Let’s be honest, college was amazing. Sure it’s full of sleep deprivation and excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine, but if you do it right it’s also full of the most incredible times with your best friends in the world. To some, graduation may seem as tragic as their own funeral. And while it’s true your life will never be the same as it is right now, by god that doesn’t mean it’s over.
A year later, here’s five things I learned and wish I had known as I walked across that stage.
1. Nothing will go as you expect it to.
When I walked across that stage do you know what I got? Nothing. Absolutely nothing because they lost my diploma and had to mail it to me months later.
But that’s life! You can plan and mentally prepare for things as much as you want, but in the end you never know what’s going to happen. All you can do is take it one day at a time, give everything 100% and see where the road takes you.
2. Don’t take a job just because it’s offered to you.
Obviously it’s really exciting to know that you’re wanted and see that salary in black ink, but don’t take a job just because it seems like it’s a good offer.
Depending on your field it can be hard to find something, but as long as you can afford it just keep looking. Find something you’re truly passionate about and go do it. Maybe it’s in the city you’re currently in, or maybe it’s not. Don’t limit yourself. Explore all your options, and then some.
If you’re really having trouble, get creative! Go beyond job search engines. Reach out to people you know, tell them what you’re looking for and see if they have any leads. If you’re really passionate about what a company is doing, email them directly and introduce yourself.
I promise the right next step for you is out there, so think it through and don’t make a decision you’ll regret two months later.
3. Money will disappear almost as fast as you make it.
While you may be making more money than ever before, chances are you’ll also be spending more than ever before. Rent, car payments, insurance and food add up quick, not to mention the things you do for fun. A nice dinner and drinks with your coworkers? $100. Plane ticket to Oahu for a wedding? $1,000.
So just be careful. Be smart, make a personal budget and save as much as possible because remember, nothing will go as you expect it to.
4. Making (and keeping) friends in the real world is hard.
When you no longer live across the street from everyone you know, it takes effort to keep in touch with and see the people you care about. If you truly care about them though, it’s worth it.
So whether you end up a block over or across the country, do the best you can to let them know you’re here for them. Call, text, snap, email, Facebook, Instagram, write a letter, send smoke signals, whatever. Just make sure even if you lose touch for a bit you always catch up later.
And now the hard part starts—making new friends in the real world! It’s not impossible but you’re going to have to get more creative. Hopefully you’ve got some cool new co-workers or roommates, but even if you don’t start looking for people interested in the same stuff as you! Whether that means joining a social sports league, local gym, wine club or Bumble BFF-ing your heart out, just keep putting yourself out there until something sparks.
5. You really don’t have to have it all figured out right now.
Sure, a lot of those engineering and business types have jobs by graduation, but I didn’t find one until the end of July and look how I turned out. I’m not sitting at a desk, bored and miserable. I am working for a major Australian winery, about to travel the world for two months, and then start harvest at another vineyard in Napa. Maybe even get my MBA in Wine Business next fall. And most importantly: I’m happy.
You may not know which path will make you happiest right now. In fact, you probably never will because as humans we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy. So don’t stress. Find a role that you are incredibly excited about right now, and just go for it.
Tl;dr: Happy graduation, kids. Welcome to the real world and when you need a friend, just call.