When you graduate college, you think about all of the big changes ahead of you – moving to a new place, starting a job for the first time, and leaving behind almost everyone and everything that comprised your life for the last four years. It is a major change, perhaps only equaled by when you left home a few years earlier. But even if you have the big picture right, you might not grasp all the small ways that your life will be different each and every day. Here are those little things. Most of them I wish I knew when I graduated.
The Morning: Get Up, Get Dressed, Get Going
Getting up and getting dressed are not usually big concerns in college. But making it to the office dressed appropriately and on time is just one of many small challenges most college graduates face each day. I know it’s hard to hear, but pajamas are no longer considered acceptable day-wear. Yes, even the black ones and the ones that kind of look like chambray. Among other things you can (probably) no longer wear five days a week: school apparel of any kind, the free t-shirts that make up between 60-99% of your wardrobe, fleeces, baseball caps, shorts, brightly colored sneakers, outfits that double as club wear, flip flops, and, most painfully of all, jeans. I’m sure that you’ve budgeted for renting your apartment and one of everything at IKEA, but you probably didn’t think about all the blazers, suits, cardigans, and other boring apparel you are going to have to buy. Sure, shopping is fun, but on top of all of your other recent-grad expenses? It’s annoying to have to spend more money just so that you look acceptable enough to actually go to your job.
Once you have all of your classy work gear, each morning you are going to need to figure out how to put it together. Gone are the days when you didn’t have to worry because everything had your school logo on it, so obviously it all matched. Now, you have to think about how it all looks together – from shoes, to shirts, to jewelry, to did-you-wear-this-already-this-week? Also, if you’re female, you should probably get out of the habit of only wearing makeup when you feel like it, so add a few minutes to your morning routine for that.
Speaking of which, if you press the snooze button one too many times, beware – the forces of the universe will conspire against you. You’ll soon be contending with a combination of delayed trains, the rain, an elevator that stops on every floor, and many more horrors that you can’t even imagine until they happen to you. When this occurs, you’ll probably vow never to hit the snooze button again. But you will, because you’ll be super tired, and it will seem like a good idea at the time (it’s not). The Afternoon: Stay Focused, Stay Enthusiastic, Stay Awake
Everyone has a slightly different biological reaction to the work day, but I tend to make it through the mornings on a rush of adrenaline, meetings, and a large muffin. Then, I often find myself in the clutches of the afternoon slump. In college, I used to nap every day. It didn’t matter if I was actually tired, or how much sleep I had gotten the night before. I just really liked to sleep, so I tried to spend as many hours doing so as possible. The fact that I could no longer nap in the middle of the day was one of the toughest transitions of my post-college life. But it’s okay. Now, I have afternoon tea time, a quick walk around the office, and if I’m really desperate – more tea time.
You will have to fight the afternoon slump to the death, because if you work in an industry like mine (advertising), you will rarely have a quiet afternoon. This is yet another important life change that will occur. In college, the only time I worked for eight hours straight was during finals week. Yes, college prepared me for the working world with two whole stress-filled weeks per year! Now, you will need to be actively thinking and working for eight plus consecutive hours every day. Don’t worry, your stamina will develop naturally. But nothing except an internship can prepare you for what this will actually feel like (hint: you’re going to need more tea).
So many people in college get by being only half awake, half present. They stumble around from classes to activities, barely there and barely listening, getting by just by showing up. The truth is, that if you like your job, you need to put your best foot forward all the time. It is important that other people see how much you care. There is no longer such a thing as just figuring it out later – you can’t wipe out a semester’s worth of laziness by scoring an “A” on the final exam. Every day at the office is a test. Bring your game face and the modern equivalent of a number two pencil.
The Evening: Relax, Re-Connect, Repeat
If you are lucky enough to have a job that allows you to leave the office each day, the evening becomes one of the hardest adjustments of post-grad life. It all boils down to three scary ideas: 1. You have to plan to see your friends. 2. You have to manage the logistics of your life. 3. You can’t do both on the same night. When your friends live in other neighborhoods, boroughs, states, and countries, hanging out suddenly becomes much more difficult. You actually have to plan to see and/or talk to your friends. There’s a lot of texting and emailing but it’s okay – everyone is in the same boat.
Plus, it’s not like you can see your friends every night. You’ll have to scavenge for and/or prepare your own food. You’ll have to clean your apartment, do your own taxes, and dispute your own insurance claims. Laundry (i.e. keeping all of your fancy new work clothes in order) will eat your evenings and your soul. I never watched television in college – there was always something more entertaining going on. Now, after an eight-hour plus ninja brain power work day, an evening alone with a subpar TV show can be an ideal way to unwind. If you make one investment this year, it should be in a subscription to Netflix (I hear they like to raise their prices).
Then, get thee to bed! The snooze alarm will beckon you all too soon.
Conclusion: It Gets Better (In Other Ways)
This article may make you yearn for those bright college days of literally yesterday, when school meant a roof over your head, food on the table, and friends in the room next door. You may find yourself wondering how you could ever do a dumb thing like graduate.
Well, if you’re a member of FindSpark, I probably don’t need to school you on the satisfaction you’ll get from professional success – from “making it.” But both inside and outside the office there are so many wonderful possibilities that will now be open to you, the working professional. You will get to have coffee with your mentors. You will become the mentor getting coffee. You will meet new people who are older and younger than you are, from backgrounds that are nothing like yours. You will learn to feed yourself, by stove or Seamless. You will plan epic vacations with your friends. You will get promoted. You will get freakishly good at doing laundry. You will learn how to use social media to the max. You will get to choose where you live, and how long you live there, and you will get to have a full-sized bed fit for a full-sized human (unless you live in New York.) For the first time, you will be completely in charge of your own life, and it will be pretty awesome.
And, you can still wear pajamas at night and jeans on weekends. Stick it to the man.