10 Things I’ve Learned Since Graduating College

It popped up in my Facebook Memories yesterday. On this day, one year ago. To say it’s been a roller-coaster ride would be an understatement. When I graduated college, I had this grand idea of what the “real world” was going to be like. I thought I’d be completely independent, I would have a great job and a fabulous apartment. You could say I had it all figured out, or so I thought.

I found out real quick that life after graduating college is hard. Like, hard hard. In fact, looking back on it, graduating was honestly the easiest part. I’m just now beginning to find my footing and trust me, nothing is perfect over here. My life is definitely still a work in progress, but unlike a year ago, I’m excited about what lies ahead of me and it’s because I’ve learned these 10 things:

1. You Aren’t That Special; Humble Yourself

I know, it’s harsh. Definitely a tough pill to swallow in our current everyone-gets-a-trophy society, but it’s the truth. Don’t walk into your new job thinking you’re the best at everything. Just because you went to college and have thousands of followers on social media, doesn’t mean you’re the best at everything or know everything. Sure, you have plenty of skills and unique insights to offer, but you’re not the only one who does.

Bravo

I thought that because I graduated Summa Cum Laude, never received a B in my entire life and won tons of awards for my writing, I’d automatically be trusted in the workplace. Wrong. So wrong. You could have some of the greatest ideas on the planet, but realistically, no one will believe you do when you’re fresh out of college. So make them believe. Humble yourself and put in the work. You’ll need to prove yourself in order to establish your credibility. As an entry-level employee, you’re the lowest on the totem pole and you’re going to have to work really hard to get to the top of it.

Now this is not to say don’t have confidence in yourself or don’t fight for your ideas to be heard, but don’t automatically expect people in your workplace to treat you like you’re an expert in your field—because you’re not, but one day you will be and maybe even their boss, too.

2. You Won’t Have Your Dream Job

Another harsh truth. Unless you have insane connections, have had everything handed to you in life or have really great luck, chances are you’re not going to come out of college and land a senior-level position that pays six-figures. You’ll have to fight your way up the chain. Be appreciative for every job you have along the way because they’re grooming you for that dream job. You will struggle! I had to work two jobs when I first graduated college and one was a cashiering job—nothing at all to do with marketing. But remember, there’s no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs!

I’ll be honest with you, I wish every day that I’d wake up and magically be a communications director for a university or have my own agency. But then I look at some of my marketing role models like Antoinette M. Clarke and Tricia Clarke-Stone and realize all of the years of hard work and branding they had to put in to get where they are today.

Take your time as an entry-level employee to learn the ins and outs of the business, listen to others and gain valuable experience. My family and definitely my boyfriend can attest to the fact that I’m NOT a good listener.

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This is changing though, slowly, now that I’m a professional. I’ve realized that there will always be new things to learn and new things to understand, especially in the digital marketing industry.

3. It’s Okay To Be Alone

If you take nothing else away from this blog, please know that it’s okay to be alone! I strongly encourage it. Take time after graduating to discover who you are outside of your university, your relationship or your group of friends. You’ll learn how to make yourself happy without the need of somebody else.

In college, I was very dependent on my friends. I didn’t want to go to the cafeteria by myself and I’d only sign up for a club and sometimes even a class if I knew at least one of my friends would be there too. That mentality was toxic and I learned that soon after graduating college. It caused me to miss out on the opportunity to find my own passions and what I liked or didn’t like. Now, I take advantage of this time of self-discovery.

4. Budget

Whew! They weren’t lying when they said adulting is hard. Contrary to popular belief, having a degree does not equal having money….in the beginning.

I can probably list a million and one reasons why it’s important to budget. Student loans will kick in, bills will be knocking on your door and that entry-level salary is not going to answer it. You want to set yourself up for financial success and a bad credit score will haunt you. Make sure to create a budget plan where all of your bills are paid on time and you have a good amount of extra funds left over.

