Imagine spending four of the most important years of your life in a small town, getting comfortable, and solely existing in a bubble. You meet your closest friends (who are only blocks away), you learn all the restaurants and bars, and have hours every day, as well as breaks throughout to year to explore whatever peaks your interest. Then you get ripped out of that bubble and thrown into an unknown city with hundreds of thousands of strangers. That’s how it feels to graduate college, and nothing can prepare you for the experience.
I don’t believe the best thing college offers isn’t a world class education, it’s a sense of community. I didn’t go to Virginia Tech alone, I went with thousands of other Hokies who went through the same struggles I did. No matter if I did poorly on an assignment, had relationship struggles, or didn’t know what my next step in life was, there was always someone else I could relate to going through the same thing. Saturday’s were an event, the entire town lit up for a football game. I could walk home from the bars at 2am and not worry about what area I was in or if anyone would confront me, it was home. At Virginia Tech I like to think that community feeling is even a little tighter than other schools. We all gather in April to honor the 32 students who died in the tragic shooting, bonding together as one.
When you graduate, you leave that community behind and have to search for a new one. I’ve moved to Washington DC which might be the most divisive city in the country, there is no community. The closest I’ve felt is at a Knicks game in New York, I could tell that city comes together for sporting events, unlike mine. The most popular team in DC is the Redskins, a name known more for controversy than actual football at this point.
Even the smallest things become big when you graduate, finding an affordable, usable gym has been a nightmare. I’ve even tried out three different grocery stores, which is a sign of becoming an adult. I’ve had to learn how to use the metro and navigate a city.
With all of that being said, graduating is awesome! I can now afford nice clothes that fit me, I’m a partial season ticket holder of the Wizards, and I’ve gotten to visit New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Miami in a 3 month span.
Perhaps the strangest part of graduation is having virtually unlimited freedom. Every time I make a big purchase I still think in my head to talk to my parents about it to make sure it’s ok. I texted my Dad before spending over $100 on a Knicks ticket just to make sure it was the dumbest use of my money (it wasn’t). In college we’re under adult supervision from our parents at home, and university staff at school.
When you go through the crazy months following college graduation and moving to new city, you learn things. Here’s what I’d recommend to anyone dealing with a fresh start after college.
Find Your Small Communities
You probably won’t encounter another large tight knit community like you did when you were at school. You will however encounter smaller communities that can be just as rewarding. A good resource for this is Meetup.com. I was looking for a basketball group when I graduated and stumbled upon the NoVa Basketball Meetup and started playing with a group of 50 or so people every Sunday. Through that I got invited to a weekly basketball group of 15 people who play at local High Schools. Now I have a nice pick-up basketball community I can play with most days of the week.
The other community you’ll find is at your work. Most people find their way into a group of similar aged co-workers. I work at a company with less than 10 people so we’re almost like one big family. It’s great to be able to feel like you’re apart of a team when you go to work, not just a cog in the machine.
There’s other numerous communities you’ll find yourself in whether it be your neighborhood, gym friends, or even just old college buddies. Make sure you stay connected to these groups, take some initiative, and always look for new opportunities. Maybe you’ll meet someone from your basketball group who will invite you to their happy hour, and the rest is history.
Carefully Choose Your Living Situation
The first roommate I had after college deserves to be an episode on “Roommates From Hell”, it was the worst week of my life (I got yelled at for throwing away a banana peel). I was rushed into picking a roommate and living situation and didn’t do my research. I had a terrible roommate and lived in one of the worst areas of Northern Virginia, simply by accident.
Your location after college is more important than you think. At school we’d complain if we had to pick someone up from Maple Ridge, which is literally 1/4th of a mile away from other apartments. I’m in a situation now to where if I want to go to a pre-game at a friends house it’s a 30 minute Uber ride. If you aren’t careful you’ll try to save on rent and miss out on a huge social opportunity. The whole point of living in a city is to experience everything it has to offer, you won’t be able to if you’re saving money living 45 minutes away. You’ll quickly find yourself going to work and watching Netflix every night.
This might be the most important part of transitioning into the working world, you have to stay curious. In college there would be weeks I’d have no tests, no homework, and cancelled classes. I could spend the entire week, hours a day, researching any topic I pleased. If I decided I wanted to have an advanced knowledge of Google Analytics I could spend as much time as I wanted studying, researching, and taking online classes. I would read more than I have in my life entire life senior year just because I had the time. You literally have an entire month off during winter to do whatever you’d like.
Once you begin the 40 hour work week, along with other duties, being curious takes a backseat. I can’t tell you how many people have asked why I don’t blog anymore, it’s because I wasn’t inspired and felt I didn’t have the time. My last semester of college I had so much to say I couldn’t type fast enough. I simply didn’t have anything to say when I graduated, I was deep into a working routine. A normal day I’ll spend 9-5:30 at work. Get home from the gym around 7. After 8 hours of work and an hour at the gym how many people want to do anything but sit around and watch TV? All of the possibilities and dreams from college have now shifted into the box you’ve put yourself into at work.
It’s necessary that you break this grind and find time to be curious. For me it’s listening to new podcasts. I got sucked into my sports podcast cycle, just recycling topics and not hearing anything out of the ordinary. I now listen to podcasts that ask tough questions, analyze creatives and industry leaders, and teach me something new every day.
This could also be just switching up your routine once a week and taking a walk around your town after work. Find a way to keep improving and learning new things.
Embrace Being Young
It’s weird going from the oldest age group in college to the youngest in the working world. It doesn’t matter if I’m at a conference, playing basketball, at a bar, or meeting with clients, I’m always the youngest person. You’ll hear about how young you are it will make you feel inadequate, but you should feel the opposite. Since I’ve started working in business I’ve realized how valuable youth is to a company. The biggest killer of businesses is when they get too complacent and stuck in old ways, you give them an opportunity to change that.
When I first got out of school I had no confidence, I hated being young. Now I’ve learned that being young means 1) no one really expects you to be able to do anything, so you can impress easily and 2) we’re the ones closest to the culture, we know where things are going. Every single business is focused on attracting millennials and getting our attention, being one makes you immediately valuable to a company, embrace that.
Lastly, remember to take a deep breathe every now and then. It’s easy to get lost in the hectic first few months getting acclimated to a new city and forget to relax. The same way your freshman year isn’t an accurate representation of college, your first year out of school won’t be a representation of the rest of your life. It’s okay if your first job doesn’t meet expectations, or you aren’t sure if you picked the right city. You have all the time in the world to make things right, don’t freak out if you have a bad day, month, or year.
Thank you for sticking with me while I figure everything out, I hope to have more pieces coming as we round out 2017. If you’d like to get new post delivered directly to your inbox, please fill out the form below.