5 Conversations You Should Have With Yourself Before You Graduate
These last few weeks before we enter the "real world" are always hectic.
They're filled with applying to jobs, scrambling to find apartments to live in and crying at the bar as you say goodbye to friends you made when you were just a baby-faced 18-year-old.
Amidst all the chaos, we sometimes fail to really conceptualize what's happening and may not fully embrace the huge amount of changes we will meet upon throwing that cap in the air.
Before graduating from college, it's important to sit down with yourself and really think about the next steps, all while reflecting on all the significant steps you've conquered in the past four years.
The important conversations you should have with yourself are as follows, and all five will make that transition into real life seem much easier to embrace:
1. What characteristics did I obtain or let blossom in college?
Realizing how rad you've become during the past few years is a good place to start before you jump into the where-do-I-go-from-here mentality that we young adults are bred to have.
Think about the personality traits you have now: You're funny, genuine, giving, hardworking and clever.
Let those guide you as you work your way into grad school, a job or simply life as a functioning 20-something.
Reflecting on how confident you've become, how caring college has made you or whatever it is you now realize you embody will give you purpose as you navigate a new workplace or lifestyle.
Self-awareness is sometimes a mortal enemy of the happiness and self-love we harbor inside, but at times of transition and growth, it's so important to realize the characteristics we lead with and how those affect our overall personas.
Be you, but first realize whom this "you" is.
2. What do I look for in partners and friends?
Before college, we barely knew how truly different each individual is.
We saw our peers as either "nice" or "mean," and maybe picked pals contingent on whether or not they were also on the soccer team, or who they sat with at lunch.
After college, we realized how diverse personality types can be.
We realize now that there are tons of different types of people, from those who are shy, but sharp as a tack introverts, to people who are more superficial and concerned most with themselves or getting ahead.
We see friends in people who range from totally hilarious, to nice and genuine souls, to the weirdest people ever, and everything in between.
With this, we also begin to realize whom we most gravitate toward, and what type of people we prefer to spend our time with.
Birds of a feather do flock together, so we usually gravitate toward people who share similar attributes or have similar goals.
But even in friends unlike ourselves, we see we sort of have a type.
3. What type of job or opportunity is right for me?
There is so much emphasis on getting a job right out of school or finding the next opportunity that we don't always take the time to sort out just what job would best suit us.
Just because your degree is in marketing doesn't mean you necessarily have to get a job in that field right away.
Our majors teach us great skills and the degree we get often shape our paths in some way, but many hiring majors look for bright-minded passionate people and will hire applicants from many different majors.
So if you really love animals but you went to school for English, find a way to get involved in animal shelters in some way or even in writing for publications or scholars that aid in animal care.
Take a job that's "right for you" is a loaded piece of advice; there are so many different aspects to consider when pursuing employment.
Obviously money is something to consider, as is location, benefits and, of course, the nature of the work.
Sorting all of these out and coming up with a "perfect fit" job is unrealistic, but you should think about what job opportunity would satisfy you the most overall.
Just because it pays well doesn't mean you will be happy and similarly, even if the pay or location is not ideal, if you're doing what you absolutely love, you may be even more well off in the long run.
Thinking of what opportunity is right for you could mean simply thinking of what type of work environment you work best in, or what type of office culture you want to be a part of.
There is more to the job hunt than the title of the position or the pay it offers and really thinking about that will set you up with a job that's great for you.
4. Where the hell do I want to live?
After graduating, many of us have that "world is our oyster" mentality. We have majors that can apply to work pretty much anywhere, and some of us do not want to move back home near the 'rents.
Before you graduate and pack up that U-Haul or schedule apartment viewing appointments on Trulia, really think about where you'd most like to live, and for what reasons.
Big cities always appeal to 20-somethings and the young energy, the fun night life and the fast pace of those areas are all big reasons why.
Instead of applying to jobs in every big city in the USA — or the ones close to your alma matter —, sit down and really think about what aspects you want in a surrounding environment.
If cleanliness is important to you and the summer sun not so much, you're best off in Chicago, or a similarly kept city.
If you thrive on startup culture and totally bizarre bars eateries but don't love how crowded and overwhelming NYC is, consider Austin.
Cities and smaller suburban areas are not all created equally. Sure, all of the above may have jobs you could get hired in, but they won't all have the same aesthetic and culture you want.
Consider this when picking a place to start off so you start your adult life somewhere you will prosper, not just tolerate.
5. What should I really prioritize?
College years become breeding grounds for bad prioritizing skills. They act as the four years of our lives we simply cannot do it all, and prove "balance" is a word that has no meaning.
Remember that pyramid graph where we saw "good grades," "social life" and "sleep," and below it said, "you can only pick two?" Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
Sometimes in college, we prioritize schoolwork above all else (like the night before a final exam), and sometimes, we prioritized our social lives. However you juggled your college life, there was always something that wasn't prioritized and should have been, or visa versa.
When we graduate, many of us will have plates full of new challenges and "life" things to prioritize, like jobs, student loan debt, a friend group or lack thereof and maybe a significant other.
What comes first? Should I worry about getting a great job and saving a bunch of money? Or should I put my boyfriend or girlfriend first and move with him or her?
Thinking to yourself what you should really prioritize after graduation will help you start off on the right foot, and keep a handle on the plethora of changes you will inevitably go through.
Even just not having classes anymore or roommates to worry about will make for a total shift in how you live your life.
A new set of priorities and subsequent challenges will surely arise. Be ready for that!
Knowing what you regard as most significant, whether it's that awesome job, becoming healthy or getting happy and focusing on yourself will be helpful in easing the transition into life post-graduation.
This is not to say you need to pick one or two things and suddenly make your entire life about them, or even that you have to rank your life into slots of "most important to least important."
Rather, this is a motion to get your ducks in a row because college has a funny way of shuffling our ducks into a non-order year after year.
Prioritizing is definitely an important thing to do before starting a new routine, but it should be a fun and happy realization.
Now, don't sit down and try to hash out all of the above with pen, paper and probably your last Keystone light for a while, but be aware of the above conversations and ask yourself some of the above in solitude.
These aren't things we can tackle overnight, or hash out with friends over late-night pizza.
These are conversations to have with yourself, however brief or in depth they should be, when considering what comes next and when making post-graduate decisions.
Throw that cap up knowing that whatever path you're on, you'll be just fine.