Congratulations, graduate. You've been working a full-time job for a few months now, and it's safe to say that between the early-morning alarms, complete exhaustion before sundown and heavy-addict level caffeine consumption, the business world is kicking your butt harder than finals week. You and thousands of other American post grads are losing your white-collar virginity. Odds are, you'd agree you've learned more in the past couple months than you did in several semesters combined.
Universities stuffed lots of valuable knowledge into those beautiful brains of yours, but they didn't properly prepare you for life after college. Feel like you've been through the wringer? Then take a moment to read through these tips. It will take you five minutes, and it won't cost you any tuition.
1. There are no naps.
Remember waking up for that 10 a.m. class, only to go back to bed an hour later when the professor dismissed you? That's definitely not a thing in the business world. If the Monday-morning brainstorming session took a lot out of you, grab another cup of coffee and let's be productive. Getting six to eight hours of sleep every night will help mitigate the drowsiness you feel at work. Cut back on alcohol consumption, too. Believe it or not, it prevents you from entering into your deepest realm of sleep.
2. ‘Rate My Professor’ is unrealistic.
College has a way of breeding a ridiculous mentality that an easy A is better than a hard-earned B. Millennials flock to sites such as www.ratemyprofessors.com to identify the slackest instructor in a particular course. In business, there's no such site. You will be forced to work with people who challenge you to be your very best, people who may intimidate you and people you might not even like. Learning how to collaborate in pursuit of a shared goal simply is part of growth.
Related: How to Become an Exemplary Team Player in Business
3. Dress the part.
In college, it didn’t matter if ladies wore yoga pants and a boyfriend’s extra-large hoodie. Guys could get away with joggers and the frat tanks that showed off their guns. Once you step into the business world, you need to dress the part you wish to play. An increasing number of offices trend toward more casual, but you can be both trendy and well-dressed. It’s time to cut off the man buns, save the Spandex for the weekends and practice basic matching. While you're at it, invest in a few well-made items to start building your professional wardrobe.
4. Intelligence is sexy.
Looks can open doors in business and in life. It's not fair, but it's true. Fortunately, there's another trait that can take you much further: intelligence. There's nothing cooler, sexier or more impressive than someone who can wow you with the ability to think. Spend ample time building your mind during and beyond the work week. Join focus groups and professional organizations, read books, read more books, find mentors, listen to podcasts — learn, learn and learn.
Related: Why Traditional Schooling Can't Prepare Students for the Modern Workplace
5. Drink in moderation.
Company happy hours are a chance to relax and socialize outside of a business setting. Do not mistake the open bar as an opportunity to hit on coworkers, tell inappropriate war stories from your college days or get obliterated. You want your colleagues to respect you on Monday, not think of you as the office clown. If you want to let loose, get together with your post-grad friends for a bonfire.
6. Clean up your social media accounts.
As nice as it felt to get 300 likes for your Instagram selfies, your boss doesn't want to see your picture nor your caption as “Captain Brewster of The U.S.S. Budweiser." It's doubtful your beer-chugging skills will help land you that big promotion. Not everything needs to be documented on social media. Practice having fun without telling everyone about it.
7. Create a budget.
There are no more funded meal plans, complimentary gas money from the Bank of Mom & Dad or get-out-of-jail-free cards. Put together a comprehensive budget for your monthly expenses. Factor in rent, your phone bill, gas and insurance, food — everything you need your paycheck to cover. Budgeting isn't the most exciting of habits, but it is one that will serve you for the rest of your life.
8. It's OK to live at home for a year.
If you have the option to live under your parents' roof while you work your first job, consider it. Most new grads don't make a zillion dollars a year, and you'll need all the help you can get. There's a difference, though, between living with your parents and taking advantage of them. If you're renting your old room for free, take control of the other expenses you track in your budget.
9. Set measurable goals.
Your boss won't hand you a transcript halfway through your first year. Instead, you'll need to start creating your own goals and means to measure your progress. Success in business and life depends on growth. The 9-to-5 can become monotonous, and routines often hamper individual growth. Define fitness, relationship and work goals, and then outline real steps and milestones to reach them.
10. Get used to saying 'no.'
In college, you had all the time in the world and could try out being everything to everyone. Hit the bars tonight? Yes! Go see a movie? Yes! Grab a bite to eat with so-and-so? Yes! Play basketball at the rec center? Yes! Now that you're working 40 (or likely more) hours a week, you'll have less free time. Budget it as you do your finances. You'll be forced to prioritize the opportunities that come your way, and that means saying no to more of them than you might like.
Related: The Power of Saying 'No'
11. Start a side hustle.
If you don’t have a side project, you're doing it wrong. Figure out other ways to direct your energy and make money outside of your steady gig. It might be starting a blog or an online store. Maybe you work part-time as a bartender or take cooking classes. Work to get better at things you're passionate about, and it could one day become your 9-to-5.
12. Enjoy your own ride.
Chances are one of your classmates absolutely will kill it during their first year in business. Don’t get in the habit of measuring your own success by someone else's paycheck or set of wheels. We all get our own ride in this world, and we all "arrive" at different times. Concentrate on improving yourself and cultivating your own happiness. Why should you care what you're friends are making? They aren't you.
Lastly, in the least Little League way possible, remember to have fun. Your first job in the business world is supposed to be exciting. It's the first steps you'll take a new road, and opportunity is waiting around every turn.