Lessons You Will Learn after Graduating from College


So, you just graduated college. You threw your cap into the air, cheering with pride and excitement. But when it landed, your heart sunk. You just graduated college. Now what?

Everyone tells you that graduating is the opening of a new chapter in your life, and it truly is, but it feels less magical when you’re in the transition. Say goodbye to your friends, your familiar hangouts, and your blessed independence. You might be tempted to wallow in self-pity all summer, snapchatting your old roommates and posting Throwback Thursdays. Or, you can prepare to thrive.

After the shock recedes and boxes are unpacked, you have the choice to adapt to this new world, the Real World. The truth is, while college once let you learn and explore, this postgraduation period lets you experience vital lessons you would never succeed without. It goes without saying, they don’t come easy. Here’s a synopsis of what you learn the first year of being out of college.

You’re old, but you’re still a child.

Cookie Monster watches a Newton's cradle.

Cookie Monster / Giphy

You’re underpaid, undervalued, and probably being asked to fetch coffee. You have to work hard to prove your worth, which can be a real damper on the ego. Look at it this way, though: You bring something new to the table. While your superiors have experience, you have fresh knowledge and insight. You can both learn from each other.

The job market is really bad.

Rachel from Friends says "I'm gonna go get one of those job things."

Friends / Giphy

Data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that graduates with bachelor’s degrees over the age of 25 face a 2.8% unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York claims that for recent college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27, these statistics might be as high as 6% as we continue to feel the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Often it will seem like there are a thousand jobs but none for you. Every job is looking for a person between the ages of 21 and 28, with 40 years of experience, even for an “entry level” position. As a result of these challenges, you’ll probably apply to a dozen things and think about self-employment. Maybe it’s out of desperation, maybe it’s boredom, or maybe it’s both. Figuring out new ways to get around the obstacles that the job market poses will help you find what really fits you.

Not having a job is painful.


A young man encounters one of the more painful lessons for college graduates; working in a tiny office and struggling to keep a job
Living with your parents is also painful, but you can’t afford to move out because: see #2. The secret is to start looking at things differently. Stop spending money to go out drinking and start saving. Invest in necessities that can help you move forward. When it comes to work, you might not get paid for everything you do, but pursuing things that interest you will build your résumé. Investing your time and energy will probably connect you with new opportunities. You have more options than you think, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Take a step back and get a new perspective on what’s in front of you.

It's okay to work in the restaurant industry.

The main characters from Two Broke Girls waving through a window at another woman

Two Broke Girls / Giphy

What employers are now taking into account are the necessary skills acquired by servers: patience, adaptability, and the ability to manage multiple jobs at once. That’s not to say that there isn’t still a stigma surrounding the industry, but more recruiters are looking at waiting tables as self-development. A restaurant is a fast-paced environment where employees develop a strong work ethic while learning about sales, marketing, customer service, and teamwork. When it’s time to move forward, don’t look over those attributes; market yourself.

Your real friends will stick by you.

A woman describing that BFFN stands for "best friends for now"

Real Housewives of Atlanta / Giphy

When there’s no conversation to be had without beers being clinked together, you realize which friends were just party friends. It’s a tough time—letting go of many of your college friends, that is. Luckily, the ones who are there to listen to you whine and to give you advice make it all worth it. It’s okay to make space for the true few.

Your wardrobe needs to change.

Taylor Swift wearing an "I heart LA" shirt

Taylor Swift / Giphy

After college, you start getting weird looks for wearing sweatpants anywhere that’s not the gym. Due to this phenomenon, you will begin to change your wardrobe and adopt a more professional look. Yes, it’s time to invest in dress socks, blazers, and comfortable heels.

As different as the adult world is, it’s pretty much still the same.

A corrections officer from Orange Is the New Black saying "Welcome to the real world, princess."

Orange Is the New Black / Giphy

Have you ever heard the saying, “Adults are just children in bigger bodies?” Get ready to learn how true that is. Everyone is learning day by day. The adult world is basically the same as college, but now you have more money and fewer friends. Good thing you have student loan debt; Sallie Mae will be happy to take your cash.

