Wish you were back on campus this fall? Miss your friends, sleeping late on weekdays and simply swinging by the dining hall when you’re hungry? Yeah, us too.
It’s that time of year again. Just look at Facebook or Twitter and the updates flood your stream: “Classes start tomorrow!” “So happy to be back at school!” “Thirsty Thursday, anyone?”
It’s easy for any recent college grad to feel that nagging sense of nostalgia at not heading back to campus – which leads to the realization that, for good or for bad, they’ve officially entered the real world.
The transition from classroom to cubicle isn’t easy. When I graduated in May 2010, it took a few months (*cough* almost six months *cough*) to finally adjust to my new 8-to-5 work schedule. I certainly hadn’t anticipated this on graduation day. I couldn’t figure out how to maintain a semblance of a social life, I didn’t sleep enough, didn’t eat right and didn’t prioritize exercise. Simply put, I was a mess. And miserable. I loved my job, but I couldn’t quite manage the rest of my life.
While I’m still a work in progress, these five tips helped me snap out of my funk:
Schedule time with friends like you would an important work meeting
With friends working all over the country after graduating from college, making plans is not as simple as an impromptu get-together at the campus Starbucks. Utilize your commute to and from work for a quick catch-up phone call with a far-away friend, or plan a monthly happy hour to unwind with friends living locally.
Realize that plans sometimes need to be made months in advance. After not seeing my three best friends at the same time for more than a year now, we finally blocked our calendars for a spa weekend in November. It took plenty of wrangling with our personal schedules, but by planning way ahead, we’re going to make it happen.
As someone who was super involved in college, I had no idea what to do with my endless free time after leaving work at 5 p.m. I took a cue from my college self and researched different professional organizations to join to help myself grow professionally and personally.
I joined the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and ended up managing their social media initiatives, then also got involved with my college’s young alumni group. Suddenly, I was busy again. I had meetings, events and commitments. And slowly, I began to feel a little more like my old self.
Make time for exercise
By now, you’ve probably seen the dreaded infographic Sitting Can Kill You. It can also make you fat. Very quickly. Three months into my new job, I realized my clothes were a tad snug. When I finally stepped on a scale, I was horrified to see that the number was 20 lbs more than I used to seeing. Yikes. In the frenzy of adjusting to my new lifestyle, I completely forgot about my health. Needless to say, I joined the gym soon after that rude awakening.
Take up a new hobby
Always wanted to start a blog? Take up skydiving? Run a marathon? There’s no better time than now to develop or discover a new passion. After I finally kicked my butt into gear and started working out, I found that I absolutely love running and am completely obsessed with Zumba. These two new hobbies dominate much of my free time, and they’ve brought much-needed joy into my life.
Talk about it
When I realized how unhappy I was the first few months after graduating – dream job and all – I didn’t want to tell anyone. After all, I counted myself lucky to get such a great job, especially in the poor economy. I felt selfish for wanting more.
Until I revealed my feelings to a friend, and she told me she felt the exact same way. We were both grateful for our new careers and the opportunities ahead of us, but something was still missing. I realized then that I wasn’t alone. Not by a long shot. Verbalizing my feelings about this strange transition helped, and once I opened up about my struggles, I was able to look at them in a completely new and more opportunistic way.
How did you handle – or are you handling – the transition from college to career? We hope you’ll share your stories in the comments!
Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional in Philadelphia. In her free time, she manages a book review and writing blog and is currently writing a novel.