Post College Lessons

I have been away from the college scene (though when I was really in it) for about a year now.  When I left and graduated college I thought my life would be pretty much figured out.

I didn’t want to go to grad school…so I’d get a job…back in VA…maybe…just not upstate NY.  Well here it is, a year later and I finally left New York state.  It took a while and I absolutely loved my job but that is not what this post is about.

It’s about what I have learned in my year away from college and taking courses.  Yes, I worked at a college but I wasn’t sitting in lecture halls and going to class anymore…I was…on the other side.  (complete with my own faculty parking pass)

For starters, when you graduate everyone is nervous.

 You are not alone. 

You are not a failure. 

You will not have the flexibility of college classes.

You will not have yourself together.  (I know I still don’t).

Take a deep step back and say “Am I truly happy?”.  For me, it isn’t that I despise New York State or am miserable.  It’s the fact that I right now I have the flexibility to move somewhere that makes me happy and look for a job.  I’m not gridlocked into a contract and why search and apply for a job in NY when I know I would be happier somewhere else.  The key word is happier.

Unless you are going STRAIGHT into grad school…you probably have no idea what you are going to do and have not secured a full time dream job.  (I haven’t and I fully admit that I’m living with my parents at glorious age 22 for a while I continue my quest.)

I can’t give you any advice because I certainly don’t have the credentials to do that but I’m currently applying and looking everywhere.  You never know who can help you when and I never realized the power of networking until now.

The thought of graduating college is so overwealming (and honestly it still is for me too) but just know you are not alone.  Your friends are stressed and worried about full time careers just as much as you are.

Questions for you:

What did you learn post college?

If you are in college, what are your plans afterwards?

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  1. I love this post, and you’re so right. The first year out of college is hard. It was the hardest year of my life so far. I won’t go into great details, but I was at the doctor constantly, heavily medicated, and had to take a medical leave from my first job (looking back, the stress they placed on me was too much for an entry-level employee fresh out of college, I could probably handle it now, 5 years later, but not then). I laugh at the Taylor Swift song 22 because it was such a horrible, hard year! But I lived and I learned a lot from it. I ended up with another job as well, the first one just was not going to work out.

    I think the most difficult thing for me was that college has an end, and after college, you don’t always have that. In college, if you have a class you don’t like, you can look at the end of the semester to see the light and you’re done with it. It’s not that easy if you’re on a project at work you don’t like, you probably can’t get off of it, or if you have a job you don’t like. If you have a boss you don’t like you can’t just not take classes with them like a professor, you know? That was the hardest adjustment for me, I think.

  2. What a great post! (I like your blog layout!) I think everyone that graduates college should read things like this. Most importantly, no one is alone in feeling scared. 🙂

  3. I’m still early on in my college career so I really appreciate posts like this from more experienced people. I think no matter what I do after college I will probably go through that phase of anxiety and feeling like a failure. I definitely had a moment of that after high school even though I graduated top of my class… It has more to do with the fear of the unknown I think, and being worried that nothing will come my way.

    It’s great to hear that you still feel flexible in what you want to do. That’s something that’s always in the back of my mind– What if I get stuck in a job I hate? But really, we always have choices.

    To answer your question about my plans after college, I hope that one of the internships that I participate in over my summers between semesters will turn into something more. I’m not sure if that’s ambitious or naive, but for now that’s what I’m thinking.

    1. Don’t mistake me as experienced in any regards but I appreciate that! I know a few people that have had job offers from internships so I’d never rule that out. You also learn so much more through experience then in your courses!

  4. Yes, networking is huge. It’s all about connections and who you know. What I didn’t expect was how tough the transition from college to the real world would be–wish someone gave me a heads up! 😉 Not going to lie, I was a little jealous of my friends who went straight to grad school; they knew exactly what they wanted to do, and continuing their education was the next step.

