There are several things I wish I knew about the real world while I was still in school. In fact, while university is fantastic for teaching theory and even getting you real, hands on experience, there are life lessons that I wish someone had told us about! When you’re in school, it’s a lovely cushion for you to grow and flourish in. When you graduate, the workforce and life expect you to know the ins and outs of how life works. It takes time to learn, but I’m going to try to dispense some valuable information from my own experiences! So here are 9 things I wish I knew about the real world in university.
1. You Need to Discipline Yourself
One of the biggest things I wish I knew about the real world when I was still in school was the fact that we will need to become masters of self-discipline. When you’re in school, you get a pretty good feel of this, but it’s mostly in one area of your life – studying. Being able to exercise good self-disciple is a skill. You’ll have to do this in every area of your life – work, home, finances, everything. You need to force yourself to vacuum and do all the things you don’t enjoy doing because darling, that’s what happens when you enter the grown up world!
2. Use Your Independence Wisely
The grown up world is tough sometimes, but it also comes with a great deal of independence. You don’t have your prof telling you when to hand in an assignment, or your residence rules to abide by. Instead you have your own strong, independent mind, and you’ll have to use it wisely. Don’t use the excuse of having your own place and your own car as a reason to extend your crazy partying college days. Independence isn’t about not having someone else’s rules to follow, it’s about setting your own rules, knowing what’s best for you, and following through with them. That definition is one of the things I wish I'd known about the real world, because you shouldn’t mistake rebelling for independence!
3. Take Care of Your Body
I swear, my parents are more active than I am. But I know one thing for sure: the health habits you develop now will follow you through for the rest of your life. I didn’t really go to the gym when I was in school, but one of the things I wish I knew about the real world back then is that being healthy is a lifestyle. It’s about the food you eat, the liquids you consume, the amount of hours you let your body rest. As you edge into the real world, you realize you don’t have the same energy you did as before, and you’ll wonder how the heck you could stay up until 4am every night. So treat your body right, get it moving, and you’ll have the energy you need for your lifestyle right now. Which does not include 4am nights out.
4. Protect Your Source of Income
It’s a sad fact of life, but you’re not expected to love your first job. In fact, you may not even love your second, third, or fourth job. It took me 2 full years to find a full time job, and it took going through all my crappy jobs to realize this. The job hunt sucks, but in this economy, when you find a stable job, you need to do everything you can to protect your source of income. On the work front, one of the things I wish I knew about the real world is that we have to suck it up until we get to where we want to be. It’s an uphill climb, and no matter what position you’re in, you need to give it your all, because you need to prove to yourself and everyone around you that you deserve better. Only then, after you’ve shown you potential and paid your dues, will the world of great work start to open up to you. Think about it this way: Hugh Jackman entertained kids as a clown for $50 a show, now he’s an Oscar-nominated actor. Rock your job, no matter what it is.
5. Your Circle of Friends Will Decrease
I had a lot of friends in university. Then I left school and it went from a heck of a lot, to me being able to count the people I’d hang out with on my hands. It’s a fact of life, and one of the few things I wish I knew about real life back in the day. It’s a good thing though, because what you need is a good support system around you, and friends that take the time and effort to be there for you. Plus, studies show that it’s normal to have a smaller circle of friends as you grow up; you go to different places, move, your life takes you in different directions! So don’t worry ladies, a smaller group of friends is a healthy sign!
6. You’ll Have to Get a Grown up Wardrobe
If you’re lucky and you get to work at one of those cool offices that have a ping-pong table or a dartboard, then you’ll probably get to show up in jeans and a sweater or t-shirt and be happy. Otherwise you’ll have to upgrade to blazers, pencil skirts, and dress shirts, depending on where you are. I always knew this of course, but one of things I wish I knew about the real world back when I would wear pajamas to work, is just how much a new work wardrobe would cost – and the fact that I’d grow into liking blazers and pencil skirts.
7. You Will Need to Make Time for Yourself
One of the biggest things I wish I knew about the real world in university was how much my time to myself would dwindle. This isn’t a bad thing, because you’ll be graced with new responsibilities and opportunities that you never had before. Between going to work, going home, making dinner, and taking care of your social responsibilities, there’s very little time you have to yourself to take care of you. Find out what it is that makes you feel the most comfortable, relaxed, and figure out what rejuvenates you. If it’s hanging out with your other half, your friends, your family, or reading a book, make sure to carve time out for that.
8. Understand Your Finances
They should have courses on this in school, starting from when you’re old enough to understand the concept of finances. One of the most important things I wish I knew about the real world when I was still in school was how to properly manage my own finances. When you start entering the grown up world, you’re suddenly excepted to know how to handle all your finances and make decisions about savings and investing. What I’ve learned is that as long as you try, and understand that when it comes to money there are no stupid questions, you’ll be okay.
9. It’s an Incredible Ride
Lastly, one of the things I wish I'd when I was still a tiny tyke in school is that the real world is a ton of fun. The ups, the downs, the whole ride is amazing. So enjoy it!
There are tons more lessons I’ve learned since leaving university, and learning how to navigate the real world. I’ve noticed one thing especially – there’s no right or wrong. You’ll learn just like everyone else did before you, and with a little luck you’ll have some guidance from the older, wiser folks around you! So tell me, what are some things you wish you knew about the real world while you were in school?