For many new college graduates, the past few weeks have been filled with highs and lows. Whether it was walking off of that graduation stage and directly back into your childhood bedroom at your parents' house, giving up your social life for the rigors of graduate school, or trading that 12 p.m. wake-up time for a 9 a.m. conference call at a new job, there are challenging adjustments to be made across the board.
It's easy to think that the stress of your new daily life won't be nearly as fun as the days spent where wearing yoga pants was always acceptable, weekends began on Thursdays, and parties surrounded you for blocks on end. And honestly, in some ways, it won't. But don't go clamoring back toward your campus, pounding on doors to take you back in. Here are a few ways that the real world trumps the college bubble.
1). Miss (or Mr.) Independent: I know, I know. You were independent in college! You woke yourself up (well, okay, it was 11 a.m., but still!). You could create your own omelet at the dining hall station. Well, if you thought you screamed independence at that stage, welcome to a front-row seat of the "growing your own backbone" show. Here in the real world, if you don't pay your electric bill, it'll be awfully hard to survive from just the glow of your smartphone. Use your debit card haphazardly and you'll be a little embarrassed when your check for the coworker coffee fund bounces. While being more financially responsible and aware has many moments of terror, there's also a huge sense of gratification. You're doing this on your own, creating your own safety net and taking your own risks. You're taking care of yourself. Welcome to one of the many definitions of the word "responsibility." I think you'll get to know it very well over the next few years.
2). Time, time, time: From balancing jobs, extracurricular activities, and challenging course loads, many college students spend more than 40 hours a week completing all of their work and obligations. That's what makes the juice of a full-time job even sweeter -- free time! While you may be clocking in more than 40 hours a week at your first job, it's safe to say you'll be working in some facet of the 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. grind. This gives you a few precious hours a day to relax. However, I encourage you to use these few hours a week to develop some new hobbies. Learn to cook, write a book, take up kickboxing. And it's okay -- you don't have to give up your favorite college activity, Facebooking. Turns out that's a widely acceptable hobby in the real world, too.
3). I'll be there for you: College is a unique little bubble in many ways. One of the biggest pluses is having friends surround you 24/7. Whether it's opening up your dorm room and shouting down a hall full of fellow students, lounging around at your sorority house watching TV with 15 BFFs, or cheering on the football team with thousands of your closest friends, people are always around. It's easy to find someone to go eat with, grab a beer, or listen as you complain about your crazy professor. In the real world, that rug of being surrounded by your favorite people gets pulled out pretty quickly. It's scary and slightly depressing. But this gives you a chance to find out who are the people that really matter to you, the ones who you spend time with when the common denominators of accessibility are gone. You might not be rolling to the bar with 35 people anymore, but you'll learn who you can call when you move across the country, crying as you unpack boxes. And you'll learn that those types of friends touch your heart in indescribable ways.
4). So happy together: While the days of keggers and $2 Long Island Thursdays may be gone, let me introduce you to college parties' grown up, sophisticated cousin -- happy hour. There are still cheap drinks and yummy food, but also key networking opportunities that happen during those 120 minutes. Frequent spots where other professionals in your field visit, soak up the info they may be more willing to provide in a casual environment, and pass out your business card. You'll learn some invaluable info that might help you scale that corporate ladder faster.