School’s Out: Now What?

January 13th, 2012 | Posted in by

It’s probably safe to say that when you’re in school there is no shortage of people who are older than you offering you advice about “what the real world” is really like. Generally, it’s difficult for young people to listen to the advice of older people no matter the generation. This is probably because of the inherent conflict of power between the two groups and because the advice they give is always a borderline horror story. No one wants to hear about how terrible life will be like after school and if it was as ugly as some people say then why would adults even bother living after school is over?

As someone who is just about to finish her certificate and just landed her first real job I’m going to paint you my picture of life after school. It’s not as painful or nasty as some would have you believe but the reality also isn’t amazing. With or without school, life will have its ups and downs.

Your income will make you sad

There are so many movies about talented people who created a service/product or started a company to become millionaires. It is great to fantasize on your downtime or even plan ahead for a future where you could be making significant money but many new grads actually think that within a short span of time they will be making nearly $80 000 a year. Before they even hit 30 years.

Don’t be delusional. Money and Experience are nearly directly proportional in how they increase over time. Can you end up making almost a hundred grand in 5 years of working? Sure. But then you are probably someone who is already a charismatic networker and a genius with your work – or have really wealthy parents with great ties to get you around in life.

That being said, if you don’t have as many blessings – you will be paid enough to fend for yourself. Most average people do need to put the time and effort before they can reach for bigger incomes. It is nothing to be ashamed about. There is a lot to be learned by staying with a company long enough to learn and gain confidence in your field.

Your career path isn’t certain

The real world is about being practical. It’s a cold hard fact that once you finish school, tuition will wait for you and while chasing your dream job and choosing an unpaid internship to get that job is great on paper your debts could care less about your situation.

So you’re probably going to have to take what you feel is a pointless job in order to pay the bills (and unfortunately they won’t be paying you 80 grand in five years either). I started off working for a grocery store (minimum wage) and bank teller (about 2 dollars more than minimum).

My best advice: do whatever you can to show off your talents and learn to care about that job. I decided I was going to be a great bank teller. My managers and coworkers loved me. You need to make connections and strive to stand out from the crowd because you never know where it will take you and failing to make a name for yourself in your “pointless” job certainly won’t help you find your real role.

Become your own accountant

My wish list:

  • iPhone
  • Two Week vacation to Europe
  • Nice two bedroom Condo
  • Big screen TV

Independence is not as glamorous as your TV/music tells you and it certainly isn’t as awful as some more experienced adults will tell you but when your income nowhere near your parents combined salaries, you do have to learn a few things about budgeting.

I have bills and things I need to buy every month. I’m no millionaire so I can’t have everything I want when I want it. But my life isn’t over or horrible simply because I have to wait a little while to afford what I want. I can’t buy everything I want but I am saving up a little bit every month so I can prioritize and buy things accordingly (I’m aiming for iPhone).

Learn patience and accept your limitations so you can plan accordingly. You don’t need to agonize over what life gives you because frankly, most people can’t afford to get what they want when they want it.

Expect a fight

You’re young and you are inexperienced. These are two major weaknesses that you will have to live with until you at least hit 30 and won’t fully be able to cast aside until you reach 40. If you want that real job after school then don’t allow yourself any excuses: do everything you can to show the world why they need to take you seriously and you are going to have to keep doing it until people stop noticing your baby face.

Is it fair? Nope. I know it. I felt it. But don’t dwell on fairness, it’s just another excuse for you to sulk and slow down your efforts. If you think life won’t give you a fair shot feel free to give up, there are hungrier students than you and they will be snatched up in your place.

So life is going to be a bit of a struggle after school. With a little planning it can be manageable. There’s no reason to panic, just don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting too much and be prepared to make a little effort.

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  • Colin Finlay, CHRP

    A clever dose of reality Anja. Keep up the great work!