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CONGRATS! You either dropped out of college or university, you are headed there now (you are still in the middle of the fray), or you have got a brand new diploma!
College is a long, difficult, and complicated dance that only certain kinds of people have the ability to master. Schoolwork is actually really tough— it's a 4+ year-long job you sign up for, except you pay them to go there (or someone does). Your brain is only so big, so you have to use it as efficiently as possible, and be as kind to your body as possible so that it will last long enough for you to pass that test you memorized tons of notes for (after that, really, who cares?).
If you have managed to pass your classes, make friends, and grow as a person, then your college life was a successregardless of how much alcohol you consumed, uh... are consuming... will consume? Anyway, you should be putting all that money to good use and staying on the straight and narrow (or at least given it the 'ol college try!).
1. Time to Readjust
So it is over now! You lived!
It does not matter what degree(s) you have, or how little college work you actually did, it is time to put your foot in the door of the future!
So... where do you start?
Well, first of all, you have either:
A) Moved into your new place!
B) Moved back home!
C) Moved into college (seriously, are you in this phase of panic already?).
D) Moved into grad school (I'll pray for your soul).
This article will be divided between the former two categories, A and B, to keep things simple. Grad kids can apply this to their new surroundings, and new college freshies can see what to start thinking about for their future.
To begin with, college kids usually have tons of anxiety because, like any job, your brain is under stress for long periods of time. You probably forgot how to relax, and your body is probably one big ball of tension right now. Well, here is the first step to readjusting to life in the real world:
It is imperative that you take care of yourself. Wherever you are right now, sit down, take a few deep, slow breaths, and drink a glass of water (hot water is better for hot weather, believe it or not).
Take the time to relax. If you are like me, your parents are breathing down your neck to start earning your own money, and you have already tried applying to a thousand jobs. Here is some advice from me to you: if you can afford to, wait a week before working. You need to catch up on lost sleep, organize your belongings, get in touch with local friends and family, and metaphorically get your adult sea legs.
You made it. You deserve to chill. Do not allow other people to guilt-trip you into hitting the ground running—it will only wipe you out.
I know this was already mentioned, but this is also insanely important for everyone. Your family and friends (hopefully) kept you afloat during your long stay at the school of hard knocks. It is time to repay their kindness. Call your closest friends and family (or text them) and ask them out to lunch.
They want to see you. They want to give you stuff and congratulate you in person. You are allowed to take time off for yourself, but making time for your friends and family is what really matters in the long run. Those are the people who will connect you with opportunities, give you sound advice (from experiences like mine), and overall just help keep you grounded. It is easy to float away in the face of all the anxieties of adult life. Allow the people you trust to help you.
What do you want for yourself? Go to grad school? Get a car? Buy an apartment with reasonable rent, or maybe a house? Maybe you want to get a girlfriend or a boyfriend, get married, or even dedicate a portion of your time to a new hobby like a new language, art, or gardening. List your goals in order of how difficult they are to attain. Easy goals go at the top, and difficult ones go at the bottom. This is what your future plans will revolve around.
Life is all about putting one foot in front of the other—start with baby steps, and you will eventually have enough experience to tackle much bigger obstacles in your path. Setting goals helps you focus. Right now you need focus, determination, and above all, patience. None of us little folk get a huge start overnight, so try not to have high expectations for your immediate future—keep them reasonable, so that they seem easier to attain.
2. Apply for everything!
What's a resume!?
Go into Microsoft Word and look up resume templates. Look up tutorials on how to create a resume, where to put everything, and what to put in for which positions you're applying for. A good resume is like a good first impression. When it is well done, people take note.
Do not copy someone else's, and definitely, do not lie! Teach yourself anything you do not already know about the position, and be prepared to defend your abilities in those areas. Interviews may be lax or tense, and most of the time they just skim your resume, so as long as you can be clean and presentable at the interview you have a good chance of making a good first impression if you do not have or cannot make a resume.
Whether you want to work at the humane society, get a full or part-time position, apply for grad school, or audition for The Voice, every opportunity begins with a little bit of paperwork, legwork, and networking.
Fill out applications for everything you're interested in. Try everywhere. You can work part-time and volunteer, teach a painting class and lift boxes, get paid by your neighbors to shovel snow, watch their pets or kids, or fix things around the house—all you have to do is apply, and ask for the job. Ask and you shall receive. At least, you will probably receive a response to the application.
