Let’s say you’ve just graduated college. (Congratulations!) And now let’s say you live in the middle of nowhere—or at least close to it—and so, out of necessity, you’ve applied to jobs in other places. And now let’s say you’ve managed to land a job in that faraway place. (Congratulations again!) Now, while there’s a lot to celebrate—you’re employed, after all—you need to plan ahead and eventually adjust to moving away and starting to work. Here’re some tips to help smooth the potentially rocky transition:
- Learn the lay of the land. Don’t just plop yourself down in a new location if you can help it. In other words: don’t show up sights-unseen. Instead, get a cheap bus or train ticket and go visit, walk around, and get a feel for the area. That way, it won’t be as big and scary when you’re there for real. At the very least, you’ll be able to have a few landmarks in mind so you don’t keep getting lost.
- Call around. It’s a little intimidating moving to a new place, right? So don’t be too bashful to look to others for help. For instance, if you’re moving to a big metropolitan city, then chances are you have friends in that city, or at least know of a familiar person or two. With that in mind, reach out and connect, and plan to meet up once you’re there. That way, you won’t be a stranger in a strange land. Plus it’ll be easier to get your bearings.
- Keep in touch. It’s easy to get a little flustered when you’re in a new place, or even a little homesick, so to stave off those kinds of feelings, keep in touch with your friends and family back home. If you take advantage of online tools like Skype and Facetime, and as long as you put the effort in, it’ll seem like you never even left.
- Look ahead. You have a new life ahead of you. How can that not be at least a little exciting? It’s okay to be nervous, maybe even a little scared, but hey, you’ll survive, and you’ll make the best of whatever comes your way. In other words: half the battle is simply thinking positive thoughts.
- If all else fails, view work as a social opportunity. Chances are you’re working with at least some people who are your age and have your interests. Just because they’re co-workers doesn’t mean they can’t also be friends. So if you’ve moved across the country for a job and don’t know anyone, reach out to people at the office. They, too, probably know what’s it’s like to be new.
If your heart rate is a little faster than usual it might be because you’re in the thick of job-application season, so take a breather and slow down in order to make sure you have all the essentials in check. For example: the resume. It’s perhaps the single most important piece of paper you’ll ever send out, as it gets your foot in the door with potential employers. So to make sure you’re resume is doing its job properly, avoid the following:
- Weighing it down with junk. No one wants to know every single thing you’ve ever done ever. Instead of junking up the page with each volunteer opportunity, extracurricular activity, or academic credential, cull out what’s most important. Your resume isn’t a catalog of your life, but instead a streamlined list of what you’ve experienced and achieved in relation to what you’re applying for. In other words: make every word count.
- Stuff that happened a long time ago. If you avoid the above pitfall, you should have no trouble avoiding this one, too. In general, potential employers don’t want a laundry list of, say, your high school achievements. As impressive as they are, if you can’t speak to collegiate or internship experience, then you won’t be taken as seriously as you might be hoping.
- Generalizations. It’s always good to put a “Skills” section on your resume: just a short list of what you’re competent at. For example, if you’re a social media wizard, go ahead and say you’re proficient in the art of Facebook and Twitter. Don’t just put down something general, though, like “media.” There are a lot of different kinds of media, and if you want to be taken seriously you have to get specific.
- Clunky grammar and syntax. There’s no reason why you have to fill up your resume with paragraphs of explanations about your experiences. Chances are if you have to write down a ton of words to explain yourself then you’re doing it wrong, and getting clunky. Instead, write out short, effective lists with efficient and powerful verbs. For example, have you ever helped someone create an organized list of contacts for a specific purpose? Well, then, you might say: “developed a database.”
- Errors. If even one spelling error shows up on your resume then that might be enough to blow your chances, considering you’re going up against many others. So be careful, and proofread, proofread, proofread.
If you’re the ambitious type, then you might have more than one academic interest, meaning you may want to major in more than one subject. Most schools allow you to do so, but urge you to really know what you’re doing if you want to double down on the intensity of your studies. If you’re thinking a double major might be in your academic cards, then here are some pros and cons to help you decide:
- You get more than one advisor. Whether you want to major in a combination of English, history, theatre, art, mathematics, physics, music, computer science, or whatever, you’re going to need an academic advisor for each subject. While setting up meetings to meet with your advisors might get hectic around the time you have to choose classes, it might be worth it to have two mentors who know you and your academic strengths well. In other words: double the major, double the faculty attention and help.
- You’ll have a packed schedule. Sometimes it’s hard enough to squeeze in all the electives you want even when you have just one major, so if you have two you’ll definitely have to make some decisions regarding which subject you’ll never get the chance to explore. That might not be a bad thing, though, as you’ll always know what your academic plan is, and your academic direction will never be up in the air.
- It’s a resume builder. If you have a double major, and when you put that on your resume, prospective employers will be able to tell that you’re hardworking, determined, resourceful, and all kinds of other positive adjectives, making you an attractive fit in the workplace. But, that being said, if you know what your career path is going to be (say, an accountant), then it won’t help to just double major in anything. Instead, play to your strengths with the future in mind, and become as qualified as you can for what you want to do.
- You’ll make more friends. Classes you take in your major will require more intense work, and you’ll be in smaller classes and seminars as you go along. So what does that mean, really? More people to commiserate with about how much you wish academics would make like a bad check and bounce, meaning more friends, and more friends is never a bad thing. The problem with a double major, on the other hand, is that you may not have time to hang out with all the friends you’ll make.
- You’ll have more to talk about. The more you major in, the more knowledge you have, making you a master of random trivia and interesting conversation. Can’t beat that.
Now that I’ve recently left my undergraduate career in my rearview mirror, and now that the view of the place is quickly receding, I guess I can say there are a few things I knew would be true, but didn’t quite register until, well…now. In other words: here’s what I wish I knew before I graduated about what I’d face after I did:
1. The best price is free. As a college student I knew what it was like to pinch pennies. But now that there are pesky rent payments, utility bills, and student loan payments to make, there’s nothing like coming across something that’s free: whether it be a friend’s shirt he doesn’t want anymore or a home-cooked meal from my parents once in a while—it’s all appreciated. So do exactly that: appreciate what’s already available to you every day and take advantage of more free fun than ever.
2. Speaking of food. You can tell a lot about someone by what’s in their fridge and how much effort said person takes in preparing their meals and taking care of their body. Post-grad life can make eating right difficult, so but do your best to habitualize good eating habits. I found it difficult at first—all on my own now, preparing my own food—to do that, but I made a conscious effort to start small by introducing more fresh fruits and vegetables into my died. Simple things I could snack on.
3. Friendships are best made in close quarters. At college, I made some really amazing friends and those friendships are strong enough to last. But one thing I wish I did: made more. Now that college is in the past, it’s hard to think of a situation where making so many friends so quickly will come as easily. Embrace the opportunity while it’s there, and you definitely won’t regret it.
4. Your resume is as good as gold, or, well, something like that. Now that the open job market is looming, there’s one life raft to cling to: my resume. When you’re out in the big bad world all on your own and you’re more scared than if you saw Joan Rivers in a clown suit, then your solid resume might steady your quaking knees. Think of it this way: your resume is the link to a job, and a job is a link to money, which, for better or worse, is what you need at this point.
5. Take out the trash on a regular basis. Enough said.
The eternal question for any workplace hopeful: should I accept an amazing internship position if it’s unpaid? Well, the answer is: it depends on what you’re looking for and what your current financial situation is. If you feel like you’re stuck between an internship rock and a hard place while weighing your options, here’s a few things to consider:
- How many hours per week is the internship? If you’re working full-time without seeing a paycheck, then you might want to consider another option. A paying job that’s not as glamorous as a swanky internship is still better than said swanky internship. Why? Because college is expensive and money matters. That being said, if your unpaid internship offers great experience and is only one day per week, then it’s probably worth it.
- How good is the experience? If your internship is making coffee runs and photocopies, and it’s still unpaid, then maybe your time would be better spent somewhere else. On the other hand, if the internship is out of this world, and if it really would give you skills and experience that are of infinite value for future jobs in whatever industry you’d like to work then, then definitely consider going for it.
- Is academic credit available? While not all internships pay, many of them offer academic credit, which could save you money in the long run. For instance, if you can get some real-world experience while receiving a few credits, then that might be a homerun, especially if the internship is during the school year (when you may not be working anyway).
- Be honest: what do you want on your resume? You can’t forge a resume, so maybe you want to bite the bullet and take that unpaid internship, especially if it’s only for a month or two. Definitely don’t sell yourself short though: a bad internship is like a bad apple—it just doesn’t taste good and it’s not even nutritious. In other words, an unpaid internship you don’t like is by no means worth it.
- Gut check. Be honest with yourself: Are you okay with no compensation? Analyze your finances to help yourself arrive at a reasonable answer. Know what you can afford and what you can’t. If you take an unpaid internship, will you have to take out another student loan? Will you have time for a another paying job? Know the answers to these questions before accepting an unpaid internship.