46 Tips for Joining the Real World

By Kaitlyn Farley · September 22, 2021 · 13 minute read

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46 Tips for Joining the Real World

It’s finally happened: You got the degree, a fancy new job (or a few prospects to choose from), a lease or mortgage, and maybe a dog or cat. Life is great, right?

Well, maybe not quite.

Now that your college days are over, so too are the comforting routines of class courses, odd (but fun) jobs, late nights out, and the “I’m just a student” excuse to blow off “adult things” like learning what ROI stands for or finding an in-network doctor.

46 Tips for Recent College Grads

Whether you’re just out of college or several years out, you’re hardly alone if you feel you are struggling to pull up your big boy, gal, or non-binary pal pants — or gym shorts if you’re working remotely. Read on for tips for joining the real world and finessing your finances, career, and personal life.

1. Your overall financial situation

Your finances can include a ton of stuff, especially as you get older and your investments and income become more complex. But at its most basic, understanding your financial situation means knowing your credit score, taking stock of your outstanding debts, figuring out ways to pay off student loans (if you haven’t already), and what your monthly bills are.

Recommended: What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

2. Budget

Once you know how much money you have, owe, and make, it’s time to figure out your budget. Even if you have one already, post-graduation is a perfect time to reconsider your budget and make updates as needed. Never made one before? Check out these personal budget tips to help you get started.

3. Job perks

No matter if your job is still shiny and new or an old hat at this point, it’s good to take time to review your employee handbook for perks you may have overlooked. Check out your company’s retirement plan types and health insurance plans. You’ll also want to review potential bonuses and perks, such as free gym memberships, commute stipends, or work-from-home stipends.

4. Retirement savings/401(k)

This may not be the most fun thing to review, but your future self will thank you for taking a weekend to dive into your current 401(k) or review your options for starting one. If you’re not sure where to start (or if you’re not even sure what this is, check out this primer on 401(k) plans.

5. Where you live

Location, local, location, right? Depending on said location, it can be hard to find affordable housing or even a job if your industry isn’t hot in your market. Before signing on the dotted line, consider how much home you can afford to buy or rent, and whether or not you’re ready to commit if you’re buying.

6. Your living situation

You may have been looking forward to living alone for the first time, but your first few years after college may not be the time to make this dream a reality. It can be expensive to live alone, and you may not be approved without a cosigner. Keeping roommates can be a great way to save money.

7. Your salary

Talking numbers can be intimidating for recent grads. Having knowledge about what a good entry-level salary is for your job ahead of negotiations can help you ensure you’re getting a fair offering.

8. Your social media

Even if you’ve already got a job, you may want to take stock of your social media. A professional online presence may help prevent current or future employers from second-guessing hiring you.

9. Networking

Networking is crucial to helping you achieve your career goals. Whether through industry conferences or social media sites like LinkedIn, it’s smart to stay connected with professionals in your industry to get career advice and learn about job openings you may be the perfect fit for.

10. Job offers

When you’re first starting out, it can be tempting to take the first job offer that comes your way. But if you know it’s not a great fit and you’re already viewing the job as a stepping stone until you can find something else, you may be better off continuing your job search. Check out this list of things you should consider before taking a job offer.

11. Quality over quantity

This adage exists for a reason, and it applies to friends, experiences, clothes, possessions, and even the way you spend your time. Being mindful of your decisions is a great habit to get into.

12. “You” time

This tip can help you get important stuff done, both professionally and personally. Exercising or taking a 15-minute meditation break may boost your job performance and help you avoid burnout.

13.Emergency fund

Life is full of the unexpected, and that’s why it’s smart to have an emergency fund. Once you have a steady income, it’s wise to take a few weeks (or months, depending on your salary and bills) to build up your emergency fund. Don’t know where to start? This article on how to start an emergency fund could be helpful.

14. Medical care

This tip is especially important if you’ve moved to a different state or city. Out-of-network bills can be costly, so having a doctor and knowing which hospitals are in-network can help you save money and stress in the long run.

