4 Tips for Transitioning From College to Real Life

By Amanda Marie Clark

When I graduated from college, I was idealistic and ambitious. At the same time, I was insecure and incredibly naive. As a creature of habit, I had a hard time with the uncertainty of having no idea what lay before me.

When you’re transitioning from college to real life, there are so many unknown variables. Here are a few of tips that might help you with your college to real-life journey.

  1. Beef Up That Resume

You’ve probably heard it before, but spending time on your resume is a must. A prospective employer usually sees your resume first, and if it’s more skeletal than the model from biology class, you’ll have a hard time landing a job.

Before you graduate, check to see if there’s an on-campus service available that will help you with your resume. At my school, there was a professor assigned to helping out graduating seniors with this essential job skill. He revised my skimpy resume and made me want to hire myself.

If there are no such services available at your school, check out one of the many resume resources online. You’ll be surprised how good organization and some thought about your accomplishments (for example, summer jobs or internships, clubs you were apart of, academic achievements) can fill out your CV.

Don’t forget to run your resume and cover letters through a grammar and spell check to avoid embarrassing typos you can’t take back!  

  1. Volunteer and Intern

As I applied to numerous jobs, I found out that employers wanted someone with experience. But how was I supposed to gain experience if no one would hire me because of my lack of it? Holy frustration!

More times than I could count, employers rejected me. So I became a stereotype by moving back in with my parents. Then I interned at a local art gallery and volunteered to write biographies on artists in the neighborhood. My major was Art History, so these small tasks were relevant and possible when I didn’t have to pay rent (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

I made almost nothing and I felt like I was back in high school, telling my mom when I would be home every evening. But after all of these years, this internship experience remains on my resume. It taught me some valuable skills, from using a different computer to interacting with customers.

While you might look with envy at your classmates who landed high-paying jobs right out of school, remember that this isn’t the norm. Volunteering and interning will provide you with the experience and prevents gaps in your resume, as well as valuable skills that will benefit future jobs. You can also see if there are any gigs that suit your skillset on one of the many online platforms for freelance jobs, from writing to coding to tutoring.

You might be eating ramen (the instant kind—not the fancy kind), but with hard work, you’ll find that all the small steps were necessary to get you where you want to be.  

  1. Network

According to Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons, approximately 70% to 80% of jobs are not public. This statistic is a rude awakening when you’re sending out 20 resumes a day and not getting any bites.

Yes, all those online profiles make it easy to fill out one profile and send mass resumes to employers, but that’s also a problem. It’s so easy to apply for these jobs that sometimes college grads forget about the power of networking.

Those employers that post job openings online receive hundreds of applications. But if you can get your face in front of someone, you’re a living, breathing twenty-something craving an opportunity. You’re basically an eager puppy with its tongue hanging out, and everyone loves a puppy.

Not that you shouldn’t use online resources, but try not to lose touch with your real-life connections. You’re more likely to land a job by talking to your old college professor about an opportunity in your field than through one of these mass resume-blasts.

Here are some quick networking tips:

  • Send your professors an email from time to time to keep you fresh in their minds.
  • Keep in touch with old friends, who might have connections that will lead to an interview.
  • Make sure everyone you can think of—parents’ friends, friends’ parents—knows you’re looking for a job.
  • Attend events through your alumni association or local professional organizations.

And when you hear of an opportunity, don’t be afraid to ask for more information!

  1. Breathe

No matter how ecstatic you are to leave college behind and venture into the workforce, it’s a stressful time. It’s also a transition that’s one of the most important in your life. Because of this, you need to take care of yourself and not lose perspective. So don’t beat yourself up if you send 50 resumes and receive 0 replies.

To keep my spark, idealism, and ambition when I was making my way after college, I had to step back and breathe. And I’m talking about more than a couple of breaths each day. I needed to schedule regular times to get away from all the resumes, phone calls, and rejection letters. So I would shut myself in a room and either meditate or practice yoga for 10-20 minutes daily. It provided me some time to be at peace and refreshed my mind, so I could dust myself off, and begin searching once again.

You might be lost right now, and that’s okay. Like with all transitions, you adapt. Be persistent, and don’t hesitate to take some risks and try something new. After all, right after college is a time to discover, learn from your mistakes, and grow.

The greatest tip I received after graduating was a simple statement from an old soul. Maybe it will resonate with you too: “It’s a big world out there; go explore.”


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