Post-Grad Life: What to Expect When You Have No Expectations

If you’re reading this it’s probably because you’re either,

  1. Just about to graduate and enter the real world; or
  2. You’re my co-worker and you can’t get enough of my essay-long emails

I’m kidding.

A couple weeks ago I read an insightful blog post by Marina Khonaisser (a local marketing professional like myself whom I follow on the Gram) that resonated with me as I am also coming up on my one year post-grad anniversary. It’s hard to believe that one year ago I was applying for jobs left, right, and center, hoping to catch a bite with an employer who would hire me.

Instead of studying for exams I was applying for jobs. I accidentally signed up for the Premium subscription on LinkedIn, I wrote more than a dozen different cover letters, I constantly tweaked my resume, and I ordered my own business cards, which I typically passed on to recruiters at job fairs. I later realized the fate of this personal investment would end in the trash anyways.

Long story short, I had been waiting to hear from Employer A for 6 months and the day this boss calls me, I receive another job offer with Employer B. I was in a pickle to say the least, and had to decide on the spot whether I would take A or B. The thing is, I wasn’t expecting 2 job offers in one day. Make that 3; I had someone ask me to apply at some other place. Six months had passed and I had already given up hope that I would never be offered a job with Employer A.

Maybe it was the interview.

Maybe I just wasn’t good enough.

Maybe it was my availability since I had applied for it while I was still in school.

All these doubts came into my mind and I knew I shouldn’t keep all my eggs in one basket. This brings me to my first point…

1. Don’t keep your hopes up

I know this sounds discouraging, but it’s true. Whether it’s hoping to get a job at a large corporation, accounting firm, or the government–don’t focus on one company and one only, because the chances are, you’re not the only one applying.

As I mentioned, I was really banking on getting the job with Employer A since it was, and now is, an industry I am clearly familiar with and meant for. Employer B would have also been a great opportunity. Even getting the call almost blew my socks off. It’s like one in 100 applicants and they call me. And here I was not expecting anything, as I had learned, better not keep my hopes up.

2. You might gain weight

If you work an office job like me, expect to maybe put on a few extra pounds. Sweets, carbs, and other comfort food will circulate the office and it’s definitely hard to avoid. I know this because I work in marketing and sugar is the pick-me-up drug that keeps us creative.

Stay active and eat right as this will go hand in hand with your mental health. To coincide with this, you might find yourself becoming mentally exhausted as you learn new things and prove your worth at your new job. However, don’t let your new job consume your life and conversations with friends. Find a hobby you enjoy doing, and keep a positive group of friends to keep your sanity in check.

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3. You may need to learn how to budget

You’re probably thinking, “I’m swimming in student loan debt right now, how will I manage?” Don’t let the pay cheques fool you into thinking you’re rich. Allow for some honeymoon post-grad spending, but don’t go too crazy as you may be paying for it later. Set up some savings’ goals. Do you want to buy a car in the near future? Are you thinking of purchasing your own house in a couple years? Start saving now because you never know what curve-ball life will throw at you as you try to plan for your future. Things can change so quickly in 3,4 or 8 months. It’s important to plan for unexpected expenses, such as a car accident, vet bill, or loss of a job.

4. You’ll work with different personalities

Like in post-secondary, you’ll be expected to work with people who may or may not share the same opinions, ideas, or interests as you do. Maybe you’ll end up sharing the same birthday as someone, hint my co-worker. What are the chances of that? Heck they may even be much older than you. Have an open mind and practice active listening–it goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, but remember to be professional at the same time.

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5. Roll with the punches

Things might not always go your way, or changes may occur that you don’t like. That’s normal. It’s important to adapt to new circumstances and seek the positives even in tough situations. Find solutions when necessary, be flexible and cooperative, and don’t take criticism to heart–this will enable you to grow and learn.

6. You’ll learn to self-start

When I first started at my new job I had anxiety all the time, and often still do. How do I do this? Why am I not properly trained? What did I even learn in all those years in University? Why am I so inadequate at my job? Trust me, I know. Sometimes I have anxiety about writing an email. Go figure!

University doesn’t prepare you about each and every little thing that comes with working XYZ job. In school you’re taught to follow a rubric or set guidelines for said project. Sometimes you have the creative freedom to develop your own thesis for a research paper, but sometimes you don’t. Today you have to write about the Canadian Income Tax System and why it’s great for low income earners and crappy for high income earners. But what if the opposite is true tomorrow? This goes for work as well. Today you might analyze why last quarters’ expenses were up, but last year they were down–what factors contributed to this change? Data and other types of real-world information fluctuate over time. You might not always have the answers to your questions so you’ll need to improvise a bit and find what works for you.

Those overwhelming feelings of not knowing enough for your job will motivate you to learn more and self-start without even realizing it. Be proud of what you can accomplish while doing so, because it might pay off!

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I hope my advice didn’t bring you too down. Remember, have an open mind, ask more questions, and never stop learning.

– Steph xo

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