Expectation vs. Reality: What I Wish I Knew Before Graduating College

It has officially been one year since I graduated from my university. Last May, life was a whirlwind of excitement, stress, and doubt. Since then, I’ve come a long way and learned quite a bit about the workforce, my personal habits, “adulting”, and what makes me happy. Seeing as we’re in the peak graduation season, I figured now would be a good a time as any to let you know what I wish I knew a year ago, before graduating college and stepping out into the real world.IMG_0064

Office Life is Just like School

There are mean girls, girls you wish you could be, and petty arguments. But there are also new friends, fun experiences, and opportunities to learn. Your coworkers are people you see every day, just like your classmates, so it’s easy to build a relationship quick. You’ll probably commiserate over the annoying aspects of your position, and you may develop an even deeper connection with a few coworkers. I went into the workforce with the very formal idea of a strict separation of work and personal life. While I still keep that line drawn in most situations, I’ve definitely let loose a bit more, and that’s helped so much with office relationships, both with my colleagues and my supervisors.

I Thought I was Sedentary Before

I went from being super active in high school, to being lightly active in college, to being completely sedentary post-graduation. When I started work, I would go to the gym every once in a while, but eventually the long day at the office plus the seemingly longer commute home hit hard, and I started passing up on exercise more often. In theory, I knew that I was moving less, but I had a hard time adjusting my eating habits to correlate with my change in activity levels. Over time, I had to really reevaluate my nutrition and workout schedule. Now, I eat less fast food and more whole foods – and, since I got my puppy in February, I move so much more often on walks and trips to the park. This was definitely a big difference in my lifestyle, and one I wish I had made much earlier.

What Social Life?

In college it is so easy to make friends and get out. More than likely you’re living in a residence hall or a neighborhood with a lot of people your age – some may even be in your major or your everyday classes. With that set up, you can easily walk next door and make a new friend, or walk down the hall or across campus to meet someone from your extracurricular group or class. Once I moved out of this little “social bubble”, making friends suddenly seemed a lot harder. All my old friends either stayed for grad school or moved far enough away that it was hard to see them often. Starting conversations in public settings often seemed unwanted or strange, depending on the situation. It took me a while to get over this fear that someone would think I’m just some weirdo making a comment in line at Starbucks, but I found that signing up for activities like dance classes, going to events in my community, or even just chatting with a neighbor while on a walk every once in a while helped me gain more confidence in this new social setting.

Organization is Everything

I actually learned this in my final year at university. When I was a senior, my life was extremely busy. In the past, I could easily take on a more laissez-faire approach to my schoolwork and activities, but that year quickly showed me the importance of time management and organization. I began writing down all appointments, setting reminders for tasks, and building long to-do lists. As I transitioned into the workforce, I was surprised when I actually had a bit more time on my hands since I was juggling one job rather than two jobs, full time classes, and a leadership position in two different organizations. This made my transition a lot less overwhelming. At work, my team’s organization and time management skills have actually been noticed by multiple other teams in the office and has earned us a great reputation of being reliable and trustworthy people to work with. And – even better – organization has made huge difference in everyday life with tasks like paying bills, planning meals for the week, moving into my first apartment, etc.

Suck It Up and Just Do It

This can apply to pretty much everything. Moving from school life to “adult” life was kind of hard for me – I didn’t know my place anymore without the mentors, friends, and organizations that had been by my side for the past four years. It took me months to figure out where I belonged in this new setting, but I could have easily figured it out earlier if I wasn’t so hesitant to make decisions and try new things. After feeling lost for a while, I decided I wanted to take adult ballet classes because I knew I liked to dance, and I wanted to work towards something that was both active and creative. Once I actually attended class, I was so much happier, and this snowballed into making more decisions that would bring me happiness, like rescuing the most adorable puppy (see pics below for proof).

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, I say go for it. You now have the power and means to make bigger decisions, and while it can be scary, it can be extremely rewarding once you take the plunge.

To all those graduating, congratulations! Enjoy the journey and take this time as an opportunity to learn and grow. I wish you luck in your own transition into the real world.