7 Lessons You Learn The First Year Out Of College

7 Lessons You Learn The First Year Out Of College

It’s been about a year since I graduated from the University of Minnesota and the past 13 months have been the most exciting, stressful, amazing and (did I mention stressful?) months of my life. Last fall Robin and I decided, almost on a whim, to pack up our apartment and move to San Francisco, a city I’ve never been to before. Finally being done with school and truly being on your own is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. You may or may not have a quarter life crisis. You will feel lost but you will figure things out. Since I know many of you are recent grads or soon-to-be recent grads, I wanted to share my realizations about that 1st year out of college with you.

1. You’ll question your career path about 100 times. I knew I loved advertising, which is why I majored in it, but the day to day life of an ad agency, or a startup, like I work in now, is very different from the classroom.  You’ll probably struggle to find a job you like at frist (hey, it’s a tough job market) and there’s a good chance that the stress of life will make you question what you really love doing. I almost settled for a job I didn’t like in an industry I didn’t enjoy just to feel financially comfortable. Guys, don’t do that.

2. You’ll find it hard to be listened to at work, even if you an expert in your field. Nobody seems to want to take advice from a young, recent college grad, even if your insights are good. Whether it’s their ego or something else, it can be incredibly frustrating when you feel like you aren’t being given enough chances/work/voice in your company just because of your age. I’ve worked with people  who think they need to treat me like a child in the workplace, and I’ve worked with people who actually listen to my ideas and let me run with them. Let me tell you, it’s way better to work with that second group. If something isn’t right at work, consider finding a new job. It’s not worth the stress and you deserve to be working up, not down.

3. Finally having your very own apartment is amazing, but you may not have enough money to fill it with nice things. Robin and I finally have our own studio in San Francisco that over looks the ocean, but cost of living is so high here, we still sleep on a futon mat his aunt gave us and our couch was $10 from Savers (and has some questionable looking stains on it we still haven’t been able to get rid of).  It took us 3 months before we were able to afford dressers and we can’t afford a parking spot in our building so each evening we spend 30 minutes scouting the neighborhood for street parking.  Juggling finances and the reality of life the 1st few years out of college is a brutal, and huge wake-up call. Instead of feeling down because I basically sleep on the floor, I’ve decided to view this as putting my time in and knowing that when I finally have a nice place, I’ll value it a lot more.

4.You’ll have a mini life crisis, or 10 of them. Yes, that sentence sounds dramatic, but I know I’m not the only 20-something that has felt this way.  The quarter-life crisis is a real thing you guys. You get frustrated since you have this idea of how life should be, but you aren’t able to live up to it at the moment. Maybe you aren’t living in the city you want to live in, or your jobs isn’t fun anymore or you just don’t get paid enough.  And that’s ok – I really believe that nobody ever knows what they are actually doing. You just gotta fake it until you make it, or at least until something makes sense.

5. You’ll be alone more than you ever have been before. Even if you still live in your college town, odds are you’ll experience being lonely way more than expected. This is especially true if you’ve moved to a new city. Your friends no longer live a few blocks away, or even in the room next to yours. We all have work, so happy hours and late nights happen less. No more spur-of-the-moment Taco Bell runs or The O.C. marathons every weeknight. You’ll be spending more nights just with your cat and Netflix than ever planned and that can be a downer. But it can also be a really good time to get to know yourself.

6. Working out is a lot harder than you thought. I used to work out during class breaks or go to my campus gym (for free!) on weekends. It’s not as easy when you’re an adult. You can either get up REALLY early to workout before heading to the office, or try to hit the gym after work. But by the end of the day, you’ll be mentally exhausted and the idea of getting home at 9pm just so you have time to work out sounds awful. It’s hard to find time to stay healthy.

7.You’ll feel free and full of opportunities. See, they aren’t all negative. The beauty of that first year out of college is that is the first year you don’t have plans. You aren’t bound by school, you are free to do whatever you want. Feel like eating ice cream for dinner? Sure. Want to go on weekend roadtrip down the coast? If you got the car and gas money, go for it. The feeling that anything can happen is a great one – don’t let go of the point of view. I think the biggest mistake adults have is giving into the stress of life and losing the feeling that they can do anything they want. Remember, you have just as many hours in the day as Beyonce, so go conquer the world.