Don't Panic, Graduates—We Have the Ultimate Real World Survival Guide

So you’re graduating from college—a simple statement with a huge meaning. If you’re like us, you’ve probably spent the past four years dreaming about moving to an awesome apartment in a big city to start your dream job. As nice as that sounds, we all know that’s not always so realistic when you really start the messy part of achieving those goals. Finding a job is potentially the hardest, most draining aspect of being an adult, and it becomes a constant grind from the moment you start your senior year until you finally land one. Then come the money struggles, which we all mistakenly believe are going to end once we leave college, only to be rudely awakened by our still-dwindling bank accounts. Adulting sure is a blast.

So when reality smacks you in the face and you realize that being in the real world is not all fun and games, where do you turn? Finding relevant information on the internet is almost as daunting as adulting itself, and often even parents and professors are out of touch with the struggles we face in the 21st century (sorry, Mom). Luckily, we’ve put together a simple guide to break down the basics of what you need to know to make it in the real world. Just call it your real world survival guide.

Finding the Job

The internet is a really big place, which can make even the thought of searching for a job seem daunting. However, when it comes down to it, there are a few ways to begin the search. The best place to start is to make a list of the companies for which you’d like to work. Almost every company has a career board on its website (typically at the bottom in very small font), and you can see any openings they have listed. Many companies also have an email address you can contact for job inquiries, so if you are very sure of what you’d like to do and have a lot of ideas, you could also reach out to the company asking about jobs with a reason for why you think you’d be a good fit.

Another tried-and-true place to find jobs is LinkedIn. You can search available jobs through company profiles, or simply search for specific roles in the location you’re looking to work. Another great feature of LinkedIn is its groups—specifically the fact that it has alumni groups from colleges. People who attended the same university as you are often more likely to respond if you reach out to them, so networking with fellow alumni can be a really good way to meet people in the industry who may have news about a job down the road—or even now. However, don’t forget to make sure your LinkedIn is flawless—if you reach out to someone and they see an incomplete profile or job descriptions full of errors, there’s a good chance they’ll look right past you.

While those are good places to start, there are countless other job boards that exist. Websites like Indeed, The Muse,, and many others constantly have new job listings, so make it a point to find jobs titles you could search, and dedicate a significant amount of time looking through those sites. The more jobs you find and apply for, the better chance you’ll have of landing one.

Getting the Interview 

So you’ve found the job (or jobs) of your dreams—now what? Get ready to hustle, because this is undeniably the most difficult part of the equation. You may have found countless jobs you’d love to have, but getting the attention of the hiring manager is easier said than done. There are, however, a few tricks to catching their eye.

Before you send the same resume out to 50 different people, take a step back and analyze how you can tailor it to fit the job for which you’re applying. If nothing in your listed experience directly applies to the job you want, why would a hiring manager think you’d be a good fit? Instead of only using one set resume to apply for everything, make sure you’re altering the descriptions and skills of your resume to fit the job description. No—this does not mean you should lie about your experience (seriously, don’t ever do that). However, if you have a skill that’s not listed on your resume and you see it in the description of the job you want, make sure it’s on that list when you apply for the job!

Another way to get their attention to is to make it personal. If you’re just submitting an application and never thinking about it again, chances are that the hiring manager isn’t either. Instead of being complacent, make it a point to find a contact at the company to reach out to about the job. It may seem pointless, but putting a face or voice to your name will inevitably help you stand out more than the majority of applicants.

Landing the Job

The number one key to landing a job is being prepared. The interview is the ultimate test, and you wouldn’t show up to an exam without doing your homework, right? An interviewer wants to know that you’re qualified for the job, and that you’re the right fit for the company—so you should always know what you can bring to the job, and why you would be great for the brand. This means that you need to do your research—and be thorough. Knowing as much as you can about the interviewer, the company, and the job will show your interviewer that you care about working at that specific place, and that you’re willing to put in the time and effort to impress them and land the job.

Traditional etiquette is also a big part of landing the job. Make sure you look put together for any interviews you have. Whether you are interviewing in person or over Skype, the way you present yourself is crucial to the impression you’re giving the interviewer. Dress nicely, don’t have wrinkles in your clothing, and make sure your hair has been recently washed. You should also pay attention to the small details for the interview. Make sure you have several copies of your resume on hand just in case, and don’t ever forget to send a thank you note afterward—both an email and a physical note. Ensuring that these small things aren’t overlooked will prove the attention to detail you undoubtedly bragged about, as well as prove to them how much you care about the job.

Finding the Apartment

Finding an apartment is an ordeal, but the experience differs greatly depending on what city you live in. If you’re moving to a new city though, chances are you’re feeling a little lost. Luckily, there are tons of websites and groups available to search through that are majorly helpful when you’re beginning your hunt.

An unexpected place to search for apartments is on Facebook. There are hundreds, if not thousands of huge groups on Facebook that exist solely for people to find an apartment and/or a roommate. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a long or short term commitment, or looking to spend $300 or $3,000 a month—there is someone out there in a Facebook group that has what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t end up finding anything, it’s a great place to start to see what’s out there and get a feel for the kinds of apartments and rent prices in the area you’re moving to.

Countless websites exist to find apartments and houses, but it’s important to note that not all are entirely trustworthy. Before you start searching for apartments, do your research on what websites are to be trusted, and which types of listings you should know to avoid. While there are a ton of websites out there to search for apartments, this will help you narrow them down to begin your search. Additionally, make sure you know what you’re looking for. Blindly looking for a place to live without thinking about your personal requirements is a recipe for confusion. When you know exactly what you need to be happy, you can find the apartments that are suitable for you instead of sifting through every apartment that’s available.

