My last six months of college passed in a blur. I spent most days filling out graduation paperwork, meeting with professors, trying to find a job while working at my current one, not to mention making sure to call my parents at least once every two weeks. I wanted life to slow down for a minute, but alas, it never did.
It seemed only to get faster and faster, and I—well, I worried. I knew I should feel excited about graduating from college, and I did, but I still felt a bit of dread. But I beat that fear back and successfully moved on from my college life by using a straightforward process: I addressed each of my concerns point by point, then used the following tips to make the transition much smoother.
1. Start Your Job Search Before You Actually Graduate
Most college seniors and grads eventually ask, “How am I going to pay for everything?” I know that I raised the question many, many times. So I addressed it by starting my job search early—nine to ten months before graduation. This is when it pays to have a close relationship with your advisor. But don’t freak out if you haven’t been keeping up with them, since it’s never too late to go to them and ask for leads on careers.
Sure, I wish jobs fell off trees like apples in the spring, but they don’t. Jobs have to be plucked, usually with a lot of ladders and a lot of climbing, so it’s best to start the hunt early.
2. Networking Isn’t Just a Buzzword, It’s a Real Thing You Have to Do
I used to scoff at the whole “it’s who you know” thing, but the idea holds merit. I got my first job because hands shaken and conversations held in person, as well as through online connections. To start, make sure you start a LinkedIn account and add your professors and people you’ve worked with. Then go to every job-oriented event that your college offers.
I looked at my wardrobe, too. It sufficed for casual events, job fairs, and my job at a boutique, but it needed some polish so I could present myself more professionally in front of potential employers. Just make sure you’re always presentable and presenting.
3. Figure out How Exactly to Adopt Finances for the Real World (There’s an App for That)
I also looked at my finances, something I hadn’t had to think about much during college. I earned enough money from a part-time job to buy a new pair of shoes or go out to dinner with friends. I realized, though, that I needed a better sense of how I spent my money before heading into the real world.
To accomplish that, I researched some financial apps like Mint and Venmo and chose the one that worked best for me. It helped me balance my checkbook, pay freinds easier, instantly figure out a budget by connecting to my bank, and find places to save money. I can’t believe I wasn’t already using some of these!
4. Adopt a New Schedule (AKA Start Waking Up Earlier)
As a kid, I always hated the end of summer because it meant my mom would reinstitute morning alarms and bedtimes. But the routine helped me slip into school mode once my college courses started. Yep, the same is true with life after college. By adopting a schedule before I officially graduated, I woke ready for the day and whatever it held, even that 6 a.m. spinning class.
5. Start Going to “Next Stage of Life” Stores
I love, love, love Pier One, but I couldn’t buy most of their home décor as a college student. I still can’t afford a lot of it on an entry-level salary, although I’ve recently entered the store’s hallowed halls during clearance sales to pick up dishes and throw pillows. The same can be true of any “adult stuff” stores.
But for the must-have furniture for my post-college apartment—things like a kitchen table or living room couch—I searched Ikea, garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Goodwill. The four require patience, but they’ve rewarded me with some of my most beloved furniture. However you do it, the key is to switch gears to where you’re actively looking for household necessities, wherever they may be.
6. No Meal Plan, No Problem
I used my college’s meal plan for the first three years, and it was great. The cafeteria boasted at least five different types of food, plus a dessert bar and waffle maker. When I moved off-campus my senior year, I learned quickly how much food costs, not to mention how much time it takes to make.
Those lessons prepped me for post-college life. I immediately started budgeting for weekly or bi-weekly trips to the store, because, hey – I’m not a kid anymore. I even took things a step further with some online cooking classes and nutrition apps to stay healthy and fit, which also helped me learn how to cook better. Don’t take food for granted, be prepared for life without the cafeteria!
7. Don’t Be Boring, Develop a Hobby
Speaking of online cooking classes, I discovered something unexpected while watching them: I actually really enjoy cooking! It relaxes and recharges me, and the fare always delights friends I’ve invited over for brunch or dinner. Something about graduating college is the perfect opportunity for becoming a more well-rounded person – a person who is ready to make even more friends and dive into a career!
Protip: Watching other people cook refreshes my spirit, too—but I refused to watch my favorite chefs on Netflix or Hulu with anything less than a pristine stream, so consider upping your internet speed to join the ranks of non-dorm room internet speeds.
8. Ask for (and Accept) Help
Another thing I recognized is that I needed help. It was actually a freeing thought. I still remember asking my manager for help with a difficult customer and watching in awe as she remained kind yet firm. I also visited with my college’s counseling center. I felt so overwhelmed the last few months of college that it was sometimes hard to get out of bed. I didn’t know how to talk with my family or best friend about it, so I scheduled an appointment with a counselor. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and something I plan to continue doing. Everyone needs help sometimes, myself included.
Since I took those eight steps, I’m “adulting” fairly well. No, I don’t have everything figured out, but that’s part of being a grown-up. Nobody has life all figured out, and I for one am glad. Life would be boring if we all solved its challenges in the exact same way. But as you use these and similar tips as you move from college life to work life, you can feel more confident in yourself and in your transition.