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7 Things I Learned When My College Fantasies Met My Grown Up Realities

April 9, 2009

moving_girlLife’s clichés retold by a recent college grad

Everything I learned, I Learned in Kindergarten
Face it, by graduation day we’ve spent at least 17 years in school – some of us more, and some less. We’ve pretty much mastered the art of coloring inside the lines, spelling Mississippi, and filling in test bubbles with a #2 pencil; but the real world requires that we now master a different set of skills. Regardless of your career path, nothing is more important than the lessons you learned in those first few years. Be polite, help others, and always share.

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees…

Everyone’s heard the saying – but it never quite sank in until the day I moved into my first “grown up” apartment, and out of my parent’s wallets. Being an adult is expensive, and apartments are just the beginning. My tip for recent grads: save at least 10-20% of each paycheck, and be ready to give up the flamboyancies of college life. The real world is expensive and with today’s economy, you can’t afford to take on too much debt.

For Every Cloud there is a Silver Lining
Right now is a scary time, and with the economy in constant flux and jobs lessening by the hour it’s easy to wallow in self pity. Don’t! If you come into a situation with a negative attitude it will affect those around you. Just because you didn’t get your dream job the first time around – doesn’t mean that this job can’t be wonderful. Take each mistake as a lesson learned, each project as an opportunity to grow, and each pay check with a shot of tequila…

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
You’ve found it – the perfect job. You’ve applied, accepted the offer, and now it’s your first day at work… suddenly you feel like Caty form Mean Girls, eating lunch in the bathroom by yourself. If you put a job up on a pedestal, it has no where to go but down. If you go into any job understanding that there will be a learning curve, no question is stupid, and you won’t be great right away – you’ll do just fine. Remember, even Bill Gates had to start somewhere.

Think Outside the Box
Being an adult requires you to think creatively. You will work with people from different backgrounds and with different ideas… this is a good thing. Being successful in any career is positively related to your ability to think freely, quickly, and creatively. Remember – the easiest choice is not always the right choice.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm… and Doesn’t “Snooze” Their Alarm Clock
Nothing is “fair” when you’re an adult. You will work long hours, you will get up early and get home late, and your life will consist of eating in front of the TV, catching up on news via E! Newsbreaks, and going to bed before college kids have cracked open their first Natty light. It’s very easy to let this get you down – believe me, I know. Just try to remember you’re helping your team, and proving to your superiors that you’re willing to get the job done, even if that means missing tonight’s American Idol. If you work hard – you will see results.

The World is Your Classroom
In a few weeks you’ll walk across a stage and move your tassel from the left to the right (or was it the right to the left…who really knows). You will shake the hand of your college dean and walk blindly into the REAL WORLD. Are you ready?

Above I included a few clichés that have helped me through the past year, and I hope they do the same for you. Just remember – if you stop learning the day you put your cap and gown on, then what’s the point? Go into every opportunity with the expectation that you will take something meaningful out of it. Never be afraid to ask questions, and always be willing to help someone out. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself by how ready you actually are.

Courtney Hodge Manning is a 2008 graduate of James Madison University. She is currently working at a public relations, marketing, and advertising firm in Alexandria, VA. She enjoys traveling, writing, and all things JMU. She currently resides in Springfield, VA with her husband and cat, Mac.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 9, 2009 3:11 pm

    All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a book by Robert Fulghum. Great book of jottings by a Unitarian minister. Definitely read it.
    Thought I’d give him credit where credit is due- the chapters of his book are the headings of the post…..

  2. Trisha permalink
    April 9, 2009 3:26 pm

    This will be an article I keep in my desk at work! It def puts the real world into perspective, honest yet not gloomy. Great post!

  3. Meg permalink
    April 9, 2009 5:44 pm

    Thanks for this post COurtney. I am soo going to miss the college life but it is time for me to grow, everyone has to. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Courtney permalink
    April 13, 2009 4:00 pm

    Thanks for recommending the book. I’ve actually read excerpts from it and found it very interesting – will have to pick it up and read the whole thing!

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