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A Whole Lot of Pomp and a Little Bit of Circumstance: One Year Post-Grad

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post that offered up some advice to graduating seniors as they prepared to enter what everyone ominously refers to as “the real world.” Now, as graduation weekend is just a week away, I want to take this time to reflect on some of the things I have learned since I walked across that graduation stage just one short year ago.

1. Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

I learned very quickly into my post-grad life that I wasn’t always going to get my way (shocker). Although I have a specific end-goal in mind for my career path, there have already been so many bumps in the road and instances that have temporarily thrown me off course. One of my favorite quotes by William Ernest Henley reads: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Old Ernie got that right! I don’t think he meant that we have complete control over every circumstance in our lives, but we do have control over how we handle it. We can get bent out of shape when things don’t go our way, or we can handle it with grace and figure out how to get back on track to achieving our goals. Either way, the decision is up to you.

2. Go to Sleep Earlier or Regret It Later

In college I know many of us take the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” approach, but those days are over. As I write this blog at 11 PM on a Tuesday night, I am mentally kicking myself in the head for staying up past my bedtime (which is 9:30, by the way). Call me a square, but sleep has become one of the most important aspects of my life. When you are not well-rested for your job, it shows. It shows in the work you produce, the way you interact with others, and your overall morale. So do yourself and everyone else a favor and actually go to bed at a decent time. Your body (and your coworkers) will thank you!

3. You Cannot Do It All

The real world isn’t like college where you can be president of your sorority, work a part-time job, write for the school newspaper, have a thriving social life, and have rock hard abs, all while being a full-time student. Let’s be realistic: you can’t do it all! I’m lucky if I can come home from working an 8+ hour day to actually cook myself dinner and make it to the gym most nights. Throw in the occasional happy hour and I’m booked! This is coming from the girl who is not only working full-time, but is also involved in my PRSA chapter and does photography on the side. I know I need to learn to say no and so do you! Give yourself a break and focus on just a few things until you get the hang of your post-grad life.

4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Are you jealous of that one girl who was in your marketing class who now works for a big-time agency or the guy who just moved to New York and is living a seemingly fabulous life? Don’t be! Where you are in life right now is okay, even if you aren’t loving your first job out of school or are lonely in a new city. You are on your own journey – a journey filled with experiences that are as unique as you are. Your experiences, even unfavorable ones, will help mold you into a capable, confident adult. As Teddy Roosevelt so boldly stated, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and there is far too much joy in life to worry about what anyone else is doing.

5. It’s Okay Not to Have It All Figured Out

At age 22 and 23, it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s okay to feel lost sometimes and to feel as if you’re spending your days chasing your tail instead of moving forward. At this age, you are not expected to have your life completely together. For my first three months after graduation, I came home every day from work and took a nap because I was so overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t even imagine working in such a high-stress environment every day, but eventually, I not only got used to it, but started to enjoy it. Right now, all you need to worry about is getting adjusted to your new environment (even if that means eating an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies to calm down after work) – the rest will come with time.

6. Learning Doesn’t Stop After College

Even though there is no more homework, or tests or quizzes, your days of learning are never over. If you stopped allowing yourself to learn new skills, you’d never make it past your entry-level job or internship. Although your new job will give you an excellent opportunity to learn hands-on, I encourage you to attend as many webinars and conferences as possible to make sure that you are staying up-to-date with the latest trends and information. If you look at extremely successful CEOs or entrepreneurs, you will realize one thing: successful people never stop learning. So while other people are complacent, keep pushing yourself to learn as much as you can, so you can become a valuable asset to a company.

7. Work Isn’t Everything

One of the scariest realizations that I still grapple with is that I will essentially be working for the next 40-something years of my life. Every day, getting up at 6:30, going to work, coming home, going to bed, and then doing it all over again… forever. To make this seem a little less daunting, I encourage you to make a life for yourself outside of work. Don’t get so wrapped up in your job that you forget about your hobbies. Try setting goals for yourself outside of work, like training for a half-marathon, learning to cook more than just ramen noodles, or trying to read one book a month. Your personal life (and your sanity) are important so make sure you are setting aside plenty of time to make yourself happy.

So to all of the seniors who are afraid to look beyond your last four years – there is a new adventure waiting for you once you step across that stage. This will be a formative year for you. Many things that you’ve grown accustomed to will change, but don’t let that dampen your spirit. You will have plenty of bad days, but I promise that there will be so many good days that far outweigh the bad. Remember: you are the master of your fate. Now get out there and be an adult!

This blog is courtesy of Abbey Theban and first appeared on The Vandiver Group blog. It is cross-posted here with permission. Abbey is an assistant account executive at The Vandiver Group. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia with an emphasis in strategic communication and a minor in business. She also serves on the communications committee for PRSA-St. Louis. You can find her on Twitter @abbey_TEE.

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