What I wish I knew coming out of college

Going to college was an amazing opportunity that I wouldn’t have traded for the world. I met a ton of great people, learned more than I thought I could, and even did some networking. What I didn’t realize was that the world after college is a completely different place than I had anticipated. I’m not sure if I was just naïve or if others experienced the same thing during their transition to the “real world”, but there was a bit of jump that I had to make in understanding how to live and support myself post-college. Anyway, here are a few things that would have been nice to hear leading up to graduation…

The real world is all about money. It sucks but it’s the truth, someone has to pay the bills.

This was the first thing I realized. After having gone to school for the past 20 or so years of my life, and having my parents put a roof over my head and food on the table, I was now free to do anything and forced to take care of myself. I was no longer required to go to class or do homework, but in order to survive and have a life of your own, you need a place to live, groceries, and other stuff, which all cost money. My suggestion here? If you can, find something you love to do up front that will pay the bills, otherwise pick the highest paying job you can find and start down the road to financial independence!

Having said that, although it may make your parents feel better, you don’t need to have a fancy job lined up before you leave school. This can be nice and make you feel more secure but I didn’t land one until about 6 months after graduation, when spots opened up. You’ll find one eventually.

If you’re someone unlike myself who is stressing over having a job lined up, there are two main things I’d recommend. The first is do whatever you can to get an internship the summer after your Junior year. The majority of the time this will lead to an offer from that company or provide you leverage if you want to work somewhere else. The second which is just as important, is to network. Talk to your professors, family friends at home, people at career fairs, and anyone else you can think of who might have a lead to a job. If you can use this to your advantage, your number of opportunities will shoot through the roof. I actually landed my job by messaging a neighbor on LinkedIn who is the head of the engineering firm I now work at. He knew me growing up and was nice enough to get me an interview, and the rest is history.

Not to be a downer here, but one of the other realizations I made once I started working is your college degree doesn’t mean as much as you think. I actually mentioned this to my boss the other day and he said, “yeah, all it shows is that you can get through engineering courses”. I’d say I use maybe 1 or 2% of what I actually learned from school at my job. But, I will say, college teaches you how to learn and that is a valuable skill. So again, all a degree proves is that you know how to learn and could pass a few classes. That degree however is not going to directly prepare you for the job you take after school. It may provide you with a solid background but you’ve got a whole lot more learning to do.

Lastly, stay out of debt. Graduating without student loans is a blessing, but keep this advice in mind when you start your first job. Don’t go out and buy some fancy car you cant afford on credit because you’re suddenly making a ton of money. Learn how to budget and save first, you’ll thank yourself later.

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