Life Will Change
By Michael Heap
I’m making a huge assumption here that new graduates went straight from college into university. Sorry to any mature students!
Being a student is great. The government giving you money for beer is a big plus. People expect you to be lazy so even with minimal effort, you can do well. If you make a mistake, hey, it doesn’t matter - you’re a teenager, how are you supposed to know?
Then suddenly, it all changes.
You thought that moving out of your parents house and in with friends was a big step. Having to manage your own bills and pay for your own internet connection. Don’t get me wrong - it is a big step, but it’s only one step. When you graduate, you need to take the next step, then another, then another. Your twenties are all about taking one step after another and seeing where you end up.
Your twenties are the best time in your life to make mistakes. As time goes on, it becomes less socially acceptable to make mistakes and the ramifications of making them get bigger and bigger.
Thanks to this, I like to think of your twenties as the decade of failure. It’s the time when we figure out what we want to do with our lives and how to sustain that. We learn about managing our time and finances. We try to find that all important work / life balance. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we get it wrong. Just keep learning from both.
University is a strange place: people can be anything that they want to be and no-one questions it. In the world of work however, you don’t get away with anything. And I mean anything. The surefire way to get yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place is to overcommit. Sure, you might think that you know everything but it’ll quickly become apparent that you don’t, and it’s much harder to backpedal than to be honest up front and say that you’re not too sure.
You’ll find that there are lots of people out there that are “better” than you at a lot of things. Don’t be disheartened, it’s just something you have to accept. I’d go one further though: don’t accept it, embrace it. This is how you become better, by surrounding yourself with people to learn from.
As part of transitioning into work life, you have to transition to a regular schedule. Sleeping at the same time each day, commuting to work on the same train (or in the same set of traffic), even eating at the same time each day. It sounds odd, but if you eat three hours late for some reason your body will think that it’s still earlier than it actually is and your routine will be affected. In addition, the nice thing about having a routine is that you know when you’re not supposed to be doing something. You can plan fun things to do as you know you’re not going to be busy with something else.
Friendships and Relationships
You’ll probably find yourself drifting away from friends you had at university, in much the same way as how you just drifted away from school friends whilst at uni. Social and economic status creates divides and strains in even the closest relationships. Embrace the change. I’m not saying forget about all of your friends, but when you have to be up at 7am for work and they’re calling you at 11pm to go for a drink, you’ve got to make a decision.
If you do find that you’re growing away from old friends, don’t worry! The people you’re working with are very nice people, and I bet that over time they’ll transition from colleagues to workmates to outside-of-work mates. The added bonus about this is that you’re more likely to be in the same circumstances, all at work at the same time, subject to the same deadlines at work. The added, added bonus is that if you’re doing a job that you love, you instantly have something in common with everyone else! That first barrier being down before you’ve even grabbed a drink together is a huge plus.
Perhaps you have a partner from university? It’s unlikely that the best job for you is where you studied, so be prepared to talk to them about moving for work. It might work out that trying long distance is the best option - if you believe that they’re truly the one for you, you’ll make it work. Even if it’s £100 and 6 hours on a train every Friday after work, it’s worth it.
Be prepared to travel. Lots. You’re probably going to have to commute to work. I did two years in a job that was 90 minutes in each direction, and I’d never do it again. 60 minutes is the absolute maximum for me, or you’re spending your day either at work or travelling to / from work. [In the last 20 years, I’d say that I’ve commuted for 16 of them - Ed]
Be prepared to travel to events. Go to other cities after work for events relevant to your industry. Be prepared to shell out a few hundred pounds for a ticket to something and a hotel. If you’d do it for a gig, why not do it for something work related? It’s at these events that you’ll find the really good people to work with.
Be prepared to travel to see family. You’re probably not going to live within walking distance of them. Most people either work where they went to university or move somewhere else. Make the effort, though. Once you realise how much work having a job is, you’ll wonder how your parents ever managed it whilst looking after you at the same time. It’s time to repay the favour.
The biggest one for me is realising that your metabolism slows. Five takeaway pizzas and a crate of cider a week doesn’t cut it any more. Look after yourself: eat well, get enough sleep, do regular exercise. Just because you can get away with it in the short term, it doesn’t mean that you can do it forever.
You will fail. No-one knows what they’ll fail at, or how big an impact it’ll have on their life, but they know that they’ll fail. It might not feel fair, it might not be your fault, but it’ll happen. Keep going! You’ve got to keep moving forward. Sometimes you’ll fail again, maybe through your thirties and forties too, but you’ve got to keep moving forward. Self belief is possibly the most important attribute you can possess.
Unfortunately, money matters. You need somewhere to live, something to eat. Money means opportunity, the opportunity to try new things. However, money isn’t everything. Prioritise relationships with people + gaining influence over money, at least in the short term. Take on additional responsibilities without demanding higher pay. Good places will offer compensation, but whilst you’re young, the experience is worth it’s weight in gold.
Have an opinion, be tenacious, but know when to agree to disagree. In a lot of cases, the discussion is a lot more important than the end decision.
Set goals and write them down. Share them with others. Celebrate your successes, then choose new goals. Always make sure you have something you’re working towards.
Find a mentor. They’ve probably already been through what you’re going through and can help you out. Once you have one, find another. Then find another. You can never have too many people to look up to.
Finally, it’s okay if you don’t know if your current career choice is what you want to do for the rest of your life. A lot of people don’t know what they want to do. Don’t use this as an excuse to stagnate, working a dead end 9-5 job as you can’t be bothered looking at what else is out there. Explore your passions, and meet people with similar interests. There’s generally a job waiting at the end of it.
I’m a (relatively) young developer who’s recently gone through the whole university to full time work transition. You’ll find me either in the DataSift office, at a tech event, or on a train going to visit family as I left them all behind and moved 200 miles for work. If I’m not at work, I’m either playing games or working on personal projects. The down side to your hobby being your job is that you just never stop doing it.Tweet