Free time is like a four-leaf clover: not easy to find.

A character celebrates being free

Once Upon a Time / Giphy

Unless you’re a teacher, you don’t have summer freedom now. That can be good because you won’t forget things you’ve learned, but you also won’t get to go on a road trip with friends for two weeks straight. Ain’t that a kick in the head? Good news, though: You’re still young. Your options are open, and if you want to find a way to travel, there are tons of programs that can help you volunteer, intern, or teach in another country.

Dating is more complicated after college.

Mark says "I'm in a relationship with 15 inflatable animals."

My Strange Addiction / Giphy

Everyone is feeling pressure to get a job, settle down, and get married. Whether they do so or not is a whole different story. Some people just want to keep their heads down, get into graduate school, and allow that to be the only stress in their lives, and that’s fine. Others are looking for serious relationships. It might be hard to find someone on the same page as you, which can make things complicated, but don’t give up.

Your ideas about marriage evolve.

A woman looks out a window and the audience sees she is under surveillance

Scandal / Giphy

When you were growing up, the married couples that you knew were your parents and friends’ parents. Now you’re at an age when you’re old enough to get married yourself. If you aren’t committed, you at least know couples that are on their way to their wedding days, and that’s pretty mind-blowing. You might see an engagement announcement on Facebook and have trouble thinking of the couple as functioning adults. Wasn’t that the guy who lost a bet and got a tattoo in a place we will not mention? And his soon-to-be wife—couldn’t she only cook Ramen noodles? That’s what marriage really is for some people, though: Two crazy kids buckle down and microwave dinner together for the rest of their lives.

Baby boomers have greater career longevity.

A character from Broad City turning around and quickly saying "See ya"

Broad City / Giphy

“Why in my day…” started no one’s favorite conversation ever. As we went over before, the job market today is not what it once was, and the way we approach it is different as well. It’s incredibly competitive, and not everyone will understand why the younger generation won’t stay with the first job that they attain after college. Sometimes a degree just isn’t enough, and sometimes one job isn’t enough! Forbes magazine called job hopping the “New Normal,” and said millennials are focusing on career maturity instead of longevity.

We come from an era of “do what you love,” and we are really determined to find that. We see opportunities and grab them no matter how frightening they seem. Many graduates will move across the country in pursuit of their dreams. Remember, coming into your own takes some time, and everyone moves at their own pace. Find yours and be proud of it.

Your dream job is further away than you thought.

Leslie Knope saying "No" in Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation / Giphy

Statistics have shown that millennials are taking much longer to settle into their careers. According to PayScale, on average, Generation Y employees hold a job for two years. This means, you’ll go through a few jobs over the next couple of years. In that time you will realize two things: 1) the job you think you want might not be the job you really want, and 2) the job you get just might be the job you need. Every opportunity is what you make of it. If you use your time behind the register in a retail store to network and daydream of how you can put your passion into play, then yes, that job is exactly what you need right now.

You might get rejected and have doors closed right in front of you just as your hopes are at their highest. You’ll feel lost and left out. Then, after staring at the locked doors you weren’t meant to go through, you’ll start looking for a window. You’ll find your greatest attributes in the year after graduating college, and that’s something no professor could ever teach. Look forward, graduate, because this is your greatest year yet.


About Katelyn Brush

Katelyn likes learning, good health, traveling, and pizza on Fridays. Her mixed education, composed of SUNY the College at Brockport, a semester at a community college, and one abroad at the University of Oxford, helped her earn a bachelor’s degree in English. College also gave her a few lessons in Taekwondo and sleeping in a hostel dorm with total strangers. She’s a yoga teacher, author and illustrator of the children’s book, “Signing Together: A Guide to American Sign Language for Everyone.” As a Student Caffé writer, she hopes to help you through the highs and lows of college with a laugh ... or 20.

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