Amanda here… It is so crazy to think that one year ago I had just graduated college, just received my brand new car, started living by myself, etc. This past year completely flew by, but when I look back on the past year I realize how much I learned. The “Real World” is absolutely nothing like your professors in college will tell you. While your parents and loved ones may try to prepare you, you simply must experience that transition for yourself. I had a lot of great advice right after I graduated college, and I am so very thankful for that. However, there are a few things I wish someone would have told me. But with that said, I want to share with all the recent college grads some things that I learned my first year in the “Real World” as a bit of a heads up:
- Some people simply don’t care I know, I know… starting off with a negative lesson probably isn’t the best thing I could have done, but it was honestly the hardest thing for me to learn. I have spent my whole life growing up believing that you should always encourage and support people, despite your differences. Don’t get me wrong, I know that arguments and disagreements are inevitable. I myself have even had some pretty dramatic encounters in my life, but at the end of the day I wish them best. BREAKING NEWS: Not everyone is like that. I have come across a few people in the past year in all different facets of my life who think differently and that’s ok. At the end of the day, all you can do is grow a tough skin and move on.
- There are some people who genuinely do care- Find them and befriend them. Not all people are like the ones I mentioned in #1!! I have come across many people who genuinely care and it has been so refreshing. I keep these people close to my heart and wish them all the success in return. Surround yourself with these people, I truly believe it will make you a happier person.
- Don’t burn yourself out One of the first things I wanted to do right after graduation was prove everyone that I wasn’t your typical 22- year old. While it was a great goal for me, it also wore me out. I was constantly trying to prove myself, go above and beyond, and do anything I could to stand out. Eventually the long days, non-existent social life, and workaholic attitude will take a toll on you. Having some “me time” is crucial and blowing off some steam with your friends will save you some major headaches. My plan now is: Get Up, Dress Up, Show Up, Do My Best, Go Home, Relax.
- You cant save the world There are many things that you will probably not like or agree with at your job. Unfortunately, you can’t change it all. Figure out if you can live with it or not. If you can’t, figure out your next step and trust in your instincts. Most importantly: Be Realistic.
- A simple handwritten letter can go a long way It is so easy to send someone an email or text saying “Thx!” However, I truly believe that sending a handwritten letter will be much more effective. When I received my first hand-written thank you letter from a co-worker, I had the biggest smile on my face. I had such a great feeling of accomplishment. Take the time to make other people feel that way, you won’t regret it.
- Give Back There is a pretty big chance that the main reason I am saying this is because I work for a non-profit. However, I truly believe that it is important for young adults to give back. I work with a large number of volunteers who are constantly telling me that they wish they would have started giving back to their communities a lot earlier in life. There are so many ways for you to get involved and help make a real difference in the community you work and live in. I have also found that many professionals are very interested in hearing about how you are giving back to the community. Can you say brownie points? (Pictured above is me and my little sister Ariah. We have been a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for 6 months!)
- Be selective with the work you take home This goes back to #3. While you may need to take work home occasionally, don’t make it a habit. I had a really bad habit of checking my work email on my phone at least every 15 minutes while I was at home. Remember to keep your work in the office as much as possible so that when you walk into your home you can automatically feel at peace.
- Start growing a tough skin Life is unfair. Being a “grown-up” sucks sometimes. Unfortunately that is just how it is. Don’t waste your time trying to always fix things or constantly analyzing things. Try and grow a tough skin and let things just roll of your shoulder, it will help you to live a more “stress-free” life.
- Everyone has “work problems” A year ago it seemed like I spent all of my time talking about my work problems with my friends and family. It was taking over my life. I even got into a few discussions with people where we would sit there and try to “one up” each other with our work problems. Now I look back and wonder why the heck we were comparing negatives? What is the point? We all have work problems. Instead of focusing on the negatives, lets gather around each other and create more positives for each other. We could all use it.
- Take every development opportunity that comes your way Do you have a local chamber? What about a young professionals organization? I highly recommend you look into these opportunities as well as any other opportunities that involve training. It is important to your professional career to continue to grow your professional contact database and continue to learn and better yourself.
Once I learned and accepted these lessons, I became a much happier workin’ girl! I also realized that living in the “real world” wasn’t as bad as it seemed at first. What are some other important lessons that you have learned in the “Real World?” We want to know!