Everyone’s experience after college is a little different. Some are chasing six digit incomes, others have a solid internship, and then…there’s a few of us spending a lot of time at home if you know what I mean. While my own job prospects are finally making a turn for the better, multiple weeks of unemployment is never easy. You’re freaked out about everything from rent to food to sorority shirt payments you somehow forgot about (sorry, Theta). It’s easy to feel like the world is falling apart.
If nothing else, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.
While there’s always overachievers out there who had everything planned out as soon as they snagged their diploma, some folks need a bit more time. For those of us in that weird in-between phase in life, here’s a few tips so you can stay motivated and optimistic:
Make an attack plan.
One of the weirdest parts about post-grad life is the total lack of schedule. You go from your last finals week – and having every last snack break and study session mapped out – to weirdly never-ending “free days.” At first it feels great! You have so much time for everything you forgot about during finals (like home-cooked meals…or showering). But suddenly all those days start to feel overwhelming as they slowly melt into one another. It becomes a slippery slope.
One of the best ways to avoid turning into a summer zombie is to set up an attack plan. Having a few goals to check off each day makes you feel like you’re always working towards something. I personally had a small daily checklist with three categories: jobs, house, and blog. Every day I tried to apply to (at least) one new job, clean one part of my house, and make progress on my next blog post. Crossing off at least one accomplishment a day keeps your momentum going. Even if you’re still waiting to hear back from interviews or school apps, put your post-finals drive to good use!
Have something to look forward to daily.
If you got those summertime sadness vibes going on (*cue Lana Del Rey*) it’s important to have something positive in your life. And honestly, that “happy thing” can be just about anything. When I’m feeling my most stressed, I like to do this basic exercise where I think of one thing that would make me happy, right in that moment, and then go do it. Sometimes you just need a little jumpstart to get yourself on track.
So, awkward confession time: for a solid couple weeks, my “one thing” was going out to the vending machine outside my apartment and buying a diet coke for $1.50. Oops. Def not the most healthy option, but hey… A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And getting up and outside actually helped me shake off the mental cobwebs! Yes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
For healthier “one thing” options, maybe look into a morning run, yummy new recipe, or quiet meditation time. When you don’t have a clear cut schedule to get you out of bed anymore, it’s important to make your own motivation. Starting off with one happy thing can help put you in a good place for the rest of the day.
Make sure you’re eating right.
This tip took me a while to learn. Despite trying to keep all my ducks in a row, I was obviously a bit stressed out with job hunting, getting ready to move, etc. I was eating at weird times of day while also trying to save money. Even though it wasn’t a super conscious thing, I started not eating very healthily. I was super tired every day and couldn’t figure out why — until I put two and two together.
Try to stay in tune with yourself. You can even start small if you have to, by making sure you have a good breakfast or have an alarm on your phone that reminds you to snack and drink water. Eating well helps both your physical health and your mental health in the long run. Give your body the fuel it needs and it will help you in return.
Plan out a future timeline.
I think what scared me most about not having a job lined up like ~everyone else~ was not knowing when I’d get to that next step. I knew my immediate future was going to involve a cheap retail job and an unpaid internship on the side. But when was I going to finally get the “big girl” career I’d always dreamed of? Part of what fueled my worry was coming from a small town where “everybody says they’re gonna leave, but nobody does.” I really didn’t want that to happen to me.
Part of what eased my fear was making a tentative calendar in my head. First thing was first: I had to get a job to pay the bills, then get a internship actually in my field, etc. But since getting stuck in a rut is easy, I made a future timeline for when I wanted to do a little “self check” of my next step in life. For me? That timeline involved analyzing my situation in six months and seeing how much money I’d saved up. And in a year I’d sit down and see where my work life progressed, what I wanted to plan towards, and how I was going to approach my next career moves.
Obviously every person’s situation is unique. But if you want to make sure you’re always moving forward, it’s good to make a deal with yourself and track your own successes! Don’t let life just slip by.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Last, but definitely not least… While it’s obviously important to stay #OnThatGrind, also make sure to be gentle with yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in your friends’ successes and feel like you don’t measure up. Remember: everyone grows at their own pace! Don’t compare yourself to people’s Instagram posts or Facebook job updates. Stay to your check list, take care of your body, and you can sleep a bit better knowing you’ve done what you can.
These five tips have helped my post-grad life and I hope they can help you too! Any other bits of advice?