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3 Reasons Why Starting Out in the Real World Is More Than Just Rent & Ramen

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Recently, my Facebook newsfeed was inundated with statuses about Spring Break. And while admittedly I may be slightly jealous as I stare at rain all week, I can’t say I miss that time of my life. Because I know what comes next…

The job search.

Marketing students across the country are gearing up to graduate college, which means they’re diving head face-first into the job search. It’s stressful, messy, and requires an iron will and the ability to forgive yourself for the amount of stress eating you’ll do.

In all seriousness though, it is a tough time. It feels like your whole future is in your hands and you can either make it or break it with a single choice. Not to mention everyone keeps talking about how much being an adult sucks.

Even though you’re up to your ears in advice about what jobs to choose, how to nail that interview, and the top ten mistakes to avoid making on your resume, here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I started out:

1. The “real world” is awesome.

When you leave behind the comforts of college, there’s a lot of talk about the “real world” and its harsh realities. It’s all a bunch hubbub about bills and more bills and living off of ramen and more ramen (which most of us did in college anyways, right?). Just pay attention to how many times have you hear “Welcome to the real world” in a not-so-welcoming tone. It’s unnerving.

The truth is, the “real world” gets a bad rap. Is it all sunshine and flowers? No. Is anything? Just like any part of life, your experience is what you make it.

Perspective is everything.

Too often, people paint entering the workforce , and the marketing industry in particular, as the equivalent to being (miserable) at the bottom of the totem pole. And to some extent… you are—at the bottom of the totem pole, that is. You’re a newbie, and that’s something you can enthusiastically (and sometimes even proudly) accept. You’ll never be this new again.

But with so much negativity around Millennials in particular, there’s this doom and gloom vibe that accompanies your start in “real life”. How much of that is actually accurate? Are you miserable at the bottom, wandering aimlessly while eating ramen every damn day? Or, are you at the beginning of an incredible opportunity to learn and grow?

You get to choose.

I’ll take the learning and growing, please. With a side of ramen.

2. School never ends.

If you’re a self-proclaimed nerd like me, this is great news. School doesn’t end when you toss your cap in the air. Starting a new job is just like starting at a new school- in more ways than one.

First, you have the opportunity to learn new skills—so take advantage. You have a wealth of knowledge right in front of you: people with more experience, both in life and in work; tools to help you learn how to do your job (because believe it or not, being qualified for your position doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn). Want to expand your skillset and learn Photoshop? Ask. Curious about what another team does in the office? Ask. Don’t know how to do something? You guessed it—ask. Soak it all up, and don’t be afraid to be curious.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Not only do you have the chance to learn… you also have the chance to establish new relationships, make new friends, and find new mentors. This is a whole new group of people you’ll be spending time with almost every single day. Put yourself out there. Go to team happy hour, grab the other newbie and go to lunch, get coffee with someone from another team. Build relationships and get to know the people you work with.

Here’s a quick tip: keep in mind that we spend more hours at work than anywhere else. So, you really need to be sure your team and environment are a good fit for you. Be authentic in your interview—if you’re not yourself, you may wind up in a position where the true you isn’t the best fit.

With that said… be patient. The first day of school is always a little awkward, right? Starting a new job can feel the same way. It takes time to build relationships and really find your place on the team. It’s okay to feel a little awkward and, well, new.

3. Don’t settle.

I was lucky enough to go through a job search with very supportive parents. Parents who encouraged me to not - under any circumstance - settle. At the time, it was the hardest advice to take. The job search is not a sprint and it’s not a marathon… it’s both. It’s weeks of researching companies and interview after interview after interview. No matter how confident you are, or how much you know what you want to do, the process is still grueling. And when an offer comes your way, it’s hard to say no. There’s this fear that you might never find a job—or find a job in something you actually want to do.

And if you’re out there on your own, with bills to pay and rent to worry about, hearing “don’t settle” might sound foolish. But if at all possible… if you can hold on long enough… follow it. Don’t be unrealistic—you won’t be the CEO right out of school. But say no to the job you know you don’t want. The one that gives you that icky feeling in your stomach- that makes you feel like the real world really is a shitty place, and all the bad stuff you heard was right. Say no.

Why?

Because you won’t excel. You won’t be excited to learn, you won’t be thrilled about the possibilities, and you won’t look forward to going to work every day.

There’s this misconception that it’s completely natural to hate your first job. But really, it’s actually completely possible to love what you do—even on the first try. You just have to give yourself the opportunity to find it. And you can’t do that if you settle.

Entering the “real world” is a crazy, confusing, and scary time. But it’s also fun, exciting, and filled to the brim with opportunities. It’s up to you to decide which way you choose to look at it.

So take a deep breath, get pumped up, and have at it.

Written by Jack Scullin on March 13, 2015

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Jes says:

I'm rethinking how often I say welcome to the real world to anyone. Granted they are usually complaining, that doesn't mean I need to try and trivialize their journey.

Ruth Lauture says:

Very insightful post, and especially true given that students are on the prowl for an internship or job after graduation. I, myself, am looking at the career field, and I look forward to the next chapter of my life. One thing I did want to mention is milennials in the work force. I've heard from employers in the past that have hired students right after college that they have little to offer. I say that we are the most influential to our society and the workforce. We are quick learners and understand the uses of social media, as it's something we use daily. We can adapt to changes in the workplace since we are the newbies everything is a learning experience.

Written by
Jack Scullin