Guest Post by Sara Dougherty

One year ago, I had just submitted my last final exam of my undergraduate career. Hello, real world! I am ready for you; at least I thought I was.

If any of you are like me, you have recently been greeted by the stinging slap of the working world. People are telling you left and right about how excited they are to watch your life officially begin; throwing advice in your direction whether you want it or not. While I have received much advice from people I cherish, an array of different professionals; there are some things that you can only learn through personal experience.

5 Real-World Lessons from a Recent Graduate

After reflecting over my first year post-grad, I have discovered a few things I have already learned to do better:

1. Networking! I used to think that getting a job based solely on what I know would be the coolest, most self-validating thing ever. Now that I have rent and bills, I realize that getting a job using both what and WHO I know is just as cool and self-validating. Getting hired today is about networking. Don’t neglect those career fairs or alumni events. If you meet someone who is “career goals” for you, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself because you are feeling shy. You never know where the conversation could lead. Use your connections to help others as well. If you help someone, they will be more inclined to help you in the future.

2. No one holds your hand in the real world. Most of the time, you are the only one who will ask how you’re doing at the end of the day. For, maybe, the first time in your life you are 100% responsible for everything you do or don’t do. No one is sitting beside you, sweetly advising you to stop watching Netflix and apply to more jobs. No one is reminding you to set your alarm or get your car inspected. And no one is going to tell you to spend your money on groceries instead of concert tickets. The only one who will do those things for you now is yourself. Don’t let yourself down. You can conquer adulthood responsibilities with lots of lists, time management, and good budgeting skills.

3. Let others critique and mold who you want to be as a professional. This year began with an overwhelming amount of free advice. Over time, it has been freely given less and less. When your boss evaluates you, it is not to damage your ego. They are trying to better you. Do not ever take criticism at a job personally. Instead, welcome it with open arms and an open mind. You are young, imperfect, and you need the help of others to grow in any workplace.

4. Be persistent. Don’t let the silence of the fifty jobs you’ve applied for keep you from continuing to put yourself (and your resume) out there. The working world is a competitive place. Be a competitor. Always remember that it only takes one interview to transition from coffeehouse resident to a full-time employee. Keep going!

5. The little things make a big difference. They make you memorable. Take time to prepare yourself for any job interviews by learning about your potential employer, the company’s values, and they’re mission ahead of time. Have a go-to interview outfit that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Have questions prepared for the interviewer. This small effort will make them believe you have invested in what they can offer you as much as they have invested in what you can offer them. Send handwritten thank you notes in an electronic world. Do the little things that others forget. They will make a big and lasting impression.

All of these lessons were learned the hard way. As the stinging reality of the working world begins to wear off, I’ve realized that we are never truly ready for the bumps and bruises of the real world. We just have to take the advice we have been given, either by ourselves or someone else and keep on keeping on.

What are some lessons that have helped you succeed that you have learned through personal experience?

Guest Post

Sara DoughertySara Dougherty is an eclectic millennial seeking to create change in her generation by facilitating productive conversations and listening to others. As a recent graduate of Longwood University, Sara received her undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Recreation. She plans to use her degree to create a more inclusive world where people do not feel like outliers. In her free time, Sara enjoys gym dates with her grandmother and taking selfies on mountain tops.