Transitioning to Adulthood

My first couple weeks of working and living in Portland have been nothing I expected, but everything I’ve needed. I’ve learned quickly that there are many lessons you should know to maneuver the adulthood sphere that we were never taught in school.

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The first culture shock I’ve run into is adjusting to a different time frame. Employers aren’t as flexible as your professors were with taking time off. Your job is likely going to take up your day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., which leaves you little room to do what you really want to. Time management is a critical issue you should be prepared for in a way that you didn’t need to be in school. The stakes are higher; too many days off or late arrivals could lead you to lose your job.

Consequently, it becomes imperative to be conscientious of how you spend your free time. Old habits, like Netflix binging and partying every night, don’t work as well in the real world as they did in college. You might dread the notion of growing older, but feeling good each morning when you wake up at 7 a.m. takes priority. Stay in tune with your body and what you really need to center yourself.

Trust me, I used to pride myself in having three jobs, full load of classes, and still partying every weekend. It’s different when responsibilities carry more weight than a term project. To make ends meet during a full-time internship, I took on a barista job on the weekends, requiring me to wake up at 5:00 am Friday through Monday. I tried my best to find a balance with my social life and this role, but three hours of sleep a night were not cutting it for my health.

Reading, meditating, even cleaning can prove to be your best relaxants after a hectic week. It’s important to remain hyper aware of your stress levels so that you don’t burn yourself out. Unfortunately, in the adult world, you don’t get to take as many mental health days off, so it’s critical to implement these practices into your routine. Even small activities you can do at the desk can help ease tension, such as breathing exercises and stretching.

As intimidating as that all sounds, I’ve found that maneuvering the adult world isn’t as scary as we might anticipate, but unprecedented challenges are constant curve-balls. Those privileged through extensive education are more likely to be prepared with the skills to tackle all different types of challenges and opportunities. They’re just disguised as job applications instead of homework assignments.

However, job searching itself is far more difficult of a process than those freshly graduated may think. From countless applications to interviews, it feels very similar to the college application process where at the end of the day, you likely had no real anticipation about what results would come through. It oftentimes comes down to luck of the draw (ie. helpful networks), but it’s crucial to prepare yourself for all the hoops you’ll have to jump through regardless.

On another gear, adjusting to adult social etiquette (explained more here) has been a sticky point in itself. The workplace is nothing like the classroom. It’s important that graduated folks are mentally prepared for that transition, because it looks irreversibly humiliating if you accidentally call your supervisor, “teacher,” when you have a question.

By applying your organizational and critical thinking skills, you can prepare yourself for the obstacles ahead. More articles about the specific steps about job searching, networking, and interviewing are coming up ahead, but for now, it helps to accept that yes– college is over. Might as well cry about it for the next 50 years, or better yet, adopt a more exciting outlook about it. If all goes well, adulthood entails more freedom through money and opportunities, and thus choices, travel, and how we truly want to spend our lives.

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