A business consultant by day, I deal with a lot of change. Change invites new possibilities, opportunities, and challenges, which can be both exciting and scary. So, my job is to encourage people who don’t want things to change (like myself) to get on board. In the same way, transitioning from college to career invites a lot of change. 

Moving from the safe boundaries of university into the real world is like taking off your training wheels and riding solo for the first time. Scary and exciting! So, to help ease any fear and double the excitement, here is practical advice for navigating life after college.

Top view at group of women sitting at wooden meeting table with charts and graphs while discussing business project, having moved on to life after college

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Transitioning Out of College

The first step in the journey from college to career is transitioning out of college. For me, moving on after graduation felt very natural. Towards the end of my college career, I found myself getting frustrated with bureaucratic college institutions and lazy underclassmen. One night, I was complaining to my roommate in our apartment, and she said something I’ll never forget.

“It sounds like it’s time for you to move on.”

And like that, I realized that college was something that I had outgrown. I was graduating  because I had outgrown university. I had developed a lot of competencies and skills that would be a solid foundation for me in the real world. But if I were to stay in college, I’d remain stagnant. 

By staying in college, I might have learned more academic material, but I’d stop growing as a person, stuck in the same old circle of opportunities.

For you, moving on after graduation may not feel natural. Perhaps, it’s even overwhelming. If that’s the case for you, don’t ignore that feeling. As I’ve learned from the adulting struggle, you have to process an emotion before you can move on from it. 

Dealing with Post Graduation Anxiety

Post graduation anxiety may trigger once it sinks in that you are graduating and leaving the university world behind. You’ve spent four+ years in this place and have so many great memories. On top of that, you have a great group of friends that it took you four years to find, and now you’re just going to leave it all behind?

How do you move on after graduation?

To help with moving on after graduation, think about how you felt when you were transitioning from high school to college. Chances are you had a lot of the same feelings. College was this big, scary change that you didn’t know how or if you would survive. But you did.

Adulting is the same thing! What will continue your personal growth and lead to your professional development is real world experience. The post grad life. Life after college.

Transitioning from college to career seems like a big, scary change…

…but you’ll get through it just like you got through college. How do I know? Well, there are no other options here. 

Preparing for Post Grad Life

To smooth the transition from college to the real world, here are some suggestions to prepare for the post grad life.

  • Find a Job: It can be tempting to put off job searching so that you can “enjoy the last moments with your friends.” But it will really have the opposite effect and cause more post graduation anxiety. You’ll be stressed because you’re unsure where your next paycheck will come from or how you’ll pay rent. It will be easier to transition out of college if you know where you’re going next.
  • Start Adulting: This should be happening way before senior year. Begin to take on new responsibilities to help you become more independent and build your adulting skills
  • Gain Relevant Experience in your field: You can have all the “booksmarts” and degrees you want, but if you don’t have relevant experience, book knowledge won’t matter. Academic theory doesn’t always match the real world. To help you land a job and figure out what it is you want to do, do an internship or volunteer somewhere you can get hands on experience.
  • Establish habits for self-care: The real world can be draining. By learning how to practice self-care and take time for yourself, you’ll be stressing less once you start your new career.
  • Grow your faith: Your faith will be a strong foundation to rely on as you are propelled into adulthood after graduation. Learning how to read the Bible, how to pray, and finding spiritual mentors and community will strengthen your faith for the post grad life.

Post Grad life comes with ups and downs, ironically much like the college experience. Preparing for the transition from college to career will help you be ready for the next step, but unfortunately, even preparation comes with its own challenges.

What are some of the biggest challenges in preparing for the transition from college to a career?

  • The overwhelming school-to-work transition: Between securing a place to live, finding a job, buying a car, planning to move across the country (or world), the transition from school to work can get overwhelming fast.
  • Falling into the comparison trap: Everyone wants to share what awesome things they are doing in their post grad life. And you, of course, want to hear it. But soon, you start comparing yourself to them and may become jealous of other people’s future plans and accomplishments.
  • Finding a job: Being in job-search mode while trying to finish your classes is a lot to handle at once. When I was looking for a job my senior year in college, it felt like a full-time job. Between preparing resumes, writing cover letters, doing diligent interview prep, taking online assessments, it easily eats into your free time. It can also be frustrating when recruiters take their time getting back to you or don’t respond at all.
  • Establishing a new community of friends: The beauty of college is that all of your friends are in one place, and you have a lot of free time. After graduation, it seems like everyone scatters and all the friends you hold dear are farther away than ever.

But with the challenges of transitioning from college to career, there are also solutions to help you in preparing for the post grad life.  

How do I prepare for the challenges of post graduate life?

  • Falling into the comparison trap – The comparison trap is the stealer of joy. Thus, the best way to combat it is to approach the situation with joy and gratitude
    • Thank God for the next step he’s given you. In the best career advice I ever got, I learned that God created us to accomplish his purpose for us. Not his purpose for someone else.
  • Establish a community of Friends – For this challenge, I recommend two things. 
    • First, stay in touch with your old friends. Make sure to share your new adventures with each other so you can be encouraged by people also navigating the adulting struggle.
    • Second, put yourself out there to meet new friends. Join an adult sports team. Start volunteering in your new city. Go to a company happy hour. Attend a meet-n-greet for an interest group. Find a new church and go to community group. It will take time but starting to plant some roots early will serve you well later.

These actions will support you in moving on after graduation and having a smooth transition from college to the real world.  The other two challenges, I will address below in the Transition from University to Working Life section.

Advice for Transitioning from College to Career

Once you’re “out of college,” you move into full-blown transition mode. For a period, it may feel like there isn’t an end to the transition. Ironically, that is the crux of adulthood. Life is constantly in transition as you move cities, change careers, switch industries, succeed, fail, win some, lose some, make mistakes…What’s a girl to do?

