10 Important Lessons You Learn After College

By 09.26.13

It’s not a fair system, but at least you’re not alone in this uphill battle of fantasy meeting reality.

See, in college you’re conditioned for four years to believe that you’re on a significant journey, working towards something that will benefit both yourself and the rest of the world.

Then, you graduate, move in with mom and dad, and begin slaving away at a 9-5 job just to pay off your five or six figure student loans. The next thing you know you’re in your mid-20s, finally living alone, and still working to pay off your debt at a job where nobody respects what you do.

That’s the situation pretty much every dude has post-college, now here are 10 lessons you will learn as you adjust to this new reality. Nobody said it would be fun, did they?

The world is not yours.

The false promises and hollow hopes that are relentlessly preached during college graduations lead you to believe you are embarking on a meaningful path that will change the world. Well, I hate to break it to you but that’s a bunch of bullshit. I’m all for believing that tomorrow will be a better day and all that optimistic crap that people feed other people; however, the brute reality of life is that are our impact on the world — I’m talking about the globe here — ranges from minimal to insignificant to non-existent. If any of us are lucky, then maybe we can transcend our time and place and leave a legacy that will be passed on to future generations, but let’s be honest the odds are stacked against us.

Even if you reject everything I just said and truly believe that the world is yours like Tony Montana once did, your ego is probably inflated to the point that not even a safety pin could pop it. Keep going out there day to day believing that you’re the embodiment of the American Dream. If at least one person thinks it, then it has to be the truth, right?

Education is overpriced and undervalued.

I really don’t want this to be a forum about how colleges have unapologetically jacked up their prices to cripple this generation of students, but allow me to say this — where your degree is from and how much is worth will not yield you anything in return. You have to work hard to get anywhere in this world and just because your resume says you went to some fancy expensive school, it doesn’t mean squat. You’re literally no different than tens of thousands of other college students. Nobody hires based on what your grade point average was in school which leads me to believe the obvious as truth — academic, formal learning isn’t important to real world business leaders.

It’s too bad you don’t learn this valuable lesson until after you’ve already paid for your overpriced education.

Parents are allies, not friends.

Parents can be a terrific resource in the months following your graduation. They listen to all your bullshit and reaffirm your confidence in yourself even at the lowest moments. As reliable and helpful as they are during these periods of stagnation, they are not your friends. I say this because a lot of dudes I know, including myself, have gotten caught in this warped reality that living at home after college is like living in a frat house in college — everything goes and any bit of information can be said at any time. This is not true. As much as your parents may have adapted to your shenanigans over the years, they are not ready to hear about your trip to the strip club on Friday night. Like any good ally, they have patience for when you’re not doing well, but they are not your friends — don’t get it confused.

Stand by your decisions.

Regret will eat a man whole, and chances are that if you’re an unemployed, or even employed, recent college graduate, then you’ve made some decisions you’ve regretted. Don’t get caught up in this thought pattern; stand by your decisions at all costs. If you’re to act like a man, there is no wish to hit the restart button. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing — you could be at work or out socializing at a bar, what remains important is acting on impulse and standing by that impulse even when the outcomes of that choice are ugly.

In college, second-guessing yourself is natural and kind of absurdly funny — should I have brought home that four last night? Why did I go down on her? In the real world, second-guessing yourself is a kiss of death.

Know about current events.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Current events are not only a good conversation starter, they are good way to show fellow employees and maybe your bosses that you’re not a stupid as you look and that you might know a thing or two that can actually help the company you’re working for. Most importantly, knowing current events is like doing any choir — cleaning the dishes, doing the laundry, you name it. Whether or not you want to do it doesn’t matter, it’s a reflexive part of being an adult and being a part of the adult world. You have to care about personal hygiene, polished shoes, pressed pants, and politics in this appearance-drive materialistic society.

Trust me, none of those things are easy to juggle daily while holding down a job, but it is doable and a good way to pretend that you know what you’re doing. I know it’s an abrupt shift from college where you can coast for four years without knowing a damn thing about what’s going on in other parts of the world, but it’s change that I actually believe produces more good than frustration in the long term. 

Hard work goes unnoticed.

Let’s get one thing clear in this article: your life after college isn’t as fun as your life in college. In college, your parents and relatives would constantly congratulate for the simple, effortless work you did and, if you were lucky, reward you with a little bit of extra cash to spend because you were “working so hard in the classroom.” Flash-forward a few years, and those people who were quick to give you $50 for becoming a college-level junior are the same people that don’t really care about what you’re doing in the working world. Think I’m lying? Try it at your next family function. Hell, even embellish the truth or outright lie — tell them a story about you doing something great at work and see out they react. I can guarantee it won’t be as receptive as it was when you were a freshman in college.

And don’t even get me started about your bosses, they are definitely not going to pat you on the back and say good job, so get used to grinding out the workday as an underappreciated and unnoticed cog in the machine.

Talking: Less is more.

The more you say as an adult, the more you’re going to get in trouble. This is chiefly different than in college, where the loudmouth on campus gets all the attention and obtains feign respect from his peers for talking out about ‘big issues’ that other people are to reserved to speak up about. In the working world, speaking out like a revolutionary militia leader — I’m talking about those bros who where Che stickers on their backpacks — will get you fired quicker than assaulting a co-worker. Keeping your mouth shut is a good personal policy to carry throughout your working career no matter if you’re a top dog or a little runt — the less opportunities for controversy, the better.

Keep a low profile.

Very similar to No. 7, keeping a low profile is key. You don’t want to be known as “that guy” no matter how tempting it may seem.

In college, you wanted to act out, get noticed and build momentum from that attention. Why wouldn’t you? Chicks aren’t going to sleep with the creepy guy in the corner; they are going to home with the boisterous, confident asshole that has enough personality to suffocate the entire campus. On the other hand, after college leaves you with a completely different, more dark set of circumstances. You may think that building yourself up still may be the way to win friends and influence people, but this is not the case. You win friends and influence people in the real world through humbleness and trust — neither of which can be obtain if you’re constantly acting like a drunken buffoon.

Travel whenever possible.

To keep yourself sane, get away from wherever you’re living as much as you can. The constant work grind will ruin souls and the only way not to sink into a fiery pit of despair is to change settings at least once or twice a month. I know you may be paying a fortune for your apartment or house, but don’t let that incredibly ridiculous rent lay siege on your freedom. You’re American — you can do what you want, when you want, if you’re off the clock. So when it’s the weekend or you have time off, there’s no need to stick around the city or wherever you’re living.

Fairness is an ideal, not a reality.

I’m glad we’ve come full circle and stumbled back on fairness.  A lot of college students believe in this ideal that everything is equal and worth fighting for without actually getting a sense of what the world is like. The closeted world of college blinds the young minds of our country a lot, but one of the most important lessons people learn once the exit the pearl gates of their formal education is that reality bites — hard. An act of kindness isn’t usually reciprocated and hard work often goes unnoticed, as I’ve previously mentioned, so the best way to survive is to expect imbalance and thrive on it. 

[Image via ShutterStock]

TAGSreal world problems

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