That post- grad life- where you’re still on a high from graduating college with your new degree and the possibilities are endless. The high, however, only lasts a week or two after graduation, and then the “So what now?” question bares it’s ugly head. Typically after a few weeks of break, you’d go back to college life, start studying, see your friends, and enjoy your extracurriculars. But now you’ve graduated and a whole new life is waiting for you.
Post-grad life hit me hard. I had been nervous and excited in the weeks leading up to college graduation. Excited because all of my hard work had finally paid off. Nervous because I still hadn’t been accepted into any medical schools. Also nervous because I did not have a full-time job lined up if I did not get accepted that term. The ideas I had for post- college life were so different than what actually happened. But, what’s new? Life is all about rolling with the punches and taking things as they come. The dreams I had for post-grad life- to get my med school acceptance letter, to travel before school starts, and to move cities weren’t coming true yet. I had everything planned, but plans are just that, plans. Sometimes plans work out and sometimes they don’t. Like I said, we roll with the punches here.
After graduating and realizing med school was not meant to be for that term, I applied to jobs, worked part-time in healthcare settings to continue getting exposure, and saved money because student loans were rearing their ugly heads. I definitely learned a lot of lessons in those first 5 months. I’ve compiled a list of things I wish I knew before having to endure them. I hope you find this helpful!
Not Having a Full Time Job Yet is Not the End of the World
Believe me, it sucks that you’re not getting a steady paycheck and that your part-time pay is probably a little bit above minimum wage (if you’re lucky). We’ve all been there and we all understand. The thing to remember throughout this entire time is that you’re definitely not alone. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of other new grads who are in the exact same position as you. So for this time, just remember not having a full-time job is not the end of the world because it’s only one small part of your world right now.
Use this time to explore and gain new experiences. Once you start a full-time job, it will be your life for most of your days. Start a new hobby or continue one you used to love, attend events and conferences that are a part of your major and continue to learn more and meet new people in your field. By filling up your time with new things to learn and new experiences, this time won’t feel as bad. Remember to continue to learn and to grow because you are still young! You have so much time.
Clear Time in Your Schedule for Friends
I can’t emphasize this point enough. The one thing that usually happens after graduating and starting new jobs is your friend group begins to separate. It’s a truth no one really wants to think about or agree with, but it’s true nonetheless. People start to focus on work, enhancing their careers, meeting new people, dating new people, joining new things. In college, you were always with each other, seeing each other constantly and grabbing lunch daily. Now that you’re not forced to attend one institution, but now work on separate parts of town, it can be difficult to say “hey, let’s meet after work” because let’s be honest, you guys are tired after a long 9 hour day.
I’m going to be 100% honest here. My friend group, after graduating, did part ways for a bit. It wasn’t until I realized my routine days of waking up, going to work, working out, going home, sleeping, and repeating just wasn’t healthy. I would text my friends every now and then to catch up, but actually seeing them was therapeutic. We would vent, laugh, cry, and it was great! So remember the ones who got you through college, because they will also get you through careers and life. My friends and I have known each other since high school and I wouldn’t change them for the world. Sometimes we forget to catch up or send that text to see if they’re free. The good things about friends is that no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, once you do, it’s like nothing’s changed.
You Aren’t Limited to Doing What Your College Degree Says You Can Do
I’ve had friends who graduated pre-med but moved on to a job in finance or education. I’ve also had friends who graduated finance and now teach English abroad. Our lives are not dictated by our college degree. Sometimes we have regrets and feel like we chose the wrong major, but the cool thing is, you can always turn it around! You can take what you know and what you learned and turn that into whatever it is you think you need. I was pre-med in college, I work in a lab focused on cancer research, but budgeting and finance is a passion of mine and I continue to study and learn more about it daily. You may have graduated college, but the learning never ends.
Throw Away Your 5-Year Plan
Throw it away and never look back.
Things change, life throws opportunities and hardships at you daily. Some days things go right and other days things go so terribly wrong you’re 5-year plan just turned into a 15- year plan. After having many of those hard days, I decided to roll with the punches. To be honest, it’s scary to not plan out your entire life, but it’s also relieving. I thought when I didn’t get into med school by 22 or engaged to the man of my dreams by 24 that my entire life was off track. Guess what? It isn’t! I have a full-time job in a lab that works on cancer research and I’m learning more about a field I was always interested in. I’m meeting new people and gaining more connections. I’m even saving money for the future (future Steph will be very happy when she’s in med school drowning in debt).
My main point for this one is that, 5- year plans sound great when you’re making them, but are terrible when everything in them don’t go as you had hoped. Don’t let a plan you made for yourself control your life!
Just Because You Are Making Money Does Not Mean You Should Spend It
Definitely learned this one the hard way.
I love experiencing things. I love dressing nice and getting new shoes and new clothes. When I was in college, I couldn’t afford to do that. Then I got a full time job and realized, “hey, I can afford to buy this for myself and not have to ask my parents to help!”. That felt great! But after a while I realized I needed to slow down. To be honest, seeing my savings grow gave me much more pleasure than that top at Zara I wanted but would probably only wear once or twice.
Who am I to tell you to spend or not spend your money right? So, listen to Ross and Monica Geller’s dad (aka Jack Geller) from Friends, “Where does 10% of your paycheck go? In the bank!”
Although I typically put 30-40% of my paycheck into the bank, not many can do that because of other circumstances (rent, bills, food, etc). So my main point is, no matter how hard it is to save, you need to do it! Start low, and then gradually work your way up. Your future self will thank you.
These are just a few lessons that I learned and hope will help you! Post-grad life can be tough, but make sure you have someone to talk about it with. Your friends are most likely looking to vent about it as well, so grab your girls (or guys), grabs some wine, and talk about it!
If you have any tips on post-grad life, drop it in the comments below!
Check out my last post about Applying for Jobs: How to Stay Organized!