Accept that in the transition from college to career, you will experience change. But change blossoms into new opportunities and different possibilities.

It may be painful to get there at times because adulting is hard. But if you can keep in mind that change leads to personal growth and rewarding experiences, then the transition doesn’t look so bad.

Related: 3 Anchors for When You’re Coping with Change

College to Career: Transition from Student to Professional

Moving from a student mindset to a professional mindset is a hard switch to make. Instead of paying for someone to show up and teach you, you’re being paid to show up and perform a job. But what’s the best part about the transition from student to professional?

Not being broke! 

On the flip side, the stakes are higher as a young professional. The work you do not only affects you, but also those around you, your team, your company, and the company’s customers. You don’t receive a grade at the end of the semester. Instead, you get your paycheck, a good year-end review, maybe a promotion or raise, and have an impact the company’s success. 

How do you transition from student to professional? 

A student mindset is one of learning, and a young professional’s should be the same. But a student is looking to benefit themselves while a young professional needs to bring value to their company and the company’s customers. 

Bringing value means performing your job in a way that aids in the company’s success. 

Some examples of bringing value are: winning over new customers as a sales representative, imparting new knowledge on students as a teacher, or helping people adopt changes in technology as a consultant (what I do). Working to bring value is more than memorizing facts or writing papers to get a grade from your professor. 

Here is more career advice for young professionals to help with the transition from college to career. It will ensure you make a good first impression your first day.

College to Career: Transition from University to Working Life

In the transition from college to career, there is another layer of complexity: moving from university to working life. In my opinion, this is much more complicated than the previous step. 

With internships, adopting a growth mindset as a young professional was easy. But transitioning out of college and going on to post grad life is… messy, to say the least.

How do you transition from university to world of work?

One of the challenge of preparing for life after college is not getting overwhelmed. To combat this, I suggest tackling one adulting thing at a time. Space them out over your last semester in college instead of packing it all in at the end. Focus on the job first, then the apartment, then moving logistics, etc.

The second challenge of transitioning from university to the world of work is finding a job.

Thankfully, there are many resources to help you in securing that post grad employment:

  • Take advantage of your student career services. Usually, they can help you proofread your resume, write cover letters, and prepare applications.
  • Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to start applying for jobs. Many companies, at least on the corporate side, start hiring new graduates 8-10 months before they graduate. 
  • Go to career fairs. These are great ways to meet with companies that have a good relationship with your school and are more likely to hire your school’s graduates.
  • Network with alumni. Take advantage of alumni networks and ask advisors and professors for contacts in your field. They may be able to help you get your resume reviewed or put in a good recommendation for you.
  • Get coaching from a mentor. They could provide insights to aid you in your job search or have suggestions to bolster your application. 

Lastly, to aid in the transition from university to working life, start reading up on the working world and the industry or career field you are going into. I have resources here on Kara J Lovett Co. to give you an idea of what to expect from working life. 

College to Career: Transitioning from College to the Real World

The final transition is the one from college to the “real world.” Those two words “real world” bring up memories of my teachers and parents lecturing me about how “ABC” wouldn’t “fly in the real world.”

And you know what? They were mostly right. :)

How do I adjust to life after college?

The jump from college to career comes with more serious consequences for your actions. Rent not being paid means not having a place to live. Consistently missing deadlines at work could lead to a poor performance review and a foot out the door. 

There is no handholding in the adulting world, which can seem like a huge wake up call. Unless you take these steps to prepare for adulthood and give yourself grace and time to adjust to post grad life.

How do you survive post graduate life?

You survive the post grad life one day at a time. And each day, give yourself a healthy margin of error and a lot of grace.

A healthy margin of error means allowing yourself room to make mistakes because it may take you longer to get the hang of things. For example, the first time I set up electricity for my apartment, the process was stressful and confusing. I wish I’d given myself more time so that I could approach the situation calmly and have had the time to ask for help.

Whether it’s renting your first apartment, going grocery shopping and meal planning, or buying a new car, give yourself more time than you need. Ask for help and recommendations. Do your research and take time to understand all your options. And if you mess up—that leads to my second point:

Give yourself grace because adulting is hard.

Kara J Lovett Co.

For example, when I worked abroad as a Fulbright ETA, going to the pharmacy and opening a bank account were suddenly extremely challenging tasks. Using my limited Catalan, I would say the wrong thing and have to correct myself. At the bank, I’d forget a document and need to come back the next day. So I gave myself grace.

And learn to laugh at yourself because you will make mistakes. Things are guaranteed to go wrong at some point—that’s part of the adulting struggle. 

Adjusting to the Real World After College

Wondering more about the post grad life? Before I wrap up, here are some quick snippets of advice for adjusting to the real world after college. 

How do you adapt to working life?

How do I transition to a full-time job?

College students sitting on the grass and cover their faces with books on a college campus in the summer.

Getting from College to Career

In the transition from college to career, there is a lot to think about, and I covered it all in turbo speed. I hope instead of overwhelming you, this article offered some tips and insights to encourage you in your transition. 

The biggest takeaway is that adulting is hard and transitioning out of college can be overwhelming. During this transition from school to work, we need some support. That’s where Kara J Lovett Co. comes in. 

I write articles for young professionals to give them practical tips and advice for their 20smeaningful career insights for their early career, and encouragement in their spiritual journey to grow closer to Christ. It’s a lot to pack into a blog, but it’s what life after college needs.

So, is there life after college? Yes, 100%. It’s amazing, and it’s scary. Some call it the Adulting Struggle. Stick around on Kara J Lovett Co., and as we are transitioning from college to career, we can tackle it together.

How did you adjust to the post-grad life?

Leave me a comment below!

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