Affording the Apartment

A quick Google search will tell you that you should only spend 30 percent of your paycheck on rent—after taxes. A quick reality check will tell you that that’s not always possible in a place like New York City. The average starting salary in 2016 for college graduates with a bachelor’s degree in communications was $47,047—which leaves you with around $1,000 a month to spend. That may sound hefty at first, but finding even a studio apartment for that price anywhere near Manhattan is—quite literally—impossible. And even if you’re not living in an expensive place, why would you want to spend the maximum recommended amount on rent?

The easy solution to this problem is roommates. Yes, you probably told yourself you were done with roomies by the time you left college. However, having roommates is inevitably the most logical way to save the very little money you’re probably getting paid as a recent college grad. While you’re on an entry-level salary, it’s important to make sure you’re not spending every bit of the money you earn on your living expenses. Not only will this help you avoid slipping into debt, but it will also ensure that you’re able to save enough money to have something to fall back on—just in case.

Moving Into the Apartment

There’s a good chance that in college, your dad was there with his truck and your entire family in tow every time you moved. In the real world, that’s not always the case. Moving your stuff to a new apartment down the road is a feat in itself, but many students end up moving across the country upon graduating from college—an enormous task for which no one is prepared.

One important part of moving to note is that you don’t always have to take your every belonging to the place you’re planning to move. If you have a lot of huge furniture and closets full of clothes, the best option may just be to downsize. If you’re a person that doesn’t mind driving a U-Haul and dealing with hauling your couch up five flights of stairs, then more power to you—that may very well be your best option. But if you’re going it alone and you just don’t have the manpower (or the will) to go through that trouble, consider selling your furniture and buying more affordable, used pieces after you move. Not only will you save yourself a lot of trouble, you can give yourself a fresh start to your adult life and say goodbye to that twin bed that’s haunted you the past four years.

Setting the Budget

Once you know how much you’ll be spending on an apartment, you can start to work on the rest of your budget. Post grads often have a lot of expenses piling up after graduation, so those extra bills and payments should be the main focus of the budget that’s set. A good rule of thumb to follow is to try not to have your fixed expenses equal more than 50 percent of your budget. So if your rent is 30 percent, you don’t want your utilities, loan payments, and any other monthly bills to be more than 20 percent of your paycheck. That leaves plenty of room for the rest of the expenses you’ll have during the month.

Maintaining the Budget

Once you know exactly how much money will be coming out of your paycheck each month, you can start spending the rest! Okay, kidding—kind of. But this part of the budget is definitely up to your discretion. Budgeting for yourself is not a one-size-fits-all equation—you have to take into account your lifestyle, and how much you need to spend on certain things each month. Are you obsessed with beauty products, but couldn’t care less about what food you’re eating day-to-day? Factor that in! Try to plan for the products and services you know you’ll want and need to spend money on each month. Expenses that aren’t fixed are definitely harder to control, but if you set goals and boundaries for yourself, they become much easier to maintain.

Beyond the Budget

When you’re young, it’s easy to focus on the moment at hand and forget about the distant future. Yet when you’re just starting a job and branching out on your own, it’s incredibly important to set a foundation for yourself—just in case life happens. While it may seem like your budget is already stretched to its limit, there is always room to save a little bit extra. Set up a separate account for your money, and deposit something into it each paycheck, or even just each month. If you have to forgo eating out a couple times a week to save even just $50 a month, you’ll survive—and the savings will add up quickly.

Connecting With Friends

When you move cities, it’s surprisingly easy to lose contact with the many friends you made in college—even your closest ones. While you think you’ll keep your group text going strong forever, the reality is that life gets in the way very quickly. Because of this, it’s important to make a concerted effort to reach out to friends and let them know they matter to you. Send a text once a month, or start a tradition of sending snail mail back and forth to keep in touch. Even when you’re busy, friends should never be put on the back burner. As an adult, you quickly learn that the people you love matter much more than superficial things, and they’re the ones that keep you sane. No matter what, don’t let them slip away.

Connecting With Contacts

In the professional world, staying connected with your contacts is essential. Whether it’s a former professor or internship supervisor, everyone you’ve ever made a connection with will be important to your career—which is why it’s imperative to keep them in your life. You don’t have to email them frequently by any means; however, sending them a message or arranging to grab coffee together once every couple of months will keep your connection strong and authentic. Sure, you may not need help with anything now—but a couple of months or years down the road, having connections you’ve kept up with can go as far as landing you a job.

Setting a Routine

You may have gotten away with eating terribly and never sleeping in college, but living that way as a working adult just isn’t sustainable. But when you’re just beginning your adult life, it’s suprisingly easy to forget that you have to take care of yourself along with all your other responsibilities. So before you get inundated with life and all its surpises, set a little time aside to plan how you’re going to maintain your health and your sanity. There are tons of little ways to ensure this, and it largely depends on what self care means to you. Maybe it’s signing up for a gym membership, or setting aside two to three hours every Sunday to meal prep for the week. Whatever your needs are, make a conscious effort to set the time aside to tend to them.

Maintaining a Routine

Taking care of yourself sounds all well and good—until life happens. Jobs get overwhelming, money gets tight, and you become exhausted. Yet that’s even more reason to put the effort into maintaining your routine. It’s easy to get off track, but it’s also surprisingly easy to get back on track as well. And maybe that means taking a weekend off from going out with your friends—but in the end, it’s well worth it. A few extra hours to yourself to regroup and recharge are priceless, and will inevitably help you to think more clearly about what you need. Is your body craving less exercise and more sleep? Do you need to let yourself indulge a little more? Maybe you need to adjust your self care plan to meet the demands of your life. Whatever the case may be, the important thing is to make sure you’re taking the time each week or month to think about it and carry it out. No matter what, you shouldn’t ever forget about taking care of yourself—the rest will always fall right into place.

What are your real world struggles? Tell us in the comments below!