What Advice Would You Give Yourself As A New Graduate?
9:00 am, May 22nd | by Sarah Devlin
Sarah: Okay. It’s graduation week. I saw a bunch of purple-robed NYU grads on Monday morning and felt…I don’t know if “nostalgic” is the right word for how I feel about my just-out-of-college self, but I guess it’s the closest one?
I thought we could talk a bit about what our expectations for work/life were when we graduated, and how they changed. Even though you have been out of school for less time than I have, I still think of myself as “just out of college.” Which is dumb…BECAUSE I GOT ANOTHER DEGREE.
Colette: I think my “just out of college” grace period has come to an end. I’m pretty sure it works like the pageant system does..as soon as the next crop of wide-eyed and bikini-bodied grads hit the stage, all us reigning grads lose our crowns and others’ sympathy. Hence, when I saw my Facebook feed explode with graduation news, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and dread. The last thing I ever wanted was to be reminded that I have been out of college for a year and WHAT HAVE I EVEN DONE FOR THAT YEAR WHERE’S MY NOVEL I’M NOT LENA DUNHAM #SHAKINGANDCRYING
Sarah: Hahhahaha. I think everyone suffers from a certain expectations vs. reality letdown. Everyone has preconceived notions about what their jobs/lives will look like after school, and reality rarely matches up to the vision. Which, thank goodness!
Colette: Well, besides the whole dream of being Lena Dunham but a better Lena Dunham, I have no idea what my expectations were for work/life post-graduation…I encased myself in a bubble of wine and feelings during the last few months of school. My bubble was semipermeable: the only things that got in were memories and congratulatory claps on the shoulder; the only things that escaped were swan songs and unwanted smooches.
Sarah: Hahaha I knew I was heading to grad school, so graduation definitely had the feel of “Okay, now this is done, on to the next thing.” Which actually abated a lot of the anxiety I know people feel upon graduating from college (especially if you have a liberal arts degree). What I want to know is what wisdom would you impart to yourself (I know it’s only been a year, but these first few years change you a LOT) if you could go back in time?
Colette: Geez…well, I would probably drop a dusty tome called “Taxes for Dummies” onto my desk and just give myself a knowing/withering look. In fact, I think I would sit myself down, look myself in the eyes, and tenderly hold my hand while saying “Girl…you have to learn how financials work.” I thought having a checking account and savings account was the first and only step I had to take until I wanted to, say, buy a house or open a joint account with my fiance Chris O’Donnell of Batman & Robin fame. (Some dreams die hard.) As we’ve talked about before, upon graduating, I had no real working knowledge of credit cards or loan payments or debt. I figured that stuff would all sort of..take care of itself, like a Pokemon when placed in storage, when in fact, that stuff is more like a Tamogatchi or Furby: it knows when you haven’t been paying attention and IT DOESN’T LIKE IT and sometimes IT DIES.
Colette: …Yeah, that’s the best metaphor I could come up with.
Sarah: I think that’s smart! So many people graduate not really having worked in school or not really having a sense of how to budget, cook and clean on their own. I’m not looking down on those people at all, because there’s a learning curve for everyone! I do think people underestimate the stress of the transition from full time student to full time worker (and even though I went on to grad school I was working full time as well, so I definitely felt it).
Colette: Yeah. I was just so used to not having money or to the possession of money being such a fleeting, transitory experience that when I started working and receiving regular paychecks and had to begin paying off my loans..it was all so overwhelming.
Sarah: Hahahaha I feel like time changes when you’re out of school, too — you don’t have semesters/breaks to mark it in the same way so the weeks go by slowly but the years go by really fast. (Says the 25-year-old.)
Colette: YES! Absolutely! And I’ve had such a hard time structuring my time, trying to schedule in all of the activities or interests that I pursued in “clubs” or “extracurricular.” Real life is extracurricular! So when is it that I work on my writing or volunteer, etc., etc. ?
Sarah: Right. There’s a lot of administrative stuff that comes with “real” adulthood that you sort of take on as you go. How was finding a job for your after school ended?
Colette: Frustrating, which is normal for this cray cray economy (so my mother/friends’ mothers told me) (the term “cray cray economy” is from a PolySci class I took), but I also think was compounded by the fact that I graduated from an “elite” insitution. It seemed to me that the subtext during my four years studying there was “Don’t worry, your degree and this school’s name will be enough!” Well, in my experience, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to even get my emails responded to. Also, it’s difficult to graduate with a degree in the liberal arts from a liberal arts school that indoctrinated you to believe in learning for learning’s sake and then having to translate your degree into something concrete — essentially having to sell yourself. It was a strange transition.
Sarah: Right. Also, I think people are ill-prepared to accept the reality that most jobs are gotten through connections, rather than just on the strength of a resumé.
Colette: And that happened in my case — getting a job through connections, that is. Ladies helping ladies!
Sarah: Right! It’s not always a negative thing. We have the idea that it’s always, like, dads making their friends hire their kids or something (dumb example, but you know what I mean). Often it’s friends on the same level helping each other out.
Colette: Absolutely; I remember after a particularly devastating day in the job search phase just calling my mother and scolding her for not having enough friends. “I’m not going to get a job because we don’t have ‘family friends!’ FAMILY FRIENDS ARE ESSENTIAL IN AMERICA, MOM!”
Sarah: Hahahaha “How do I major in family friends?”
Colette: “Well, you have to take courses in ‘Awkward BBQs’ and ‘Mom, I don’t want to take him to prom! I still remember when he used to pee in the pool!’”
Ultimately I think the biggest thing is not to have expectations that are too high about how things are going to turn out. Because they are probably going to be frustrating and exhausting and expensive! But it’ll work itself out. Somehow . Right? RIGHT???
Colette: With a bottle of wine, everything works out. TERRIBLE ADVICE FROM COLETTE.
[Photo via Shutterstock]