Life After College: Year One

It’s hard to believe that my college graduation was already a year ago. At the same time, it’s difficult to believe it hasn’t been 5 years already. Coming up in the next week marks my one year anniversary at my first post-college job. In the past year I have learned more about the world, how it works, and about the people in it that I did in the five years it took me to finish college. Here are just a few of the things that I have learned:

There is so much free time!

Now that I’m done (for now) with my formal education, I am astounded at the amount of free time I have to do what I actually enjoy instead of spending time at chapter meetings, socials, student organization events, and that studying thing. It took me a few days at first to realize that when you leave work for the day, that’s it. Now your time can be dedicated to whatever you want, be it video games, movies, cooking, shopping, cleaning, or napping. There is a surreal tranquility in a weeknight without homework.

Friendships require more effort

Since I am not in a daily routine that involves classes or attending regular fraternity meetings, I don’t get to see my friends that often. We all have real jobs or are in grad school now. There are no more “you up?” texts followed by late night trips to Waffle House or Cane’s. Now it’s “hey, are you free on the 8th?” and “no, I have something that day, how about on the 12th?” and “Sorry, I have a date scheduled that night” and then it’s two months later. I don’t want this to come off as scary, but real friendships are worth the effort and make the visits that more special.

Budgets are necessary

Big kid jobs come with big kid salaries and benefits, but being off your parent’s payroll is a huge responsibility that takes daily effort. After working for minimum wage at every job through high school and college, my first salary paycheck made me feel like Tony Stark. I thought, “I lived off $400 a month for so long, I can splurge a bit and be okay”. WRONG. OH GOD, WAS I WRONG. I don’t know how, but when I was making $400 a month now now that I make significantly more per month, I still found a way to end up with $10 in my account that first month praying that nothing auto-renewed before the next check dropped. After that, I sat down and averaged out how much rent, gas, food, and Netflix would cost per month, then started putting a bit into savings, I found that I still had a comfortable amount of disposable income for games, beer, Pop! Vinyl figures, and whatever else I wanted. Consider making a budget early on and stick to it. That’s how you save money to get bigger, cooler, and shinier stuff later.

Taxes are a thing

Don’t forget to do those and for the love of God, don’t lose your W-2. Put it and any receipts for Student Loan payments, charity donations, and major purchases in a lockbox. Preferably a fire-proof lockbox while you’re at it. Also, TurboTax is your friend and worth every penny.

You’re not done learning

Your degree does not make you an expert in your field. There are so many job-specific tasks to learn that you’ll begin to wonder if you actually learned anything in college at all. When you get your first job, you’ll be at an entry level, and that’s okay. Your boss knew that when she/he hired you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and simply observe your surroundings. Watch how other people word phrases in their emails, take note of how colleagues dress for certain events. Success in the real world isn’t based on your GPA so much as JPA: JUST PAYING ATTENTION.

These have been the biggest lessons I have learned in my first year out of college. There are countless other small lessons I learned, and hopefully an infinite more to learn. Needless to say, it’s quite intimidating to leave academia for the adult world, but if you prepare, ask a lot of questions, and be nice to people, you’ll find that the world isn’t out to get you. It’s there for you to get.

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