Congratulations – you’re a graduate! Or maybe you’re just about to become a graduate, and you’re staring at your shiny robe and mortarboard, wondering what in the hell happens next. I’ll tell you what happens next: You walk out and grab your diploma. Everything after that is an adventure, so you better get ready and hold on for the ride. There will be ups and downs, unexpected detours, horrible bosses, wonderful bosses, great romances, lame romances, birthdays, weddings, new friends, and a whole lot of things that you just cannot predict, no matter how detailed your five-year plan might be.
“You are here for a reason,” said Natalie Portman in her recent Harvard commencement speech. And she’s right. You made this happen. You accomplished something huge. You can go out there and make things happen. It won’t always be easy, but that’s OK. Easy is boring!
So as you set off into the big, bad world with your diploma in hand (metaphorically of course, because who walks around town clutching their diploma after graduation? Who even knows where it is after a few months?!), here are thirty quick and easy tips that every grad should know.
1. Have a sense of humor
If you’re the serious type, you’ll need to cultivate a sense of humor real quick. Believe it or not, life, love, internships, and jobs won’t always be perfect, so knowing how to laugh and not take things too seriously is key. Watch Amy Schumer videos, read David Sedaris, do whatever it takes. But learn how to laugh things off. Not taking yourself too seriously is also key.
2. The world owes you nothing, and that’s OK
If you understand that the world owes you nothing, you’ll be less likely to curl up into a ball and cry, and more likely to get out there and do something.
3. It gets better
Just remember, when you’re sitting in a cubicle, wishing you were making more money and not living in your parents’ spare bathroom, things will get better. I promise.
4. Do yourself a favor and skip the comparisons
This is so important, and so hard. Don’t compare yourself or your career or your love life to anyone else. Your path is your own. Trust it will lead you to where you need to be.
5. Never assume anything
Don’t assume your plans will work out the way you expect them to. You can only do so much prep work before life presents you with new unexpected challenges you have to navigate. Be ready for anything. You’ll be much happier when things work out differently than you expected, which happens pretty often in life.
6. Be on time (or, at least try)
This applies to jobs, internships, meetings, dates, dentist appointments, and weddings. Just be on time, as much as you can. Especially when it comes to job interviews. And weddings.
7. There’s no shame in stapling your pants
That’s to say, if you’re broke, get creative. I’ve had to staple my pants a few times, because I couldn’t afford to hem them. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but hey, I needed to wear pants. Basically, don’t feel embarrassed if you have to DIY some things in your life for a little bit.
It might seem impossible to save money when you have student loan debt and you’re stapling your pants instead of paying a tailor, but if you can, try and save just a tiny bit of money every month. And as your jobs get better, increase the amount. You’ll be thankful when your car breaks down or when you have to go to your sixteenth bachelorette party in one year. You’ll also be thankful when you’re nearing 30 and you realize you have a little (or big) stash of cash. Trust me.
9. Remember: age is a state of mind
Don’t start thinking you’re old when you’re 25. Everyone has their own path and if you’re not where you thought you’d be at a certain age, that’s totally OK. With every challenge, you learn important lessons and develop in ways you never expected.
10. It takes all kinds
You’ll come across all sorts of people in life, people you didn’t choose to be friends with. Keep an open mind about their views and beliefs. They might surprise you.
11. Read the lease
No matter how beautiful the bay window is or how much water pressure gushes out of the shower, do not blindly sign a lease on an apartment or house. Read every word, ask questions, know your rights.
12. Two words: T.J. Maxx
Interview outfits and work clothes can be pricey. Discount stores are your friends. Don’t go into credit card debt because of work clothes. It is not worth it.
13. Two more words: Free Samples
Shampoos and soap and all that stuff you need in your shower can get expensive. So just ask for free samples, all the time, whenever you’re within fifty feet of a beauty supply store.
14. Haggle like you mean it
Don’t be afraid to haggle in life, within reason. Post-grad life usually means budgeting, so knowing how and when to get a few bucks knocked off things here and there is a necessary survival skill.
15. The $0/month gym plan
If forking over half your salary for spin classes or hot yoga sounds terrifying, just work out in your apartment. Get some DVDs, check YouTube, and start jumping around the room. You can also jog, swim, and bike for free. When you get to the phase in life where you’re no longer hoarding free samples of facial serum, you can also join a gym. Until then – save your money.
16. Use credit cards wisely – or rip them to shreds
If you can pay them off each month, and if your card gives you miles for hotels and plane flights, knock yourself out. If not, stay away.
17. No matter how cool your boss is, they’re still your boss
Not all bosses are inspired by The Devil Wears Prada. So many are nice, supportive, potential mentors. But they’re still your boss, and they’re in the position of power, and even if you both got drunk and sang a power ballad duet at the holiday party, they will care what you post on Instagram, and they expect you to work hard. Foster those relationships and don’t take them for granted. You can learn so much from a good boss.
18. Learn to kill ‘em with kindness
This is always a much better tactic than fighting, slamming doors or placing a hex on someone. If you’re struggling with a roomie or work relationship, remember a little bit of sugar goes a long way.
19. Networking isn’t a bad word
The term networking feels kind of icky. But really, there’s nothing wrong with meeting people in your field and talking shop. In fact, that’s how you make connections and get a better sense of what you want to do next. Think of it as comparing notes, doing field research and maybe just making potential new friends.
20. Remember to write a note (email works too)
A mentor once told me to “always write a note” if an old colleague or acquaintance or friend got promoted or got a new job or landed a corner office. You can be old-school and actually write a note with a pen and paper, send them an email, or tweet about their success. Being happy for other people’s success is actually good for you.
21. When you’re freaking out, channel your inner McConaughey
Is anybody more laid back and chill about things than Matthew McConaughey? “Just keep livin!” is the dude’s motto, and he’s even mellow when he’s winning fancy awards and driving around in slick cars in those Lincoln commercials. When things get tough, just try to channel your inner McConaughey. Whatever. It’s all cool. Party at the moon tower. All right all right all right. It’s not a bad philosophy, and it beats being a stressed out, anxious ball of nerves.
22. Remember that nobody REALLY has all the answers
No matter how experienced you are, or what you’ve achieved, we’re all in this weird and crazy world together. We’re all just bumbling along, trying to figure it all out, and figure ourselves out in the process. That’s part of the fun.