All the hard truths you learn after graduating from WFU

‘I envisioned a Carrie Bradshaw-esque lifestyle and endless parties in the city’

After graduating from Wake Forest this spring, I was optimistic about my future. I bid “adios” to gross fraternity parties, late nights at the library and resumé padding.

Instead, I envisioned a Carrie Bradshaw-esque lifestyle with a fabulous group of girlfriends, a steady writing job, endless parties in the city and, maybe if I worked hard enough, a pair of Jimmy Choos.

I probably should have watched HBO’s Girls before Sex and the City because the postgraduate struggle is real.

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Along with severe budget constraints (unless you have some gem of a six-figure starting salary), you face long bouts of loneliness without the convenience of having your friends on campus. You assemble furniture, set up a checking account, find employment and learn how to save.

I experienced all of this and more after deciding to move to a new city to attend graduate school and possibly find work. All of a sudden, I was Lena Dunham – not Sarah Jessica-Parker.

But while there are many struggles, anyone can find a solution, and if any willing postgrad is open to these suggestions, you might find the “real world” offers just as great of an education as university does.

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Budget

Budgeting is a huge struggle for me, since money always seems to burn a hole in my pocket. More likely than not, you have an entry-level salary that will require major lifestyle adjustments.

What helps me is making an Excel spreadsheet of all my expenses: groceries, transportation and social outings. I limit going out to eat at restaurants twice a week and cook or prepare my meals at home to bring to class or work.

I recommend subscribing to healthy websites like Skinnytaste. For the weekends, if you want to treat yourself to dinner, there are apps that provide discounts to certain restaurants. An app I use is Spotluck.

Once you start working, you start to see the value of a hard-earned dollar. Never let it go to waste. Treat yourself, but at a minimum.

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Network

While I’m excited to be in graduate school (not exactly undergrad part II), I know I inevitably have to hustle back to finding a “real job.” But since I am in a bigger city and take classes at a notable university, I use this as an opportunity to expand my network.

If you are a postgrad who is in grad school or has a job, I commend you. However, we all know how fast today’s marketplace evolves. Research shows millennials will have at least 15-20 different jobs over the course of their career. With this evidence, you constantly need to grow your network so you have people who know and remember your name if you ever decide to apply for a job in their company.

Start by connecting with people on LinkedIn and requesting an informational interview over the phone or in person. Send out emails with your resume, clips or samples of your work attached.

Networking can also be helpful socially. If there are university alumni events in your city, go. That instantly gives you a place to meet new people if you are moving to a new city alone.

Explore

If there is ever a time to be selfish or to pursue what you want to do, it’s now! More likely than not, a recent postgrad is unmarried with no children. The only commitment you have is to yourself. If you have dreams or items on your bucket list, chase them now and don’t wait.

Explore your city, read interesting books, take a tai-chi or yoga class or learn how to make sushi. You’re young, energetic and the world is your oyster.

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Learn how to be alone

What makes college so unique is the chance to be surrounded by your friends 24/7. A lot of postgraduates often feel lonely after transitioning from a social bubble to a greater world. While there are many ways to find friends (apps, university networking events, your apartment, church, the gym, etc), I think one easy solution to this problem is learning how to be alone or for a better word, independent.

What I love about being a 20-something single girl is having the ability to pick up and move wherever I want – it was how I was able to go to graduate school, find work and make new friends. But I couldn’t do it without feeling confident and secure in myself.

Often, the best relationships we have to have is with ourselves. Don’t be afraid to travel to a museum, movie or take a walk alone – it’s often the best thinking time and you learn that you are enough on your own.

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Have faith

In this world of “go, go, go” I have an incessant need for achievement whether it’s completing my work successfully, networking, cleaning my apartment, or expanding my writing portfolio.

What most millennials struggle with is learning how to succeed without instant gratification. We live in an on-demand economy that demands fast and easy delivery. However, success is different – it’s a process that often requires years of sacrifice, experience and plain hard work.

If you are in an entry-level position, paid internship, or still a student like myself, know you are in the place you are supposed to be. No job is below you, stay humble and simply do your work well. Take 10 minutes out of your day to walk or reflect and remember you are young and you have the rest of your life to achieve. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?

Keep walking forth in those boots, grasshopper…until the day we can get our own Jimmy Choos.

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