Looking back, there will be so many things that you wish you would have known about what to expect after college.
The good news: This is a well-worn path. And one that these nine experts, who we’ve tapped for best advice, know well of. After all, they not only survived the post-grad years but went on to thrive in their careers. Hopefully, these insightful tips will help you as you begin finding your way and figuring out how to navigate in the “real” world during this transition phase.
Remember that every decision that you make should be yours—own it. Hats off to us all!
Save Every Penny You’ve Got
“I would encourage any new graduate to take the time to become financially empowered—know about building and maintaining good credit, taxes, and savings. It’s never too late to learn, but knowing in your early years can save you the pain that often comes from being young and irresponsible with your money habits.
In hindsight, it’s crazy to think that one would ‘know themselves’ at the age of 22, 23 when you are fresh out of school. Give yourself time to explore—figure out who you are and what you want to do in life. My father always told me after graduation, ‘Don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t found the perfect job.’ You may have to go through a few jobs before deciding what you want to make a career out of.”
“Be patient, be kind, be uncomfortable. This time, post-graduation, is very stressful. Constantly being bombarded, externally and internally, by the big ‘What are you doing with your life?’ question. But realizing that everyone is asking themselves the same question really helped me be okay with not being comfortable, giving me the confidence and patience to make my own path.
Seek out a financial advisor, or some means by which to manage your money effectively, no matter how little you have or make. Time is extremely valuable, spend it wisely! More than money, I wish I’d really taken stock of how I spent my time. Getting up earlier, going to a friend’s gig versus picking up an extra shift, etc. Also, keep learning. I personally wish I’d known more about craft schools, workshops, and apprenticeships upon graduating. They can be expensive, but many times there are scholarship opportunities and/or work study options.”
Making New Friends Is Hard, But Networking Is Easy
“I graduated from college during a financial crisis, with a degree in finance and no job prospects. And I wasn’t a standout student by any means. It was rough. The only reason I started a music blog, that ended up leading me to a full-time job, is because I was bored, depressed, and felt the urge to do something that made me happy. Starting Pigeons & Planes did that for me, but it didn’t lead anywhere at first. I was connecting with people on Twitter and Facebook, but I was nowhere close to getting a job.
By nature, I’m not much of a networker. I’m introverted, anxious, and terrible at small talk. Still, every time I forced myself out of my comfort zone and into a situation where I could connect with other people face–to–face, and it paid off. This is so important for any recent graduate.
Meeting with people out in the real world gives you a perspective that you can’t find anywhere else, including the Internet. Before I had a real job, I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on how the industry worked—I realize now that I was completely clueless. Once I started meeting people from record labels, media outlets, PR firms, streaming services, and artist management teams, I began to get a clear idea of what the possibilities were and what I needed to do in order to get where I wanted to be.
Networking sucks, especially if you’ve got social anxiety. But trust me, it gets easier the more you do it, and you’ll almost always feel better afterward. Don’t go into it looking to get something specific out of it, just soak in as much as you can and try to learn something new. Ask questions and never try to be something you’re not. You’d be surprised how many people in positions of power are willing to help if they realize that you’re a genuine person who could use some guidance.”
“The first few years of your career—if you’re lucky enough to land a job in your field of choice right away—are going to suck. Learn from it. Learn what kind of boss you hope to someday be, and what kind of boss you’ll never be. Say yes to everything and work as hard as you can. How much you succeed in these early years will set you apart from your peers later on. You’ll never have more energy than you have right now, so if there’s ever a time to be pulling late nights in the office, it’s now. Your older self will thank you.”
“Graduating from college and graduating from a secondary degree program have very different expectations and pressures. I remember after college, everything felt possible. The only limits were the one’s I set for myself. All I had to do was figure it out, and everyone was open to me taking the time to do so. A graduate degree comes with the expectation that you finally have figured it out. That in two or so years, you never lost your footing or lost sight of what the point was for all of the self-inflicted stress.
