Got the Post-College Doldrums?
4 Tips for Transitioning into the Real World
by Aniya Wells
If you received a bachelor's or more advanced degree in the past five years, you've probably at some point experienced the post-university blues. Of course, any sort of life transition as big as going from college to the real world is tough. Compounding the situation, however, is that you've graduated during the worst economic recession in seventy-odd years. Talk about depressing! Even though I've been out of school and (barely) making it in the marketplace for almost three years now, part of me still can't shake the fact that life is not as carefree as it once was. Notwithstanding, there are definitely specific steps you can take to alleviate the growing pains. Here's what I did:
1. Keep in touch with old friends. Put some effort into making new ones.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the transition for me was having to say goodbye to many of my closest friends. It's a pretty common experience to meet your best friends in college, the ones you spent nearly all your time with living in a dorm room or off-campus apartment. All three of my besties left the city where we attended school, and I was left behind. I've never felt quite as lonely as I did the first 6 or 7 months after I finished school and started working. The fact of the matter is that it's difficult to make good friends after college. Universities are set up to encourage a vibrant social life, one that's difficult to come by once you're working. Whatever you do, keep in touch—via phone or Skype or actually going to visit in person—with your closest friends. But put yourself out there and make new ones. Join clubs, go to work happy hours, and strike up conversations whenever you can.
2. Continue learning, whether or not it's in a structured environment.
Another problem that affects many students-turn-young-professionals is that you're pulled out of an environment in which you're constantly challenging your intellect, and you're thrown into a world of office desks, television, and tedium. You simply just aren't learning as much or as often as you did in school. But learning doesn't have to occur only in school. Take a continuing education class at a local learning center. Read all the books you were dying to read if only you had time after reading your course materials. Take music lessons! Study a new language! Do whatever you can to keep learning.
3. Don't worry if your career is not where you want it to be. Everyone your age is in the same boat.
If you've been lucky enough to find employment, it's likely that what you have isn't anywhere near your "dream job," and that might be getting you down. Reality check—no one your age has her "dream job." Even those who are older don't have their dream jobs, since the "dream job" is really a myth. Every job has its plusses and minuses. You aren't as stuck as you think you are, and doing as well as you can in a job that isn't the best will help you as you look for more rewarding work a few years down the line.
4. Enjoy and stress the freedom that a post-academic life affords.
I'm sure there were times in school when you wished that you were a working adult. Hold on to those instances and realize that, without term papers, tests, and college drama hanging over your head, your evenings and weekends are free. Embrace this freedom and be glad you don't have an impossible deadline looming on the horizon.
All-in-all, the "real world" isn't terribly exciting. But if you decide to make it exciting, if you decide to "think big, but relish the small pleasures," as someone important once said, then you'll learn to love your life post-college. Good luck!