Graduating from college can be one of the most stressful obstacles to overcome but there ARE ways on how to cope with the real world! I swear, it’s like life sometimes just puts you through a boot camp or feels the need to make you go through a hazing to see if you’re tough enough to handle adult life. This transition can be even more challenging if you don’t have a job or don’t know what you want to do in life. Or worse! You could have a job, THINK you have everything planned out and then find out a few months later that you were in the wrong direction and need to switch gears, such as in my case. Well, I’m going to share how to cope with the real world through my lenses as I have recently discovered how to cope!
1. Always Have a Backup Plan
This is absolutely the most important way on how to cope with the real world! Tackling classes in college and tackling the real world are completely different. Although you may have majored in biology and loved the courses while in school, you may find out that you don’t like bio enough to pursue it as a career. This is certainly what happened in my case: I graduated with a double major in Finance and Economics – I loved my classes and had this idea in my head that I was going to work in a big financial firm after college and love it. My world completely got turned upside down after working a retirement firm over the summer. I realized that finance really isn’t my niche. It took me such a long time to be honest with myself, but I realized that I had only fallen in love with the IDEA of finance. Bottom line, it’s never a bad idea to have a Plan B because humans unfortunately are not psychic and you never know if and when life will decide to bring you into the batting cage.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Reach out to Others
You’re not in school anymore – nobody will think you’re a nerd or weird for reaching out to someone for help. I seriously encourage reaching out, in school and out of school, because it’s what personally saved me when I hit rock bottom. After the finance internship this summer and realizing that I didn’t want to pursue finance as a career anymore, I freaked out – I felt completely lost and confused and alone. It’s not a good place to be in and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. Once I finally realized that I didn’t have to go through it alone, I swallowed my pride and contacted my professors, old bosses from previous internships or jobs on campus, my parents, and friends of my parents…anyone really. Network, network, network! Even if you have a job lined up or have been out of school for a while and love your job so far, it’s always a good idea to keep in contact with older, more experienced people who have been there, done that.
3. Be Kind to Yourself
Smile at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are doing the best you can. Not having a job after school can be scary, upsetting, and embarrassing but it’s okay to feel all of these things... it’s okay to actually admit to yourself that you’re not perfect and that things are not always going to play out perfectly the way you had imagined. Graduating college is a time to get in tune with yourself and figure out your true passions and dreams and goals and learning to love yourself no matter what. For those of you who do have a job lined up after college or who have been working for a while, make sure to be kind to yourself during the hard days at work. Bosses, co-workers, friends, and family can be super-judgmental and have high expectations set for you but don’t let negative words or mistakes made in the office bring you down! Value yourself and value your work.
This tip piggybacks on needing to be kind to yourself. I can’t tell you how many mental breakdowns I’ve experienced in the past 6 months since graduation because I could not and didn’t want to accept that the real world is my new life. I’ve tried to make light of the situation by using college lingo and calling myself a freshman in the real world. Life was just easier in college: everything was structured, I had all of my friends backing me up and living within walking distance, food was always available (already cooked and ready to be served), and the stress was tolerable and manageable. Being a student just came easy to me especially because it’s all I’d ever known for the past 22 years. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom that I was kind of forced to reevaluate my situation and just accept that a career change was actually happening to me. It was so difficult, took a while, and really sucked in all honesty. I have always strived to be perfect and not having a job, being confused, and feeling like a mess was so
life-changing – it brought me to my knees and taught me that life should not be this hard…that there are people all around me who care about me and want to help me move forward. This next step of moving forward can only happen when the FIRST step is acceptance.
5. Your Health is Key
Remember all those days you promised yourself you’d go to the gym in between classes? Well, how about revisiting that promise to yourself and actually going this time? Taking care of your body is so important (always) but especially important after college due to an increase in stress and a change of eating habits. We learned in RA training that if you first cannot take care of yourself, you couldn’t take care of others. This means that if you don’t look after your happiness and health there is no way you can be a functioning employee in a company. I can tell you that I was not taking care of myself at all this summer while I was working at the firm: I stopped eating because I was always stressed; when I WAS eating, I would eat the wrong types of food; I never went to the gym because I was so busy; I was putting pride before happiness and was honestly getting and feeling drained and empty inside. If you’re working and don’t like what you’re doing, reconsider your career choice. Maybe, like me, you picked something because you had fallen in love with the idea of it. If you don’t feel strong, happy, and inspired to tackle work in the office, you may be jeopardizing your health – remember that your health and happiness comes first!
6. Make Sure to Time Manage
This tip goes without saying…but I’m going to write about it anyways because it’s very important. You saw how quickly time flew while in college, right? Well, time goes by even faster after graduation. I’m still baffled that it’s been 6 month since I’ve graduated. Managing time every day is a saving grace and is one of the best ways to cope with life because it’s a way of structuring life and forcing life to make sense to you. If you’re someone, like me, who gets anxious easily and often feels more overwhelmed than calm on a day-to-day basis, then please do yourself a favor and structure your day with realistic expectations of what you want to accomplish. Note here the key word is REALISTIC expectations. I was a little psychotic in high school and in college because I am one of those "don’t like to say no to a challenge or new project" type of people. The real world has definitely slapped me across the face, a few times might I add, since joining the adult club and I’ve been taught to time manage properly and to take on only what I can handle.
7. Remember to Still Have Fun
You can stop biting your nails and lose the twitch in your eye. One of the BEST coping mechanisms for dealing with life after college is having fun! Although I probably made you feel like the real world is the worst possible world to live in up until now, there are definitely perks to being an adult: having your own place; meeting new people; being able to go out with friends to classy bars; not having homework or tests anymore. My roommate and I (well, she’s more of a condo-mate) decided that we would make this year fun by planning activities, making sure to schedule time during the week for friends, cook dinner together, bake cookies, enjoy movie nights, and of course still make time to go out with friends and have fun. Listen ladies, life is way too complicated and difficult already…if you don’t make sure to still have fun you’re going to really hurt yourself. After graduation is a time more than ever to really focus on your happiness. If you overcame being a freshman high school and in college, you can overcome being a freshman in the real world, too!
Remember that there are always ways to cope during hard times. The challenges of the real world aren’t going to stop me from trying to make a difference! How have you been coping with the real world post college?