up the grad cap, buy adult clothes, and burn the last syllabus. But now that the countdown is sub zero, it is normal to start freaking out.
You realize what every senior learns -- you are a freshman again. (Say what?)
That's right. You're starting over with a whole new syllabus (they're called resumes, policies and meeting agendas!), network of friends (try, colleagues or roommates), and you might still be getting people coffee (never!).
The crazy part is -- the graduation cap didn't even have time to warm up on your head before people started asking you annoying questions. Do you feel confident in your career options? What's your five-year plan? When are you going to stop showing up with wet hair?
The truth is, life after graduation is hard, but with the right perspective, the transition into post-graduate life doesn't have to be as difficult and can be an incredibly awesome new phase of your life.
Know What You Face.
As millennials, why might you feel like you are going into adulthood blind? As a post-grad millennial myself, I will let you in on a secret. Our parents and guidance counsellors couldn't prepare us for life after graduation. Times are changing and they never experienced a world like ours.
Sociologists describe this new phase of life "emerging adulthood", offering young adults an additional decade or more of singlehood prior to marriage. According to the Pew Research Center, the average age of first marriage is at a record high, 27 for women and 29 for men, higher in some major cities.
The decade after the diploma is new territory for us to navigate solo...and often, we millennials have to figure it out for ourselves. The great news is -- you don't always have to know what you'll do in life in order to succeed. Diane von Furstenberg said, "I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be."
Learn These Top 5 Things to Succeed After Graduation
Take a deep breath, know that you're not alone, and accept that success after graduation is possible with a lot of hard work.
1. The first year is tough, but it's tough for everyone: There is no denying this. You might feel confused or disenchanted -- like you're living a hangover reality. A few years ago I moved to New York in pursuit of a dream, only to spend an embarrassing number of days existing on ramen and canned beans. Working from a "home office" translated to "homebound," because who had money for a $14 cocktail from the nearby dive bar? I existed on $800 per month in Manhattan for months in search of a job, and wondered why the hundreds of sterling resumes I sent to potential jobs were only met with silence. I felt judged - but the biggest judgment was the one I placed on myself. Shouldn't I have it all together? Life shouldn't look like this! Then, I came to the realization that this struggle is completely normal. According to UPI, in the last decade, average student loan debts have climbed by 56 percent. While 2016 grads face a remarkably low unemployment rate of 2.4 percent, CNBC notes that they may be competing for jobs with the last two years of graduates that faced a higher unemployment rate. Don't feel like you're the only one struggling. We don't have to figure it all out or be perfect from the start.
2. No one will hand you friends, so go find them: In college, friends, clubs, social outings, and dorm life offered us friends on a silver platter. Post-college life, however, requires intentionality. No one succeeds in isolation; we get where we want to go by working collaboratively with others. According to Jim Rohn, we become like those we surround ourselves with. It's critical to build a tribe of friends and networks who help challenge us to grow and become the best version of ourselves, which includes giving back to others. Be thoughtful about who will be in that tribe and ask yourself - are they using their time and talents wisely? Have they decided what and who they want to be in life? Your circle of influence defines who you are. Many of the relationships we foster in our 20s will travel with us throughout life and continue to shape us. So choose well. If you struggle to meet new people, try attending local networking events for small businesses, volunteer at events for causes you believe in, or get on Facebook groups to connect with people who have similar interests.
3. Partying all the time is no longer a thing, so get it in gear: In college, you are expected to work hard and play hard - and this philosophy can certainly make you a legend at karaoke. After graduation, partying late into the night will take its toll on your health -- and your bank account. Don't get caught in the downward spiral of falling further into debt. Be thoughtful about overspending on parties, swanky nights out, and the most expensive drinks, followed by mornings coming in late to work. Be intentional about how you allocate your fun and funds. Meg Jay's work proves your 20's really do matter. Use this "defining decade" towards cultivating skills, talents, social circles and resources that will be a lasting foundation you can build a bright future on, not just a hazy memory that leaves you wondering where your time and money went.
4. Learn to budget ASAP, even if you are broke: For the first job or two out of college, it can be thrilling to get a real paycheck and easy to instantly dream of the next swanky bar, restaurant, or chic outfit to spend it on. In my case, I had no concept of saving money (for retirement, what?? or even for catastrophe -- like getting let go from your dream job. Budgeting is a real skill, and you want the zeros in your bank account to come after another number -- not be the only number. A friend of mine once told me that to her, money was a concept that made no sense; as long as her checking account didn't read zero, she could keep spending. In reality, saving money and paying off debt (like crippling student loans) gives you the financial freedom to leave a job if necessary, start a side hustle, take a dream vacation, or plan for retirement (no, seriously.) Budgeting will give you the freedom to know how much you're spending and where you can save to help achieve your dreams. (Don't know where to start? Try Mint.com)
Everything is figureoutable, so accept new challenges: I will let you in on a secret. The economy is changing. Success Magazine recently called this upcoming seismic shift, the "You Economy". This means that it is becoming harder than ever to find that "safe, secure job" but also easier than before to launch your own business. You already have everything that you need. All the knowledge that you need to know is out there. If you don't have the answers, someone out there does! Become a seeker -- find people and ask questions. You are resourceful and capable. I used to feel like a fraud or that I would be "found out" if I didn't have absolutely all the answers walking into a situation. In reality, I discovered that nobody has it all figured out, and that we're all on a journey towards learning more. As Thoreau said, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." Believe that if you don't have the answers yet, they are problem just a question or two away from being yours.
Ultimately, I do not have to tell you that you got this. But, just in case...you got this. Take it one step at a time, use the ONE key skill you learned in college (er...how to learn) and keep consistent. Before you know it, it will be senior year again somewhere.