What No One Tells You About Life After College

As much as I wanted to convince myself I had a concrete life plan on graduation day, I didn’t even know what the next week would hold. Or the next month. Or the next six months.

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Not long before graduating, I managed land my dream internship: A writing role with a small but energetic ad agency. A role that paid me well and happened to be just a 30-minute drive from my home (a metric worth bragging about for the Austin metro area).

On paper, it was everything I wanted. But this "dream" gig – my first real job out of college – didn't pan out. Neither did the next one. But the humiliation from screwing up twice was humbling, and the experiences taught me a vital lesson about setting expectations (the realistic kind).

You can't have it all

Perfect salary? Short work commute? Awesome boss? I thought I could have it all, and I didn't listen to anyone who told me to “keep my options open.” I knew what I wanted. But I didn't know what I would actually get.

The harsh truth is that you can’t afford to have high expectations after college. You don't have much control as such a young professional; You can't really negotiate salary, make your own schedule or demand awesome perks. The work world is too competitive already, and by setting high expectations, you're only making it harder for yourself to land a great job.

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That was hard for me to learn, having the very high standards I’ve always had, and I was forced to alter the way I associated my self-worth with my job.

Your opinion is the one that counts

I decided it was less important how awesome my job sounded to other people and way more important that it felt awesome to me. I let go of what I thought I should be doing as a high-achieving, hyper-focused Summa Cum Laude grad, and I instead focused on finding a workplace that felt like home.

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You have to be flexible

Loosen up a little, and it will go a long way. Channel your ambitious attitude directly into your work, and soon enough your colleagues will take notice of just how valuable you are. Then, one day, you can use your positive track record to ask for a raise, or more paid time off, or whatever you feel that you deserve.

Until then, you've gotta earn it.


What do you wish you had known after college? Share your story in the comments below!

CareerLisa CallahanCollege