Graduating is tough. Though some people welcome the transition from comfortable campus life to the world of jobs, credit checks, and minimum wage, adjusting to post-college life is often a difficult process. Knowing how to do these seven practical things can help make your transition just a bit easier.
1. How to Manage Money
Managing your money is one of the most important things to learn before you live on your own, and you can save yourself a lot of time, stress, and paychecks by learning early. If you don't already, start by reviewing some of your previous bank statements. Try to get a sense of how much you spend per month, and where your money tends to go. Create a monthly budget that's based on your income, and try to plot out the amount you should spend on both necessities and leisure. Look up budgeting guides online, and use free apps like Mint to track your spending. Keeping a budget will help you feel secure, prevent you from going broke, and let you know exactly how to splurge every once in a while.
2. How to Cook
Eating out several times a week will burn a hole through your wallet much faster than you’d imagine. Cooking (and Trader Joe’s) can save you hundreds of dollars a month. Start simple. If you really don’t know your way around a kitchen, consider cooking with an experienced friend who can show you how to handle a knife, and teach you some basic recipes. You’ll learn in no time, and you’ll probably end up enjoying the process!
3. Know Your Way Around a Toolbox
There’s always going to be that moment when something in your apartment falls apart. The lights will go out, a screw will come loose, or — fingers crossed this doesn’t happen — your toilet will leak. Knowing how to use a few basic tools will make these problems seem much less dire. A screwdriver is always handy to have around, even if you only use it once or twice a year. So is a flashlight. And even if it doesn't belong in a toolbox, a sewing kit can do wonders for the patches in your wardrobe.
4. How to Organize Your Documents
Bureaucracy is an unfortunate fact of life. It's important to keep your paperwork in order to avoid bureaucratic hiccups while filing taxes, or applying for apartments, visas, or jobs. Keep a folder of all your important documents, and make copies (both paper and electronic) of everything. You never know when you'll need to gather your documents for an application, and having them at hand will save you the fuss of scouring your apartment for an important letter or signature. Just make sure you don’t lose the folder!
5. How to Present Yourself Professionally
Don’t be the person who’s rushing to find business attire the day of an interview. Make sure you own at least one or two good suits or professional outfits. You should also know how to conduct yourself during interviews or at networking events. If your university has a career center, consider going in for a mock interview in which someone records you; it can be a helpful and eye-opening experience.
6. How to Network
It’s time to get over the negative associations of networking. As much as some of us think of networking as a slimy, superficial act that’s solely focused on "getting to the top," networking doesn’t have to be like that. Think of it this way: you are networking to find a job, but also because you want to learn more about the career you're pursuing. It’s not that different from when you were a prospective student, and asked a current student what their college experience was like. Networking can provide you with invaluable insights into an industry, and can also be reassuring, as it puts real faces on the companies you're exploring. Just remember that networking isn't about asking for a job, but for advice. Always follow up with a thank you a day or two after your interview or phone call.
7. How to Make Backup Plans
Finally, knowing how to make backup plans can be essential to fighting the uncertainty of one’s transition out of college. Think of it like chess. In chess, it's unwise to make a move without anticipating the outcome of your action. Instead, you evaluate the different paths you could possibly take, and the consequences of each. Though life is hardly as predictable, you can apply the same principle: thinking ahead, and giving yourself several courses of action for the near future. Come up with your ideal plan, and then draw up the different ways things could actually turn out. That way, you'll know exactly where you stand, and what your options are.
That said, don’t over plan. As Ferris Bueller once pointed out, life moves pretty fast, and you can't plan for everything. Be prepared, but flexible, and ready to enjoy the ride, bumps and all.