By Sam Coren
If you were lucky enough to graduate this past Spring, I recommend savoring this summer as much as possible. Why? Come September it will hit you like a sack of bricks when realize that you won’t be going back to school. Whether you like it or not, you’ll have to learn how to live in the real world.
Now that I’m two years past my own college graduation I feel like I can bestow some sage-like advice upon this year’s pack of new graduates:
Set a realistic budget or else you are going to end up in a huge world of debt.
Whether you have a job yet or not, learning how to manage money properly is crucial. Figure out how much money you need to allocate toward housing expenses, food, paying off debts, transportation etc. If you’re not sure how much you can afford on rent (and I say rent because being a property owner in your early 20’s isn’t a good idea for most people) a good rule of thumb is to not spend more than a third (~33%) of your monthly income on rent and utilities. Some might say don’t even go above 25% if you’re living in a place with a high cost of living and have a lot of debt to pay off. Start saving money now.
Understand that it’s much harder to be social and make friends than it is while you’re in school.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that making plans with people post-college requires you to plan most of your evenings at least 5 days in advance. Unless you happen to be BFF’s with your neighbors, which is becoming increasingly rare in today’s society, you just can’t count on having spontaneous outings with other people anymore. When most of your friends are 9-5ing it, weekends become a precious commodity and require you to book activities with your friends weeks in advance.
Try making friends with some of your coworkers, even if they aren’t the same age as you – those after work hang out sessions help keep you sane during the weekdays. If that’s not an option take up a hobby that involves built-in socialization – for instance if you play an instrument find people on Craigslist who want to jam. You can also meet people who believe in the same causes as you through volunteer work.
Make a serious effort to take care of yourself physically.
This is even more important if you’re an office dweller and don’t commute via walking or bike. College students are used to having to walk everywhere. Post-college most people who earn a living working at a desk probably walk less than a mile each day. Join a gym, start running, lay off carbs and junk food, start biking, eat more veggies, etc. – if you don’t those pounds are going to sneak up on you. Also, your mom isn’t making your doctors appointments anymore, so be sure to get a yearly physical.
Speaking of moms, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with your family if you’re moving away.
Doubly so if your parents helped you out with your education in anyway. Thanks to technology, you don’t even have to worry about making long distance calls anymore. I make a point to call my folks every Sunday just to say hi and catch up. Half the time I don’t even feel like I have anything interesting to say, but parents really do appreciate that you’re thinking of them and staying in touch – even if it’s just a 5 minute call or a quick email.
Keep expanding that mind! Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you should stop learning.
Whether it’s for your career or for your own personal interests, keep looking for ways to learn new things. Personally, I subscribed to a bunch of economic magazines (by the way magazine subscriptions are dirt cheap now) so I could have a better understanding of complex current issues. If you live near a major city or university there are always free/cheap events to hear lecturers and panelists on just about any topic you could think of.
Have a life outside your job.
The second I found a job after I graduated I dedicated so much of my energy into it that I barely had a life outside work. A year later I found myself so mentally drained that I had to do some soul searching to figure out I needed to make some immediate changes. Consequently, these changes started with finding a new job so I could have the time and energy after work to focus on music projects I loved doing. The average worker changes jobs about every 5 years. Gone are the days when someone signs their entire career and life away to one company.
Remember: You are your own person. Make time to peruse your passions and hobbies. Make time to stay in touch with friends and family. Treat yourself well and be confident about who you are. The rest will fall into place.