If you are in your final year of college, you’ve likely heard the warnings that “the real world” is a slap in the face; a rude awakening after the best four years of your life. You’re getting familiar with that nagging feeling of impending doom as graduation nears as everyone seems to agree that post-grad life is a letdown after college. After you leave school and start work, it’s all downhill … right?
The answer, for most of us, is yes. But it doesn’t have to be. There are steps you can take to make sure “the real world” doesn’t make you miserable. The simple truth is that college is hard to top. You can dedicate far more hours to the uninhibited pursuit of fun than you can working full-time. With some effort and planning, however, you can make sure that that first year or two of work doesn’t feel like a prison term.
Pick the Right Town
When you’re job hunting for the first time, it’s easy to prioritize landing the right job over landing in the right place. While getting your career off to a solid start is important, you shouldn’t feel pigeonholed geographically. The world of work today is truly global. Except in rare instances, you don’t need to be in a specific locale to pursue a specific career. For that reason, choose where to move after college based on other factors that are more important to your happiness. Think about where your friends are moving. Which cities have the type of culture you’re looking for?
Make New Friends, but Keep the Old
While I highly recommend choosing to live somewhere that you’ll know a least a few people after you graduate, don’t get stuck in a rut. One of the great opportunities that postgrad life offers is the ability to broaden your network. No matter where you move, your new situation will offer exposure to lots of unique and different people. Having a mix of old friends from school and new friends from anywhere will make you happier with your social life than just choosing one or the other. You should also introduce these groups to each other. It’s fun to help build connections that way—and it guarantees that you’ll always have people to do things with if you feel like it.
Be Social at Work
This is critical. No matter what kind of job you get out of college, you’re going to be spending a lot of your time working. If you have your dream job and you love working all the time with no distractions, more power to you. For the rest of us, though, it’s important to get along with the people we work with. Whether you make friends in the workplace or not is a huge determinant of how much you’ll like going to your job each and every day. Consequently, it’s a huge determinant of whether you’ll like postgrad life. Make an effort to get to know your coworkers. They can make or break the overall experience you have working at a given company.
Find the Right Spots
In college, everyone has their go-to spots. Whether it’s a favorite bar, sushi place, movie theater, coffee shop or burger joint, these establishments are part of what makes the college experience so hard to beat. Try to replicate that in your postgrad situation. Try a new restaurant or bar every week with your friends. Not only does this keep you social, but you’ll eventually stumble upon that hidden gem. Once you do, it will become a regular spot and make your new life feel more like your old one. Having a good rotation is an essential part of feeling at home.
Pick Up a New Hobby
You have a limited amount of time to spend on recreation in “the real world.” Don’t spend it all watching Netflix or napping. Do something that engages you mentally and gives you something to look forward to while you’re working long hours. It can be anything. I’ve had friends pick up everything from yoga to bass fishing. If it’s a new activity that you have some level of interest in, try it out. When the time you do have off from work is spent learning about something new, it keeps your outlook from getting stale.
It’s true that the real world is hard. Everyone whispering those warnings in your ear has a point. If you take your new life into your own hands and fill it up, you can have a great time in your post-grad life. The key is to actively look for ways to keep yourself occupied physically, mentally and socially beyond work. Balance will be harder to come by than it was in college, but the pursuit of it can be more rewarding.
Lane has been in the real world for about a year, have traveled Europe, and loves living and working in the Tar Heel State. Lane grew up in a tiny town, went to school at UNC and now living in Raleigh, North Carolina.