Graduating college is a huge accomplishment that everyone should celebrate. It's also scary because unless you're continuing into grad school, it means you're entering the real world and those loans are going to kick in sooner than you're ready for. That's not to knock grad school because it has its own challenges but life after any schooling is complicated. Everyone wishes there were a few things they'd had known before. Whether that's to avoid surprise, prepare for it or any other reason, it doesn't matter. The fact is that you'll live the first few years out of college (at least) by trial and error. More on the latter, to be honest. The trick is to breathe and just go with it because life happens and all we can do is enjoy the ride, bumps and all. With that said, there are a hundred things I wished I had known before I graduated but here are five I think are uber important.
1. You're going to hate at least one of your first jobs. The first job you get right out the gate might be awesome, or it might be terrible. It might be the second job that is terrible. The point is, regardless the career choice, everyone hates one of their first jobs. It comes with experience. You'll have bosses that you're sure are psychotic, bosses completely incapable of doing anything and others that might be good at what they do but terrible managers. Companies just want to hire people for low level positions. They tell you what you want to hear but when you start that first Monday, you're making copies and managing someone else's calendar. It's terrible work that has nothing to do with your major but it's good for the resume and pays the bills. So you'll stick with it and work your way up, stick with it till you find a better job or stick with it till you're about to lose your mind and quit.
2. You WILL find the job you love. Dealing with the crap jobs is par for the course in finding your dream job. It will all be worth it once you're doing work that you are actually interested in and enjoy. In fact, you'll probably forget all about the other job unless someone else brings it up. Just remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to find it first.
3. You're going to be broke, more than once. Love the babysitting money that funded your social life throughout college? Well, say goodbye to that social life. Those $10 drinks that you used to buy rounds of will now seem unbelievably expensive because "Oh my God, rent is due next week and I just bought groceries." Starting salaries are generally not anything to boast about, especially in this economy. Be prepared to budget like crazy and penny pinch within an ounce of your dinner.
4. You will have friends that find more success than you and much quicker. While you're surviving on ramen and cold cereal, you'll have a friend who makes $70k and is living the life. Don't be jealous. I have that friend and she works crazy, intense hours at a stressful job that I am in no way jealous of. Even if they have an amazing career and love what they're doing, ask yourself this. Would you honestly love doing the same job? If so, you'd probably be in the same spot. You took a different path, there's nothing wrong with that. Own it. It was your choice, not theirs and they shouldn't get your cranky butt because you chose different.
5. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Pride is your biggest enemy after college. We all want to make it on our own and prove our independence. Newsflash! Life is hard. Our parents went through it just as their parents did. Everyone experiences tough times. If you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it. Whether that's a project at work that has got you in over your head or you need a little help making rent. Use that support system. Chances are they know they can count on you if they need to as well so why not let them help in return? It will bruise your pride and it will be a humbling experience but you will become a better person for it. How am I so sure? Because I've been there recently and I know I'll most likely be there again.
The most important thing to remember when you're about to graduate is that life is unpredictable. You will have a plan. It will obliterate itself. You will have goals. They will change. You will leave college wanting things that in three years you could care less about. Where you are at 18 is different from where you'll be at 21. Where you are at 21 will be completely different than 25 and then 30. Don't let the sudden changes and unexpected downfalls get you down. It's all for a larger purpose that you will figure out soon enough. If there's one piece of advice I can give for graduating college, that is it.