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So, You’re About To Graduate

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I know I’m a little early, but I want to be the first to welcome you to the next chapter of your life. You are about to enter a world where hard work and long hours will only help you not get fired in your first two years. It’s a world where all those “you’re special” or “you’re one of a kind” talks your teachers, professors, and parents buttered you up with come to die.

Despite that really depressing first paragraph, the real world isn’t so bad once you get used to it. After graduating, I didn’t get a lot of helpful tips from friends who went through the same life changes as I did, and that made my experience of coming out of college a stressful one. Luckily for you, I noted some things I wish I realized when I started out in the real world.

  1. Don’t go with the first job offer you get just because it’s there. You’ll hate yourself for it.
  2. At the same time, don’t be overly picky when it comes to choosing a job. Remember that you don’t have any real experience, so you can’t turn down a job offer because that particular office is business professional and you don’t want to wear a suit (or pants) every day. Don’t be dumb.
  3. That dream job you imagined in college won’t be your first job, and it might not be your second job, either. You’ll have to wait a while.
  4. Once you begin your career, put your time in at that job. Future employers don’t want to see that you quit and started a new job three different times in two months.
  5. Illegal shit is actually illegal now. There are rules. This isn’t ‘Nam.
  6. HR is everywhere. Seriously. Everywhere.
  7. Even if you’re doing work that a toddler could do, have a good attitude. People (read: superiors who can promote you) tend to want to work with positive people.
  8. Sometimes you have to kiss ass. Accept it now, because it will happen.
  9. Be proactive with your social life. The party doesn’t come to you like it did in college.
  10. Budget, budget, budget.
  11. Stick to that budget.
  12. Don’t drink the break room coffee. Ever.
  13. Just because you have some money now, it doesn’t mean you can buy every luxury you want just to impress your friends. No one is “crushing it” at work, so stop trying to fool them and stop getting in serious debt.
  14. Shit happens, and it happens more often in the real world. Face it and move on.
  15. Stay informed with politics, sports, and entertainment. It will help you converse in the real world. Be able to point out Ukraine on a map.
  16. Travel. Seeing the world when you’re young can provide the best memories and perspective in your life.
  17. Invest a little bit of your paycheck in the stock market for the long term. Ten percent of your paycheck doesn’t seem too bad when you could have some serious scratch saved up in 15 years. If your employer has any sort of 401(k) or IRA matching program, you don’t have an excuse. It’s free money.
  18. Stop drinking awful beer. You can afford better now, and that Keystone will only let people assume you’re too poor for a real drink.
  19. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I typically dislike overused motivational quotes, but this one is fairly true. You don’t have to wear $800 suits and Hermes ties, but don’t look like a slob.
  20. Never miss a deadline.
  21. Read a book. The nonfiction kind.
  22. Work out frequently. This is a critical time to establish good habits while you still have the energy. You’ll thank yourself in five years when you don’t have the energy to work out five days a week.
  23. You’re not alone. In fact, there’s a certain website where likeminded POSTGRAD working stiffs post their daily struggles and PROBLEMS. I forgot the name of the site, but I’ll let you know when it comes to me.
  24. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. I mean, you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life, so you might as well have fun with it. It’s really not that bad.

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