One of the biggest things I realized after college, was just how much of life people make up as they go (and don't really admit). The path to success is often bumpy and the definition of success is something that can change too. I've been reflecting a lot on my career and what I want lately, which prompted me to think: If I could have given myself some advice when I graduated, what would that be? I came up with a few things that might be helpful to those transitioning into their first full-time job out of college.
make time for the things you love (that aren't work related)
I unfortunately learned this the hard way. After college, I dove into my first two jobs with the kind of vigor that resulted in staying late at the office all the time, taking work home and for a while, loosing myself outside of work. I spent extra time on details (that didn't have much effect on the big picture) and never made time for the hobbies that gave me actual joy. In contrast, my time in college was richly spent studying and working with different types of media, dabbling in photography, and regularly making time for nature and travel. Cut to working 8-5 pm (and then some) on a computer screen all day and suddenly I forgot what my interests were. The lines were especially blurred for me working in social media (my current job), because that's something I personally enjoy as well. My advice: hobbies are important! It's so valuable to hold onto what makes you happy outside of work, so that you don't suddenly become the kind of person who can't answer what interests they have.
[Note: this Darling Magazine article is worth a read!]
don't spend all your money on breaks with coworkers
This can sneak up on you without really realizing it. When I first started at a startup, we had a small team that spent a lot of time bonding (i.e. cue the happy hours, sushi stops, lunches and cocktails). It quickly became clear to me that my entry-level salary wasn't going to stretch for quite that much fun every week. My solution? Most the time I make food at home and save a lunch out for maybe twice a month. I can still go and hang out, but it's cheaper to grab a "liquid lunch" (even if it's just an iced tea) than dropping $15-20 on lunch all the time. I actually like making my own food anyway because it's typically healthier. #bonus
don't be afraid to ask for a raise or a higher starting salary
A career counselor once said to me, "If you get to the point where you're sitting there with a job offer, they need you more than you need them." She elaborated that it takes a lot to hire someone, so when you're in the acceptance phase, it's a good idea to practice negotiating for something (starting over and finding someone else is often a huge pain for employers). If a higher pay isn't within reach though, you can negotiate low-cost perks like work from home days, flexible schedules, an extra week of vacation, etc. In the bigger picture, there are a lot of things that don't affect your employer all that much, but can be a huge plus personally.
make a savings plan (Yes, it's still possible on an entry level salary)
Again, this often falls under the category of people making things up as they go. Not everybody grows up being taught how to handle their money well (or at all), so it's a good idea to take initiative to educate yourself and find a plan that works for you. You'll be better off than most if you can learn that right out of college. A couple of my favorite resources for all things money-related-for-novices are: Millennial Money Man, Dave Ramsey (totally cheesy, I know, but there are some solid ideas preached) + Gen Y Planning.
While I certainly don't want this post to end on a "wish I would have" note, I will say that taking chance gets harder once you settle into a job and get used to a steady paycheck. I don't feel terribly tied down yet, but I'm also probably not going to take off and teach a year in Asia anytime soon. It was surely a thought when I was fresh out of college though and something I'm also sure I wouldn't have regretted. The most equally fun and terrifying times in life are those "what if's" and it's not a bad idea to ensure you're taking enough chances in life to squash those potential regrets.
What are some tips you'd give to yourself after college, if you could?