I wish I would have reminded myself more of my own intrinsic value along the way, of the tremendous contribution that I am to academia. I wish I would have reminded myself of this because there is something grand about the institution to follow your name in every introduction or byline. You graduate, and suddenly, you feel without a paddle. It’s true, it’s unsettling. Take this time to revel in all that you’ve accomplished. Your credentials are there when you need them, but remember you got where you are because you never stopped believing in your purpose.”
“Everyone enters their own unexpected hell during the couple years after graduation. Contrary to what it may look like on social media or how your college friends, who became your five roommates in Brooklyn, New York, seem to be doing (annoyingly well), everyone who graduated with you is sitting in a pool of panic. Even the kid who got a job in their field right out of college —they privately do not have their sh*t together. You need to be told this now so when the time comes and you feel useless and stupid, you know that you’re not actually useless and stupid, it’s just part of the world’s mysterious hazing process.
Your first job out of college probably won’t be your dream job, it likely won’t even be in your field—that is if you’ve figured out what your field is—and this is for the best. Everyone says this, but the important thing is to get a job, any job. And obviously this is because you need to make money, but it’s also because even if you somehow got your dream job right out of college, you probably wouldn’t be able to truly make yourself useful or understand how to be good at it, because you still haven’t learned how to be a working adult yet. You may scoff now, but “being a working adult” is a real skill in its own right that you just don’t have yet, no matter how many part-time jobs you held for however many years as a school-going person. Learning this skill requires a fundamental change in your identity to “adult who works,” and some of us take longer than others to learn it. So for many of us, it’s better that we aren’t offered our dream job before we even get what it means to have it.
And it’s normal to not have a job for a long time. It’s bad, it can get very bad, I have had some truly tough and desperate long periods without a job post-grad, but you’re not the only person to whom it’s happened. Being 23 was the actual worst. Also, learn to voluntarily take yourself to the doctor. Especially while you’re still on your parents’ insurance. For god’s sake, just go to the doctor.”
“My advice is to forget about college as quickly as possible, seriously. I’d suggest working and interning at cool and interesting places straight out the gate. Because to be honest, no one EVER asks about my college experience, but they ALWAYS ask about my time spent at engaging and forward-thinking companies like Opening Ceremony and NYLON. That’s what really matters.”
“If you want to get good at something, put in your time. By ‘time’ that doesn’t mean one month or three. Spend at least six months to a few years getting good at something, depending on what it is of course, and learn as much as you can with as much humility as you can.
Speaking of humility, be humble. A lot of employers complain a lot about how “entitled” most college grads are these days. Go into any situation with humility and keenness to learn and grow. Know-it-alls-who-don’t-know-much-because-they-just-got-out-of-college are the worst to deal with for employers. Carry a notebook and pen everywhere you go and take notes. It shows the keenness that employers are seeking. Don’t wait until they say, ‘write it down.’
Follow your passion. You may not get the job you want exactly right away but try and go into a field that you are interested in. Even if it’s not the perfect job yet, learn as much as you can without half-assing that stepping stone job, gain a real tangible skill set, and then when ready, move closer to the dream job.”
“Go to college or embark upon a professional education when you are ready. An education should be something that enriches your life and is a meaningful investment of your time and money. I went to pre-college and started a program right after high school. I dropped out. I sat out for several years, and during that time I endured shame from family and others, but I went back to school on my own terms and continued on to get my master’s degree.”
—Kim Jenkins (@kimjangles), visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute
Avoid Ordering These Drinks At The Bar
And now an added bonus from us. All of these are a dead giveaway that you’re fresh out of college and haven’t adjusted to a real bar menu. Leave all the red SOLO cups of your fratty past behind. You’re welcome
Sex On The Beach
Shots of Goldschläger
Anything with Jäger
Local convenience store alcohols (Four Loko, Burnett’s, Stoli Ice, etc.)