Life After Graduation: 3 Unexpected Struggles of Post-college Life

Graduating from college and preparing to begin your career while entering adulthood is certainly one of the proudest moments of your (young) life.

Life after graduation brings exciting changes, independence, and everyone’s favorite – steady paychecks! 

These positives might help outweigh the end of summer vacations (Unless you teach), spending every waking moment with friends, and weekday afternoon day drinking, but it doesn't always contribute to our happiness equation.

Truthfully, what happens to most after they graduate from college?

Is life after graduation just another stepping stone, or are there some struggles involved going from the college lifestyle to real adulting?

The Struggle Is Real…

When I graduated in May 2009, I was stressing out about my first teaching job. I relished my senior year of college, but I was looking forward to a teaching opportunity – and again, those paychecks!

But if you know anything about 2009 you probably know the economy was upside down and just about no one was hiring! However, the struggle I was experiencing finding a job after graduation wasn't something that just I experienced.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review 2/3 of college graduates struggle to launch their careers after college.

There are those “Sprinters” who jump out of the gate and land careers in their field, however, they only make up 35% of the post-graduation population.

However, besides missing out on the steady paycheck in the field you desire after graduating from college, what most graduates find out is that life after college can be a little depressing.

They become quickly shocked to discover how under-prepared they are to handle life after college.

Three Struggles for Life After Graduation

1. Unknown Expectations

While in college you might expect that eradicating exams from your life would be one of your favorite benefits of post-college life.

However, many graduates are blindsided by the dynamic at work which felt like constant pop quizzes with little guidance or instructions. 

College doesn't always teach you “How” to think, but instead “What” to think. So jumping into adulthood and being told to figure it out isn't always so easy for new grads!

For example, college cannot teach you how to deal with these types of scenarios:

  • Being caught off guard in meetings with suppliers and internal business partners
  • One-on-one with supervisors with questions that sound like a foreign language to me.
  • Not knowing what to do with a steady paycheck
  • Trying to manage chores, work, commuting and working out!

The frustration doesn't exactly subside, but as you grow you can overcome unknown expectations. It's part of being an adult and managing your life after graduation!

Just remember, while college exams might SUCK, a big part of you might miss those clear-cut dates and instructions.

2. Responsibility of Learning a Process

Ask Carol Dweck PH.D., author of Mindset, and there are two mindsets:

  1. Fixed
  2. Growth

While the latter is the better, it can be a difficult process of identifying our own knowledge deficiencies, identifying the correct sources of information, and actually learning on our own.

From age five we get accustomed to teachers and professors telling us exactly what to do and what to know to earn a diploma, a grade, or a star!

However, that process can also result in lacking some foundational adult growth skills for life after graduating from college!

That learning process usually takes one of two paths thanks to the internet and social media:

  1. Either we can’t find what we are looking for and can become frustrated, or
  2. We can become inundated with information from hundreds of sources and become overwhelmed.

For example, when I decided I wanted to start blogging, I spent far too much time learning every possible “essential” detail that I felt like I was spinning my wheels.

What I have since learned ten years after graduation is that taking action and just trial by error is the best way to learn (And asking experts)!

Continuous learning is paramount in work and in life, but you have to be intentional about what you’re doing to learn and what you want to get out of it.

3. Less Change

There’s certainly something to be said for continuity.

Although routines can sometimes be bad for us and get us stuck in a funk, routines tend to be comforting.

However, one of the best things about college is that no matter how much we might hate a particular class, we all know it would be over in 15 weeks.

While some projects at work do have a definitive start and end dates, we can generally find ourselves doing the same things all the time with no significant change coming in the near future.

Most likely you will eventually work a different job with different tasks, but often we don’t know if that will be in 6 months or 6 years.

This can be a struggle, especially if you're wired to plan out years in advance for things like retirement savings and career progression strategies.

However, change is GOOD! We all need to recognize that mundane, boring routines are not healthy. Embrace change as a young adult and always look for it!

Related: How Much Should You Have Saved By Age

Solutions to Life After College Struggles:

At this point you might be asking, yourself this question:

Yes, I get life after graduation is different, but are there solutions to these struggles?

I am here to emphatically let you know the answer to that question is YES!

First, being grateful is the biggest solution to the woes you may be experiencing after college. You should be grateful for your education, grateful for your new job, or grateful for the potential careers that are out there (If you don't have one).

You also need to realize that in addition to being grateful for what you do have, the post-college life isn’t all sunshine, puppies and rainbows. When life throws challenges your way, you will want to have developed some positive coping mechanisms.

1. Prioritize You

Self-care is incredibly important, and the struggles of the 9-5 emphasize that point. Chances are you have never sat down and worked for 40 hours a week in your life.

Your body will do weird things when you start sitting at a desk and staring at a monitor all day. There is a tremendously positive effect on your state of mind in addition to your physical well-being when you stay active.

Consider doing the following:

  1. Living an active lifestyle after work and on the weekends
  2. Going to the gym regularly
  3. Making conscious eating choices
  4. Incorporating activity into your routines – walk in the morning, do a lap at 10:00 am, etc.

Whether you enjoy hitting the gym, reading novels, buying nice clothes, getting massages, or anything else, it’s important to prioritize yourself and your wants, not just your needs.

You must take responsibility for maintaining a positive mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual state. If you feel yourself getting out of whack in one of those areas, do something for yourself to bring a balance back into your life.

2. Give Back

Whether you’re passionate about children, the elderly, people with disabilities, animals, or anything at all, it’s important to spend your time, money, or some combination to give back.

Most of the time you’ll get more out of whatever it is that you’re giving.

Giving back to your family, your community, or a cause you’re passionate about is a rewarding experience that can also keep us grounded. Holding a child or spending time at a nursing home helps put into perspective that whatever problems you’re dealing with at work really don’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Your employer may have different initiatives and groups you can join to help give back to your community. I’m involved in a mentorship program at a local high school and help plan events to teach the students about career and education possibilities and essential skills such as leadership. 

Find something you’re passionate about and go make a positive change!

Related: What all College Graduates Should Know About Money

3. Find a Strong Support Group

There’s a popular saying that you’re the average of your five closest friends (And what you read).

The people you spend your time with have an immense influence on your life and how you choose to spend your time. Finding like-minded people with similar goals and interests as you who are reliable and just plain make you feel good to be around can be easier said than done.

However, the importance of a strong support group cannot be overstated.

4. Life Is Fun – Enjoy It!

Life is fun, and it’s supposed to be fun! Have fun in everything you do, even if the acitivity isn't designed to be fun!

Sure, you’re not going to love every second of every day, but my point is that whatever struggles life throws at you, foreseen (like finals week) or unforeseen (like your boss asking a question you weren’t prepared for), you can set up your life to take any blow and maintain a positive mindset.

Truthfully, my post-college years have been just as much fun – if not more – than my college years.

I’ve maintained many of my college friendships, I’m able to establish deeper relationships with people, and I do more meaningful, insightful, and fulfilling work that has provided me with purpose.  

Plus now I have a little extra cash in my pocket for vacations and upgrades from Natty Light to craft beers!

If you’re struggling with life after graduation, try to put things in perspective by prioritizing you, giving back, and finding a strong support group.

You deserve happiness!

Q: What Struggles Have You Expierenced After College?

Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $200,000 in student loans with his wife in less than four years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, helping others with their debt and recommend using Personal Capital to track your finances.