I graduated university in the spring of 2020. After four years studying and participating in extracurriculars, it was finally time to enter what many people call “the real world” of post grad life. I didn’t know what to expect, but was proud of what I accomplished and ready for something new.
Aspects of life after graduation I wasn’t prepared for
Post-grad life has certainly been different from student life thus far. I’ve hopped around from different jobs, done more interviews than I can count, moved to a new apartment, and debated changing career paths.
The surprising, confusing, and sometimes defeating trials of post grad life while not always fun, have been necessary learning experiences. In fact, I’m not sure there are many learning opportunities before graduation that will ever have the same impact as the reality your life afterwards.
Regardless, there were some notable aspects of post grad life that I can definitively say I wasn’t prepared for. And in the hopes of making others in my position feel less alone, or providing some hints for people about to graduate, here are 7 of those things.
The reality of student loan payments
Going into university, I was aware of the loans I was relying on. Each year I applied for funding and kept the total amount I was accumulating in the back of my mind. But, I was mainly too busy in my day to day student life to really sit with the reality of paying back my loans once I graduated.
I worked all throughout my studies, but never set any money aside in savings. I knew I’d have to pay the money back eventually, but the “how” of it wasn’t emphasized. It’s a good idea to research how to pay off student loans before you graduate, and I wish I’d taken this seriously before I delved into repayment without a set plan in mind.
Job interviews have more to offer than an employment opportunity
At this point, I’ve done my fair share of job interviews. And while plenty of them didn’t end with me getting a new job, I often didn’t leave empty handed in terms of experience and connections.
Job interviews can be hard work. You have to prepare to sell yourself, articulate your experiences, and establish a connection with the interviewer. And sometimes there are follow up interviews or assignments you must complete too.
All this being said, even if you don’t get the job, job interviews are important opportunities to gain experience from. I mostly expected defeat after failed job interviews, but I realized they weren’t failures in time.
Interviews allow you to build connections for future employment opportunities. You also get a lay of the land for the industry you’re interested in. You start to gather useful information that better prepares you in your continued job hunt.
Your finances will change
Even if they don’t.
You might still have similar financial responsibilities post grad, but without the cloud of schoolwork over your head, it can feel like a whole new adult world. Sometimes, even just the added stress of paying back loans is enough to change your personal finances drastically.
A year and a half after graduating, my budget and savings methods look quite different from when I was a student. Now I budget to pay my student loans, save to protect myself from the chance of potential unemployment, and even access things that were once free to me as a student, like counselling and a gym membership.
You might not get a job in your field
There’s no guarantee that you’ll get a job in your field after graduation. Whether you take on a similar position that isn’t quite what your degree prepared you for, or you’re completely in a different field of work, your post grad job might surprise you.
I think I knew, in the back of my mind, that I wouldn’t find a writing job right off the bat from graduation. But I also had a sense of “it’ll all work itself out” optimism. And in the long run, I do believe this.
But it’s been a year and a half since I graduated and after a long search and too many interviews to count, I’ve ended up in a much different field, not for lack of trying. I was truly unprepared for this reality.This is why it took me so long into my job search to accept it and consider other options.
You have to market yourself
I didn’t make a LinkedIn profile until around the last year of my undergrad. And once I had graduated, I realized just how important it is to have platforms and opportunities where you can market yourself. LinkedIn, for me, was the first and most important platform I had to do this.
Whether through LinkedIn or your own website or portfolio, it’s important to have something online that showcases your work and experience so potential employers can view it or come across your credentials when hiring. I’ve been reached out to multiple times based on my listed experience and work samples online.
Additionally, attending industry events and talks gives you the chance to network with people in your field. But, what makes these learning experiences extra valuable is the chance it gives you to talk yourself up.
So, actively marketing yourself is key. I didn’t expect to have to boast my achievements, but it really is important. Being early on in my career, my imposter syndrome often tells me not to market myself. Overcoming that roadblock has taken me a while.
You might change your career path
While it might seem daunting, the possibility of a new career path can also be exciting. Depending on what you’ve studied, a changed career path could mean anything from seeking further education to entry-level work or even starting your own business.
In university I studied writing, which is one of the things I’m most passionate about. And while I’ll always be a writer in many shapes and forms, I wasn’t prepared for the post grad reality that hit me: I don’t want my passion to be my job. This might work for some people, but as I spent time writing for work and applying for more jobs, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted.
It’s a tough reality to accept, and it definitely took me by surprise. But ultimately, I’m glad I leaned into this realization and I think it’s important to challenge hesitancy in those moments. Most importantly, it doesn’t mean your prior education is going to waste. Every experience helps you build new skills and talents that you can carry into the next chapter of your life.
It can be hard to keep following your dreams after graduation
This is probably the thing I was least prepared for. When you’re in university, it can feel like you’re in a bubble protecting you from the future. But of course, when you graduate, that bubble pops.
Finding the motivation to continually trying to achieve what you want can be hard when you’re so new at it. But you have to be patient with yourself.
As a still-recent-post-graduate, I’ve adapted, but there are still roadblocks and hurdles I face. The point is, to continue to be excited about your career and future as you learn these lessons and build yourself up from them.