As I was walking the line at my high school graduation, I was ready to just keep on walking all the way to freshman year of college. I wanted nothing to do with my high school, my hometown, or even many of my high school acquaintances—I was done. Give me my diploma and get me out of here.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating some, but I definitely was very ready for a change of pace at a new school in a new city and I definitely was really (really) excited about college. But, as it turned out, with all of this excitement about college, I had horribly underestimated how under-prepared I was for the experience.
Now, as a college grad, I look back and realized that I’m making the same mistake again as I leave college and enter year one of the “real world”. Take this as an example of how not to prepare for your next step.
I arrived at my college dorm room with my mother after 13 hours of driving on a two-lane deserted highway. We were pretty grumpy, really tired, and probably pretty smelly. We unloaded my few boxes and suitcases from the car in the mid-august Texas heat and sat down in the empty dorm room. The room was small, things were cramped, I shared a bathroom with three other girls—but I loved it.
Dorm life was great. There was always someone around, things going on, and some sort of excitement happening. After four years, I was sick of this and running from that dorm room for my life. But, once I’d graduated and found an apartment on my own, I realized what I missed. It was how I would imagine a puppy being removed from the litter feels the first few nights. Those people were your littermates (as strange as that sounds). You learned how to be adults, meet deadlines, do real work, and have fun together. Going from bustling dorm life, to solo apartment living can be a bit of a shock. Anticipate this change.
Of course, I knew that finding a job out of college was going to be a challenge. This was the most daunting thing about leaving school and the one thing I thought I had prepared myself for at least a little. Again, I was mistaken.
Unemployment and the job search were far more difficult than I had anticipated. For the first few weeks I did nothing but sit in my pajamas and scour Craigslist for jobs. I probably sent about 100 emails a day before I realized I needed to change my approach. I began exploring my new city some—going to places that I was interested in working and talking with employers and employees for guidance.
I made professional connections by putting myself on the line a little. I guess, initially I thought that if I spruced up my resume and cover letters enough, I might land a job by sitting around and emailing people during daytime television marathons. Put yourself out on the line. Get to know new people in your industry. Make connections.
Too Much Freedom
As a newbie college grad, I was thrilled to have a completely open schedule at first. I spent the first few weeks sleeping in late and going to bed early to make up for lost hours of sleep during finals. It was glorious—at first. Soon, all that freedom and spare time became daunting.
I found that with an endless amount of free time on my hands, I was even less productive than before. There was nothing—no professors, assignments, or grades—pushing me to stay on task and do a good job with things. So, I sat there—a lot. Soon, of course, I realized that if I wanted a real job and wanted to actually succeed in this bizarre “real world”, I was going to have to find some self-motivation. I had self-motivation as a student and in an academic world, but this was different.
The bottom line really is that you’re going to be unprepared for life after college. Things are going to get overwhelming in some way or another, but you’ll figure it out.
This guest post was contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for BestCollegesOnline.com. She welcomes your comments at her email firstname.lastname@example.org.