Go into the stores and talk to the managers about what they want. Offer to fill in when someone else dips out. A good job is like a good friendship. Be flexible, be dependable, and be there for them when no one else is. I guarantee someone will notice you putting your best foot forward.
Every month, reapply for the jobs you want. If they forgot about your application last month, this will refresh their memory. If they just fired someone on the spot without a replacement you could be their saving grace. It may become annoying, but persistence is what businesses look for and often depend on. Calling to check on your resume is also a good option that requires less work, and will likely annoy them less.
I said this already, but BE CLEAN, PRESENTABLE, AND CONSIDERATE DURING YOUR INTERVIEWS! Employees are expected to be obedient, flexible, useful, and respectful (among other things). Prove to your interviewer that you are a good candidate by making solid eye contact, smiling appropriately, and setting them at ease by answering all their questions in a down-to-earth manner (i.e. "Yeah, of course, anything you need me to do, I can get done efficiently.").
Again, do not lie. Your interviewer is a person—they know a bad answer when they hear it, so just do not give them any reason to dislike you.
If you feel as if someone is discriminating against you, politely excuse yourself from the interview and ask the manager if someone else will do your interview. You should never feel belittled, disrespected, or bullied during an interview. If you do, this is a red flag. Do not work there if they belittle you.
3. Save your money.
No More Big Spending
In order to save for your future and attain your goals, it is time to work on that sense of self-discipline! You are one person, you do not need $200 of groceries a month. Budget, budget, budget. Gas money, food money, emergency money, and luxury money should be the categories you divide your money into.
If you have to cash your money to keep track of it, cash it. Some bank accounts have a minimum money requirement, so keep that in mind, but every bank is different and every method works differently for everyone. Keeping some money in the bank is a good idea. I recommend half in bank, and half in hand—and to dissuade you from using it, do not carry it around. Use your bank money regularly. Whatever you save, keep it at home hidden somewhere no one but you could ever find it.
No More Little Spending!
The problem with our market is that it knows us too well. Those small purchases you pick up when you are waiting in line to check-out—you know the ones—lip balm, gum, candy, jewelry, chargers or AUX cords, lighters, etc. are called 'impulse buys' and THAT IS HOW THEY GET YOU! Train yourself to look away when you feel the temptation to buy something that you know you do not need.
Small purchases build up and make a big dent in your wallet. Avoid ALL non-essentials! If that means that you have to wear old fashion styles, go without drinking Starbucks three times a day, walk past the Oreo's at the store, or give up buying earrings every time you go to Walmart, do it. Your wallet will thank you.
Have a cheat food or a cheat purchase once a month/week. Keep it reasonable. Buying lip balm, picking up a doughnut with your morning coffee, or getting a pack of Magic cards from your luxury money stash once a month/week is okay—just be aware of how easy it is to go overboard with small purchases, and make good choices with your money. It is easy to spend and very hard to accumulate.
4. Evolve into an adult.
If you have a car, make sure the oil is changed every 5,000 miles, make sure it passes inspection every year, and make sure its tires are at the correct air pressure (the number should be inside the door, or in the manual).
Do not let the 'Check Engine' light stay on for more than a few days before you deal with it. Either take it to Auto Zone and ask them to plug it up to a scanner to see what the computer is trying to tell you, or take it to a mechanic. Do not risk your means of transport.
Clean it. Come on, you guys, I know you have four quarters for a car wash, a vacuum with a stick attachment, and some disinfecting wipes. Your car is nasty. Look at it. Now, look at me. Now look back at your car. That car is an extension of you—it should be regularly maintained, just like a nice haircut.
After you get that job, you will need to apply for taxes, which means that you either need to get TurboTax, hire a local expert, or watch a tutorial on how to deal with the massive amount of paperwork it entails. You will get a moderate rebate at the end of the year, sending you the money they took out of your paycheck all year, so do not skip this step.
They say that you should dress for the job you want, but you should take that with a grain of salt. Be comfortable, be presentable, and most importantly, be professional. A squeaky clean employee sticks out in McDonald's. Any positive attention is good attention. Plus, you will feel better about yourself, I guarantee it.
Ask around for new opportunities. Search internship positions, paid or unpaid. Volunteer. Pitch in around the house to keep your routine running smoothly.
Most importantly, work on yourself! This is an important time for you! You have spent all these twenty plus years of your life in school growing, and now it is time to bloom! Show the world everything you have to offer.
CONGRATS! YOU MADE IT!