4 Real-World Lessons I've Learned Since Graduating From College

by Camille Schwartz

C.S. Lewis once said,

“It’s funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.”

When I reflect back on the past year, I see the truth in his words.

Twelve months ago, I was a senior in college, with no idea of what post-graduate life would entail.

Since then, I have left the comfort of my college town and my home and entered the world of adults, where I no longer have grades, assignments or curfews to guide my daily behaviors or my life choices.

Today, I am an independent woman, learning to embrace a new type of world. It's one in which I must own the decisions I make and navigate the challenges attached to my freedom and independence.

In the beginning, the realization that I finally had the freedom to choose what I wanted to do next with my life scared me.

When confronted with the freedom to choose, there is always the possibility of making the wrong choice. For this reason, I wanted to run from the uncertainty of post-graduate life.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten better at accepting the transition into the adult world and the changes that come with it.

I’ve learned change creates a multitude of exciting (and sometimes painful) curve balls, which ultimately enable us to learn and grow as people.

Without change, life becomes stagnant. I’d like to dedicate this post to the beauty of change and the important lessons I’ve learned along the way:

Lessons 1: Great opportunities come along when you have a clear intention of what you want.

After my unsatisfying attempt to pursue a sales job, I realized I needed to have more clarity on what I wanted.

If I didn't, I’d continue to blindly accept the first opportunity that came my way, regardless of whether or not it met my needs for satisfying work.

In order to avoid this scenario from playing out again in the future, I realized I would need to better identify what I was looking for.

I needed take purposeful action toward achieving my vision.

I made a list of the things that were important to me in a future job/career.

This exercise helped me realize I wanted to work in an environment where I felt I was making a difference, utilizing my creativity and leveraging my skills for writing and speaking.

Once I identified what I wanted, I knew it was important for me to begin surrounding myself with mentors who had the skills and experiences I wanted for my future career.

I joined the Columbus American Marketing Association and began attending other networking events that attracted creative individuals who had experience with marketing agencies.

After months of networking and thorough research, I discovered there was an opening for a position as an Account Coordinator at a creative branding company.

I emailed the hiring manager of the company to express my deep interest in pursuing the position and landed an interview with the account executive and the president of the company a couple days after sending in my résumé. Two weeks later, I received a contract to work for the company.

At the time, I couldn’t believe my luck. However, in hindsight, I attribute my success to identifying what I wanted in a future job and choosing actions and behaviors to actualize this vision.

When you don’t have a vision moving forward, the power to choose can seem overwhelming. On the flip side, once you develop a clear idea of what you want, the freedom to choose is a gift.

Lesson 2: Follow your passion, and you’ll find your tribe.

Unlike in college, where I had many opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, developing a network of friends during post-graduate life was initially more of a challenge for me.

Without the structure of a college campus, I found it more difficult to solidify meaningful relationships.

When I explained my dilemma to my mom, she gave me the following advice: “If you want to find your tribe of people, you need to start doing what you love.”

I took her advice and joined a French Meetup group, where I immediately connected with several individuals who shared my love for language and culture.

I had a lot more luck creating meaningful connections than if I just went to a bar or a random socializing event.

The experience of developing friendships in a new city taught me that as long as I stay true to my interests and passions, I will always be able to establish substantial friendships.

Lesson 3: Moving too fast ultimately slows you down.

When life is hectic and new opportunities are just around the corner, I tend to want to move faster.

Whenever this happens, I tend to make silly mistakes, which often result in lost time, money and peace of mind.

A perfect example of this mentality occurred three weeks into my Columbus journey as I was sitting in traffic on my way to a networking event.

I was so focused on getting to the event that I failed to fully pay attention to my surroundings.

The result? I ended up rear-ending a truck in front of me and totaling my car.

Although I came away from the incident unscathed, the experience will always be a reminder to me of the importance of slowing down, especially when stress or anxiety arise in a situation.

At the end of the day, it’s the tortoise who wins the race.

Lesson 4: Mistakes are gifts in disguise.

I have never quite mastered the art of accepting failure. However, post-graduate life has certainly helped me refine this skill.

Due to the fact I am a perfectionist by nature, I have struggled to learn this lesson. But, as I grow and gain new life experiences, I’m learning the mistakes I’ve made have been some of my best life teachers.

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I have made since graduation was agreeing to accept a job offer without taking the time to reflect on whether it was something I really wanted for myself.

The decision to accept the job offer for a sales position was a big mistake.

Shortly after starting the position, I realized spending my days making cold calls to complete strangers was not a life path I wished to continue following.

When I look back on this period, I realize it taught me a very important lesson in patience and trust.

I learned that in uncertain times, I tend to make rash decisions I later regret.

As a result, I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath when life’s uncertainties arise and trusting things will work out in the end.

Final Thoughts.

I am by no means an expert in life transitioning. But, I do believe my experiences dealing with change have helped me to effectively navigate new situations.

For all those who are embarking on a new journey or encountering a challenge, I hope this post speaks to you in some way.

Change is an inevitable part of life.

The choice to resist or embrace it is ours.