Hi Alex and the rest of the class of 2015! How are you?
Just kidding! I know you’re terrible. I know you’re miserable. I know you’re so freaking hungover. I know this because 10 years ago (or one decade. depends on how depressed you want to feel about it), I was exactly where you are: about to graduate from college. I had (and have) never been more depressed in my entire life. File that in the pluses column; nothing has been that bad again! There is your one plus.
Just kidding! There are plenty of positive things about this moment in your life and an infinite amount of joy ahead. But screw ahead. You’re in the now, and the now is really, really rough. I thought I might ease the pain with a few words of advice.
But please take all with a grain of salt. My parents still refer to my graduation weekend as the worst behavior of my entire life. I told them it was acceptable because I was in deep mourning. I stand by that statement.
If you have a job, good for you. If you do not have a job, great for you.
- My #1 error upon graduating from college was stressing over how quickly I could start my career, especially since I didn’t technically start the real one until three years ago when I quit the other ones to be a full-time writer. I literally walked around my parents’ house saying, “I’m in limbo! It’s like my life is on hold!” Employment is important because money is a necessity. But an immediate knowledge of what you want to do for the rest of your life is not important right now. If I could do it all over, I would waitress for months at a time so I could afford trips around the world. I would do that for approximately 2 years until I had a better sense of who and what I wanted to be, then I would go looking for a career job. God I wish I could do that…
Try so so hard not to move home for too long.
- I know it’s tough because of the economy you were left by the idiots who graduated long before either of us, but if you can find a way to afford life outside your home, please do so. It’s not because your parents aren’t wonderful support systems with built-in laundry machines and stocked refrigerators. It’s because you need to expand and grow and network and that’s hard to do unless your home is in a place where that can be done. If your family lives in Manhattan, live at home for the rest of your life. I’ll come live there too. Bottom line: I know that living at home is wonderful because it saves you an incredible amount of money that you will need later, but it’s also delaying some necessary independence. Just move home when you change your career at 27. Then it will be a hysterical novelty!
Do whatever humanly possible to avoid credit card debt.
- It’s not a problem now, but it will be when you can’t do the things that you really want to do because you’re still paying off interest on your baby’s first Amex. At 26 I decided that I wanted to leave New York to pursue my writing career in Los Angeles. I had to move home and delay that life change by almost 8 months because I couldn’t afford to move until my credit card debt was gone. Suddenly all those vodka sodas didn’t seem so important…
This is going to sound weird, but I want you to make friends with a few “old people.”
- Get in touch with at least two people through your alumni network/family friends/summer job connections that work in your hopeful field, and ask if you can have a coffee or drink to talk about what they do. You’re not asking them for a job; you’re asking them to help you understand a job/life. I can’t tell you how important it is to have “mentors.” That’s in ” because I don’t mean wise old people that school you in the ways of the working world. I just mean slightly older people that can help you along your way. R got his first job out of college because of two Northwestern alum he looked up when he got to college. My good friend Mike started a career at Disney because of a connection he made through our Boston College alumni network. We want to help you. Just ask nicely.
Comb your social media for inappropriate content, fast.
- You know this already because your mom told you that so-and-so’s daughter couldn’t get a teaching job because there were too many pictures of her taking shot-ski’s on the Internet. Then she asked you what the heck a shot-ski is, and when you told her she lost it. Now is the time to remember that story and take action. While you’re at it, update all your privacy settings because that’s just smart. Here are some best practices.
Plan a trip with your best college friends for 3-6 months from this very date.
- Ask for it as your graduation gift if you don’t currently have the money or ignore my earlier advice and put it on a credit card. It will be easier to handle the blow of moving out of the protective womb of all your best friends in the world if you have something to look forward to. Last minute travel deals on Groupon Travel help.
Don’t rush things.
- I know everyone says that, but it’s true. Feel free to be impulsive, quick-to-change and independent, but don’t do it because “I’m going to be 30 before I know it.” I did a lot of rushing things at first because I always wanted to be older and being young made me feel so worthless. That was ridiculous. I wasn’t worthless I just didn’t know anything! So just be your age because you only get one shot at that, and though there is nothing wrong with 30 there is so much right with 22, specifically your skin and ass.
And finally – do not forget to thank your parents or whatever support system got you to this point.
- I was such a jerk on my graduation day that I barely let mine take a photo. In my defense it was 45 and rainy, but that is no excuse. You completed college, yes, but they raised you to be capable of doing so. Be grateful. Be grateful to everyone, in fact. College is a gift that a very small percentage of the world experiences. So feel free to cry and complain and fall asleep during the ceremony because you’re just so hungover, but don’t forget to feel fortunate. In fact, make your graduation day the day you commit to feeling fortunate as often as humanely possible, and don’t stop until you’re dead.
Good luck Class 0f 2015. Because you can probably do it, one person might just make a change, and I believe the children do stand a chance at being our future!
For more unsolicited advice check out:
The Five Things I Tell Everyone To Do After They Move To LA To Be a Writer
How To Survive Your 20s, As Far As I’m Concerned