  5. YES to everything that you said. Adjusting from college life to the real world has been very difficult. I’m two years out, and I’m still not sure what the hell I’m doing with myself.
    I keep job-hopping, I’m single as a dollar bill and I’m not really sure what I want out of life for certain. I change my mind about things every single day. One day, I want to move. The next, I decide that I’m content in Pittsburgh. So on and so forth.
    I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned (and I’m still trying to apply) is that everyone’s path is different. Comparing yourself to other people your age gets you nowhere. I’m going to be 24 soon and I still feel so lost. There are 24 year olds out there who are totally content and settled. Different strokes for different folks…

  6. at 22 I just changed my major to something else because what I was doing wasn’t in any shape or form making me happy at all. Thanks for posting this and reminding me there are so many different paths. I actually want to do community health and do grad school nursing.

  7. What I’ve learned post-college: it’s ok to move on if your not happy-in most cases you probably should. The quality of life is more important than money. It’s also ok not to know what your career path is after graduation….there’s so much to do and to try out in this world explore!! And finally…. If you have an opportunity to travel abroad-jump on it. Don’t let it pass you by. The opportunity may never come again.

  8. Great post, Hollie! It’s nice to hear that I don’t have to have it all together like people expect when I graduate. I’m always asked what my plans are and I just don’t know haha.

  9. Great but scary post! I have one year left of college and I have no idea what I want. I always get asked and I never know what to say! I know most graduates don’t have a clue what they want but it’s always nice to hear it! xo

  10. I’m going to leave you with the dear words of Baz Luhrman……Love this song.

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97.
    Wear sunscreen.
    If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
    The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
    I will dispense this advice now.

    Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
    But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked…
    You’re not as fat as you Imagine.

    Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
    The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.
    The kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

    Do one thing everyday that scares you.


    Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


    Don’t waste your time on jealousy;
    Sometimes you’re ahead,
    Sometimes You’re behind.
    The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

    Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults;
    If you Succeed in doing this, tell me how.

    Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


    Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
    The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

    Get plenty of calcium.

    Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

    Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
    Whatever you do, don’t Congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either.
    Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.
    Enjoy your body, Use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people Think of it,
    It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own…

    Dance… even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

    Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

    Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

    Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
    Someday your spirit will take you and guide you there
    I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there
    For you.
    And I’ll be there, just tell me now, whenever I can.
    Everybody’s free.

    Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

    Be nice to your siblings;
    They are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

    Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.
    Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

    Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard;
    Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


    Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will Philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

    Respect your elders.

    Don’t expect anyone else to support you.
    Maybe you have a trust fund, Maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

    Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

    Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

    But trust me on the sunscreen…

  11. I think figuring out life post-graduation is so, so difficult. I did the take a year off and go back to school thing, and I still have absolutely no idea. I definitely don’t have it all together, but I just have to trust that it’ll all fall into place one day.

  12. Well this is like the first post I have no clue about haha, thankfully I don’t have to think about grad school for 6 yrs, kill me now argghhhh! Actually came here to post this… I’ve just nominated you for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I hope you’ll accept it haha yes one of those, I was suppose to nominate 15 people, but I only wanted to nominate special people like you and a few others. The rules are suppose to be put the Logo on your page, link back to the person who nominated you and then you nominate 15 others. 🙂

  13. I am definitely in the process of figuring out what I’m going to do considering the career I chose may not be the career I’m able to do in the future. Fingers crossed I can, but I’m currently freaking out about the “what ifs”. What else is new? 😛 I think it’s harder, too, because you don’t have the ease of going to classes and being busy. Well, I know you have a job and don’t have a lot of down time, but I think the down time when you have time to think is the worst post-grad. And you’re right, you’re not alone. I’m not alone. It just is part of the process.

    1. We are in such similar shoes right now…I don’t know what exactly I want to do but I want to do something. What that even means who knows. It’s hard because no one really prepares you for the shock that comes with the real world. It is and never will be streamlined.

