When I graduated college and started my first “real job,” I was wholly unprepared for what it would entail. Here’s a few things I wish people had told me about working in the real world after leaving academia behind.
- You’re not going to be making as much money as you thought you would. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few that end up landing a super high paying, prestigious job right out of college, there’s a good chance that your starting salary is going to come in the form of a real world wake-up call. Even if your salary seems okay on paper, you’ll quickly realize that money doesn’t go as far as you thought it would – especially when you factor in things like rent, hefty student loan payments and a dangerous Sephora habit. You might end up eating your fair share of discount ramen, but you’ll make it work. You have to.
- This might not be your dream job. In fact, it probably isn’t. Most people I know – myself included – didn’t end up working at their dream job, or even a job that was remotely related to what they studied right after college. You might end up selling travel insurance, grooming poodles or working at the very bottom of the ladder as someone’s assistant. None of these jobs are your “dream”, but you’ll learn from them nonetheless. In the meantime, don’t let your less than ideal employment situation prevent you from pursuing what you are passionate about on the side.
- Waking up early and sitting in the same spot for 8 hours everyday is kind of a bummer. An uncomfortable truth, in the very truest sense.
- You’ll finally “get” the movie Office Space. And The Office. And Dilbert cartoons. You’ll feverishly watching old episodes of Ugly Betty on Netflix and catch yourself saying things like, “OMG, Betty’s struggles are real” while you chug boxed wine. True story.
- Your life becomes completely ruled by lunch. When will you eat it? Where will you eat it? Should you brown-bag it? What will you bring? Lunch becomes both a daily highlight (because sometimes you just really need those chicken fingers, you know?) and the bane of your existence, depending on the day of the week. The irony isn’t lost on you when in a moment of true desperation, you unceremoniously toss a tin of Campbell’s chunky soup in your designer bag on the way to work one morning.
- You’re probably going to work really long hours and not necessarily see the financial rewards (at least not right away). After working in a bunch of hourly jobs during college, being on a salary for the first time is going to be an adjustment. As a salaried employee, your hours won’t always be tallied, which means you may end up working a lot of overtime without necessarily being paid for it. If you’re lucky, your company offers lieu days or has a bonus structure. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay your dues.
- Payday loses some of it’s luster. Hey, remember when payday felt like a mini-Christmas every two weeks? Payday is exciting for the first 24 hours or so, until you wake up with a hangover and the sad reality that you have to funnel away 70% of your income to grown-up stuff like rent, loan payments and bills.
- Office parties can get weird. It’s all fun and games until someone falls down drunk or gets hit on by Cliff, the creepy copy room guy.