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I also suggest finding a side hustle. One of my favorite entrepreneurs, Nicole Walters, changed my entire perspective on how I look at my finances. She emphasizes how important it is to have multiple streams of income so if you unfortunately lose your job or fall on hard times, you’ll still have money coming in. “Nike just doesn’t sell shoes,” she says. Think about it.

5. Be Healthy

During your first year out of college, you’re going to encounter tons of stressful situations. I’m learning that one of the best ways to alleviate stress is by working out and watching what you eat. Another great tip, get plenty of rest when you can because that 9 to 5 schedule is going to hit you hard and you don’t want to be a cranky goblin at work. It takes a lot of effort to be healthy, but you can do it.

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite health and beauty apps:

Calm

MyFitnessPal

C25K

6. Don’t Box Yourself In

Don’t chase a career, chase your purpose.

When you put yourself in a box, you’re obviously restricting yourself from what is outside of it. Sure, you went to college and pursued a degree in a particular field, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you’re good at or that you’ll even pursue a career in that field.

Take me for example, I went to college for Broadcast Reporting but that isn’t the industry I’m in now. I used the time after I graduated college to explore my interests and passions that I never had time to while in college. I found out that broadcasting wasn’t for me, but I fell in love with marketing. What will you fall in love with?

Chances are you’ll be in your 20s when you graduate. Don’t waste these years and don’t succumb to what others might expect or what a piece of paper says you’re good at.

7. Be Confident

People will doubt your abilities and ignore your ideas. You’ll have colleagues that will get praised for their work more than you will. When you encounter these kinds of obstacles, dig down deep and remember how you got to the place you’re in now. You’ve done something right. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Confidence is attractive and it will bring you success. If you’re uncertain about your abilities, how can you ever convince anyone to be certain about you?

Bravo

When I attended my first meeting at my first job out of college, I was beyond nervous and honestly, intimated. I was shy and quiet. I was the youngest person in the room and had the least amount of experience. What am I going to say that will matter? What do I have to offer? Turns out, A LOT! I shared my ideas with conviction and tons of self-confidence. Although the meeting ended without my idea being implemented, all that mattered was that I proved to myself that I have the power within me to speak up and speak out. I believe in myself and with that mentality, I know I’ll go far.

8. The Only Path You Need To Be On Is Your Own

You’re going to see your friends get a job before you do, you’re going to see them get their own apartment before you do, their own car before you, you may even see them get married before you and you’re going to wonder, why them before me? It’s human nature to, but you can’t begin to obsess over what everyone else is doing and what they did to get there. Rarely does anyone post their failures on Facebook.

The only path you need to be on is your own. Everyone is different, everyone has their own destinies and what works for someone else, will not work for you. If your first six months out of college are sleepless nights of you still applying for a job, so be it. Be patient and keep being the hard-worker that you are.

9. Friendships Will Come And Go

You’re going to lose some friends. As you all venture out into the world and explore different career paths and move to different cities, the communication is sure to lessen. If anything, this time will show you who your true friends are. You’re going to realize that some of your “friends” were only your “friends” because you had the same classes together or liked to party with you or you always took good notes.

In the words of my role models, Antoinette M. Clarke and Tricia Clarke-Stone, “Don’t inherit your tribe, build it.” Actively cultivate a crew of people who will push you to go after your goals and won’t hold you back. Be open to making new friends and appreciate those college friends who still keep in touch with you, support you and will answer the phone whenever you call.

10. But Family Is Forever

Remember when I said I thought I’d be completely independent when I graduated college? Well, I learned real quick how much of a fantasy that was. You’ll still need the support of your parents or loved ones and it’s okay to ask for their help. Don’t let your ego or pride get in the way. No one gets anywhere in life without someone helping them get there.

Even at a year out of college, I still take my laundry to my mom’s house, go shopping for food in her refrigerator and occasionally (though she’ll say more than occasionally) ask for money. You’re not going to have it all figured out and that’s okay!

I’m still a young professional and I’m still struggling, learning and growing. I’m sure I’ll have another 10 things to add to this list a year from now, but I think this is a great start to get recent grads through the first one.