  14. This is more post-house which came post-college. But I wish I had waited to build a house and had moved out of state and worked somewhere with a better job market, higher pay, warmer weather etc. I have a great job, and I stayed for a reason, but I should have explored more after graduating. Good for you for doing what makes you happy!

  15. I’ve learned that I really love being on my own and I don’t ever care to move back home. I have enjoyed finding my way in the world, though I am still working at it!

  16. I’m in Grad School and still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I don’t know if some people ever fully figure that out, but I think doing what makes you happy in the moment is very important. If you know you can be happier elsewhere or doing something else, go for it. life is too short to waste time not being happy.

  17. Dangit, Laura beat me to the punch… I was going to mention Baz Luhrman! Anyways, the biggest thing I learned post college is that I have no idea what I’m doing, and neither do 99.67% of other people. But it’s better to do something, no matter what it is, than do nothing. New opportunities come up, each experience is something you can learn from, taking chances is never wasteful. I’m not sure we can ever have it all figured out, – we just do our best to figure things out along the way.

  18. i honestly think you have a good head on your shoulders, it is all about not feeling like you have to do something. whatever it is. giving yourself the space to explore – which I think we all are doing right now

  19. SO much truth. My first year out of college has also been hard. My job is stressful and isn’t what I want to be doing, but it’s a stepping stone to a more fulfilling career in the related field I really want to be in (or that’s what I keep telling myself anyway). Networking is absolutely a huge part of that. I always try to keep my network “warm” by keeping LinkedIn updated, emailing updates to my connections in higher places, scheduling informational interviews and whatever. You never know when it will come in handy.

    But it sounds like you know what to do, and I hope it turns out well! 🙂

  20. Great post! You definitely will figure things out, though you never really 100% figure everything out as life is ever evolving.

    I didn’t really have these feelings because I got my full-time job while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree. I got my master’s degree while working full-time as well. Mike on the other hand experienced these feelings because it took him some time to get on his feet (though I was there for him and would never have let him flounder) and find a job he loves. And now we live a lifestyle that we love, and we’re still figuring everything else out 🙂

  21. Ha, I went straight to grad school post college because I assumed I knew what I wanted to do and it would work out. It didn’t. I lived at home for about a year from 22-23. If I hadn’t fallen into good fortune with landing my current job, I’d still be living there. And if I hadn’t fallen into more good fortune within that job, I would have had to move back home after my ex and I broke up.

    As planned as people think life is or how perfect they try to make it, it’s never going to happen. I thought I had it all planned out down to buying a house, marriage, and kids… and nothing went as planned.

  22. This post couldn’t have come at a better time actually. Even though I’m only in my second year of college I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my future lately and it’s been causing major increases in my anxiety. Just fear of the unknown and being out on my own, independent for the first time scares the crap out of me for some reason. I just feel unprepared and incapable of providing for myself. Everything seems very uncertain and sometimes I just feel very inadequate compared to other people who seem to have it all figured out. It’s nice to know that other people have felt the same things and are in the same boat.

  23. I learned that moving to a new state is SCARY but it has the potential to be an amazing experience. I loved Ohio but I’m SO glad I moved to Virginia. It got me out of my comfort zone, and made me realize how much else is out there!

  24. AMEN. PS I’m 24 and lived with my parents for the past year..not sure what EXACTLY I want to do with my life…so yeah. It happens. The only thing I know is a definite is i’m getting married next summer…that’s a start right? When I was 18 I really thought at age 24 I would definitely have shit figured out by now. do i? NOPE. oh well…one day at a time…

  25. Great post! I’m in my 30’s and STILL don’t have it all figured out. The older you get I think the more you realize that noone has it all figured out. Life is such an incredible journey. Just try to soak up all the experiences along the way!

  26. You have every clue at how much this hits me because we have spoken about my fears of the future and where my life will go. Honestly Hollie you are quite wise and college students and grads could learn a lot from your ongoing journey

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