10 Things I Learned After Graduating College & Starting My Career

Six months ago, I moved my tassle from right to left and walked across the big stage to receive the most expensive piece of paper I own.

“This is it,” I thought. 10+ years of standardized tests, research papers, quizzes, late night study sessions, early morning classes, and endless microwave popcorn led up to this moment. One day you’re doing ALL. THE. WORK. on a group project, and the next day you’re unemployed. “This is it,” I thought… This is the post-grad life. Love that for you, sweetie.

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To be completely honest, this is the WEIRDEST time EVER. *cue quarter life crisis*

Your friends will move away and start working full time and many of the close relationships you fostered over the past handful of years will begin to strain. You might move back in with your parents or decide to pack up and start a life somewhere new. You might be like me and just cry a lot, too.

Over the past year, I’ve experienced a LOT of changes. I graduated college, competed for Miss Wisconsin, joined the National Sweetheart Pageant family, began my career, started a podcast, moved out, created new relationships and ended others.

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I’m still alive but I’m barely breathin’….

But actually, although this is such a strange and pivotal time, it’s also the BEST opportunity to re-invent yourself to find out who you are and what you wish to become. As you venture through this awko chunk of life, keep in mind these little nuggets that I picked up over the last year…

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It’s okay to be terrified. Chances are, for the first time in your life, your path isn’t paved. THINK ABOUT IT. You’re five years old, you’re set up to spend the next 12 years of your life in school. After high school, you probably had four years of college ahead of you. Now what? Up to you, cupcake. If you’re anything like me, you’ll stress cry 34839262 times trying to figure that out.

Take risks. Hanging out in your comfort zone will never help you grow. Move out, apply for a job you might be under-qualified for, find a new passion, start your own business…whatever fuels your fire. I went from living at my parents’ house to signing a lease with one of my best friends in a new city in a matter of five days. Financially smart? Eh, I could’ve probably saved up a little more before taking the leap. BUT was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

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Be unapologetic. Your first priority is always you and you’re allowed to be a little selfish at this time. This was a tough realization for me because I’m the biggest push-over I know. I’ve been walked on more times than I can count and I constantly aim to please. However, I am learning that I have complete control over my life and I don’t have to apologize for doing something for myself. Know that you don’t have to explain yourself for turning down a date, or trying something new, or choosing to stay in on a weekend. Build that backbone of yours to be a strong one.

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Let yourself be vulnerable. You’re going to be forced to open yourself up to a whole lot of rejection. You can’t avoid it, so learn to love it and trust that you can handle it.

Learn as much as you can. Just because you have a degree now doesn’t mean you stop learning. Your first job out of college will provide SO much opportunity for growth and experience. Ask questions every day and get your hands dirty.

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Fail a lot. This goes hand-in-hand with vulnerability. You’re destined to encounter more mistakes than successes. Truth is, you never grow from consistently winning. It’s the losses that humble you and show you how to improve. So FAIL. Take a knee, but don’t forget to stand back up.

Be patient. When I was very little, I painted a picture of what I thought my twenties would look like and JEEEZUS, was I wrong. I imagined I’d be working in a high rise in New York City wearing designer clothes and living in a posh apartment with the man of my dreams and a ring on my finger. HA. FAT CHANCE. Take your time, girl. You’ll get there, but it might not be tomorrow.

Say thank you. Swallow your pride, accept help, and say thank you to those who love and support you. I WISH I could go back and re-thank every person who lent a hand to me this year, because there are oodles of them.

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Save your pennies. The first big paycheck is exciting, but you don’t go from broke college kid to thirty, flirty, and thriving in a split second. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones without student debt, you’re still dirt poor, sister. Here’s to generic brand groceries and Craigslist apartment furniture. Definitely let yourself live every once in a while, but make your budget your best friend and make an effort to stick to it (OKAY I admit I spent way too much at Marshall’s on home decor last weekend. Sue me).

Never settle. The hustle is real at this time, but it doesn’t mean you have to settle on the first offer you get. Don’t settle for a lame guy. Don’t settle for a group of friends that aren’t helping you grow. Don’t sell yourself short. Be confident and know your worth. You worked hard for it.

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Happy New Year, friends. Make every moment count!

Love always,

Jessica

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