15. First-aid kit and emergency bag

No, that free purse-sized first-aid kit you got your freshman year in college probably isn’t going to cut it. Store-bought first aid kits may be good starting points, but allergy relief pills, antacids, and other over-the-counter medicines will take your kit to the next level.

If you’re inclined to ready an emergency go-bag, consider packing at least three days’ worth of clothes, a mini first aid kit, cash, a flashlight, and other provisions you think you (and your pets or loved ones) may need if you need to leave your home in a rush.

16. Life insurance

If your employer offers life insurance as a benefit, you may be wondering what it is — and if you should pay more to increase the amount. Understanding life insurance types and reviewing these Life Insurance Policy Tips can help you make the right decision for you.

17. Hobbies

Not everything you do has to relate to your career. In fact, it’s likely healthier if you have interests outside of your career. You can learn to play instruments, sing, run, join a local soccer team, play games online, or enjoy any other hobby that helps you unwind and relax.

18. Taxes

Being organized ahead of tax season can help you avoid filing them late. Whenever you get an important piece of paperwork that’ll affect your taxes (such as W2s, charitable contribution receipts, or even home office receipts), you can put these in a safe place so you’re ready to go come tax time.

19. Work-life balance

We all have different ideas for work-life balance. If you’re not sure what yours is, consider taking the first few weeks on the job to figure that out. If you feel tired or overwhelmed, it may be time to renegotiate those work-life boundaries.

20. Basic home repairs

Home repair costs, can add up but you could save a lot by doing them yourself, especially if or when you own your own place and don’t have a landlord to pay for those costs. If you do have a landlord, you could get a discount on your rent by making simple repairs yourself. Just be sure to get a signed agreement from your landlord outlining how that will work.

21. Fear of asking for help

Don’t know how to format a spreadsheet? Can’t remember the protocol for that report? Ask for help. Reaching out for help is key to creating healthy work relationships (and personal ones).

22. Subscriptions

Monthly subscriptions can add up, be them boxes, auto-reorder groceries or personal care items, streaming services, or magazines. Consider looking at what you’re actually subscribed to. Do you really need both Hulu and Netflix, and do you really need that wine-of-the-month membership?

23. Boundaries

It’s easy to lose track of time, especially in a work-from-home situation. You may also feel you need to put in extra hours to impress your boss. But working to the point where you have no time to yourself can be counterproductive.

24. Cooking

Takeout is great, but you could save a ton of money and calories if you cook most of your meals at home. It’s also helpful to plan your groceries ahead of time to avoid overspending and food waste.

25. Speaking up and out

If you think you don’t have much to add to the conversation, agreeing with what someone has said — and tacking on an extra thought — can be a way to participate and not feel like a wallflower.

26. Regular bedtime

Going to sleep around the same time every night can help to ensure you get enough zzz’s so you can make good decisions and keep healthy habits.

27. Investing

The idea of investing may sound intimidating, but you don’t have to be a Wall Street wolf to invest. Many rookies start small. Check out these tips for investing in your 20s.

28. Avoiding compare yourself to others

We all have different goals for our lives, and we all take different paths to get there. It’s smart to embrace your uniqueness and try to avoid the compulsion to compare yourself to coworkers, online friends, or even friends and family.

29. Mistakes are just part of learning

If you are open to criticism, you can be more likely to learn from the experience. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re new. That’s why it’s important to let your mistakes be growth/learning opportunities, both professionally and personally.

30. You’re good enough, smart enough …

Your social media may be full of engagement photos, job promotions, and new puppies. That’s because most people don’t post about fights with loved ones, struggles with balancing their cash accounts, or troubles at work. Keeping that in mind can help you avoid joining the proverbial rat race.

31. Mentors

They can help you navigate your workplace’s ladder, offer advice, and keep you motivated and sane when things get stressful. They also have contacts that may be helpful for you to know.

32. