When it comes to growing up, we are constantly making transitions in our life. In many cases, these transitions happen seamlessly. For instance, we start out in elementary school, advance to middle school, then onwards to high school. After graduating high school, many make the choice to advance their education and peruse and undergraduate degree. If you were to ask college students what their plans for the future were after graduation, many would probably say “I’m going to have a degree in this and start a career in (insert field/career here)”; but, what many do not realize until AFTER graduation, is that the transition from undergrad to post-grad life is not as seamless as majority of our past transitions were.
First I want to tell you my story. As a recent graduate of December 2015, I was that person quoted above. “I’m going to get my Bachelors of Science of Nursing, I’m going to pass my NCLEX, I’m going to get a job in the ICU, and my life is finally going to begin!” What I didn’t realize at the time is there is more to transitioning form undergrad to post grad then just landing that job. After graduating from Kent State University in Ohio, I moved back to Maryland to live with my parents in order to save up money while studying for my boards. The first thing I realized after moving in back home is I had lost touch with a lot of my friends from high school. Many were off in different states/areas all focusing on their own lives. After a few weeks I became rather homesick of my beloved Kent State University and all of my friends I had up there. My nursing friends, sorority sisters, and everything else I had come to love over the past 4.5 years was over 400 miles away from me. Though missing my friends and college life, I set off to work spending 3 months studying night and day for my NCLEX; it was without a doubt the most stressful and emotionally draining 3 months of my life. In addition to studying for my boards at this time, I began looking online and applying to as many ICU RN positions as possible. I didn’t realize until at this time just how much work it takes to truly and thoroughly fill out a job application to look like a good candidate for a position. It’s almost like taking on a full time job!
Luckily after tirelessly searching and applying for jobs, I got called for an interview in a neuro ICU. I was ecstatic, especially with my boards being only a month away at this time, I finally felt like I was making progress in this whole “adulting” thing. Long story short, I went to the interview and did my shadowing on the unit with the nurses, and loved it. I went home that night after a long day and woke up the next day to an email saying I didn’t get the job. I was crushed. There was a job fair at another hospital going on that day, I really didn’t’ want to go. I wasn’t in the best mood and I was honestly drained from already interviewing the day before. But, I got up, had my coffee, and headed up to the hospital. I interviewed with the director of a neuro/surgical ICU and a few weeks later was offered a job as long as I passed my boards. Three weeks after the offer I took and passed my boards on March 1st, and two weeks later I was orienting as a registered nurse. I finally thought things would start really coming together at this time. It did, but I also began facing new challenges; like understanding and selecting benefits for my job, moving to an apartment to have a shorter commute time, buying furniture, learning how to cook for one, get acquainted to a new area, and make new friends (the list could go on but I think you see where I’m going).
It has now been eight months since I’ve graduated from college and took on the post-grad world. Based on my story, here is my advice to those of you who will soon be joining the post-grad crew.
1. Have a game plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect or permanent, but having a general idea of where you want to go and what you want to do will help you organize and prioritize to achieve your general goals. As you research and start organizing, you can fine-tune and re-prioritize when needed.
2. Keep in contact with your friends. The people who graduated with you are the ones who will know best what you are going through because they are going through it themselves. When I was studying for my boards, my two nursing friends and I would have weekly phone calls and send motivation memes and pictures to keep us going when things got rough. We still keep in contact at least one or twice every two weeks.
3. Utilize your resources. Being close with college professors and being actively involved in my sorority really became beneficial when applying to jobs. Most job application want a MINIMUM of three letters of recommendation. Sometimes those can be harder to find when you are starting out in the workforce and don’t have much background in terms of job experience. References from groups like a sorority, volunteer organization, professional organization or part-time job you had while in college can really help you stand apart in the application pool.
4. Make friends with your co-workers. Once you do land your first job, it’s important to create bonds within work. This will make your transition into your job easier if you have people you can rely on for support.
5. Use a planner and budgeting app. Having a planner isn’t only helpful for college. Using a planner in post-grad life can help you keep track of appointments, your work schedule, and help you make sure you don’t over-book yourself. Additionally, once you start making those big bucks, it can be easy to splurge or lose track of where your money is going. I personally love using the app You Need A Budget (YNAB) to manage my finances to make sure I can pay all my bills, put some money away in savings, and also have a little to treat myself.
6. Make time for yourself. When you start working fulltime, life gets busy. It’s easy to let work control your life. It’s important to make sure to take care of yourself and set aside “me-time”. Prioritize so you can get that late night sweat sesh in or that early morning yoga flow. Take a hike or go explore a new part of town. Don’t let yourself get into a rut of wake up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat. If you don’t make time for the things you love, you will burn yourself out not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.
7. NEVER GIVE UP! You will have days you feel like you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. You’ll sit there and feel overwhelmed trying to pick out and insurance plan and understand how paid time off (PTO) works. You won’t get called back for the job you really want, or maybe you’ll get the interview but they selected another candidate for the job. You’ll question if you picked the right career or have to make a big decision that will scare the daylights out of you. It’s okay, breathe. If you get knocked down, stand back up and keep going. I’m a firm believer of “what’s meant for you will not pass you”. If you give everything your all, no matter the outcome, it will all help somehow (maybe you don’t see it now, maybe you won’t understand until later); but you will find your path, and once you get going, there’s nothing to hold you back from reaching past the stars.
Here is a quote from one of my favorite books I got when I graduated high school and undergrad.