One year ago I was just graduating college with absolutely zero idea what the 'real world' was going to look like. I was engaged, unemployed, and totally underprepared. Luckily, things have turned out ok in the first year. Here's what I've learned so far:
1. People are the best resource for everything
While it's great to have 3,000 Facebook friends, I'm talking more about the people you actually talk to with any level of consistency. After I graduated college, I landed an internship, a temp job, and two full time positions over the course of the year (leading up until now). I didn't find a single one of them on my own. You never know where leads will come from and how people are connected. So be nice to everyone because it's 1. the right thing to do and 2. it may help you someday.
When it comes to jobs, or places to live, or what sushi restaurants are the best (Peter's, Peter's, and Peter's), people are absolutely the most important resource I've had. Also, the 'real world' happens on the phone and in person.
2. Try to enjoy the ride
The 'real world' is many things and most of them are intimidating. Growing up is difficult because no one can tell you exactly what you 'should' be doing anymore and that can be a very stressful place to be.
At first I had a really hard time enjoying myself during the process. The job hunt was stressful, work was stressful, planning a wedding was stressful... you get it. The point is that I'm learning life never stops moving until it stops altogether and there's no reason to spend all your time obsessing over how things will work themselves out. Work hard, do your best, and let the future take care of itself.
3. No one figures it out
Growing up, I always did this thing where I looked ahead to the next stage of life and thought, "man, I'll have everything so figured out by then." At twelve, I thought that about sixteen, at sixteen I thought that about twenty-one, at twenty-one I thought that about twenty-five, and at twenty-five I gave up.
I just realized that when grandparents look us in the eye and we think they know it all and that grin is because they're withholding information, what they've known all along is that life is a process and there are very few things we ever truly "figure out."
4. I should have taken a finance class (or two)
As a college creative, I didn't much like the idea of taking finance classes because 1. they weren't required and I didn't do anything that wasn't explicitly required and 2. they sounded too much like boring math. As it turns out, finance is one of the most important aspects of both business and personal life and it would've helped a ton to get some professional teaching before leaving school.
It's funny thinking about it now, but I think personal and business finance classes should be required for everyone who goes through high school and college. As it turns out, money management means more than picking Chick-fil-a over P.F. Chang's for lunch. Just because I finished school doesn't mean I finished learning this stuff--which brings me to my last point.
5. The homework never ends
This past summer I interned at an ad agency and the CEO came down and talked to our group of interns once. The only thing he said to us was, "the homework never ends." In all fairness--he wasn't some cold distant CEO who never talked to his employees, this was just our only one-on-one interaction with him. Mr. Bohan explained how over the years he's learned that, in order to stay ahead of the curve, he has to do independent learning outside of what's required from his job.
It's been a revelation to me that people don't get ahead in business (or really in life) by doing what's required. Finding time to do more is challenging, but when I look at the people I know whom I believe are the most successful--they do more than is required.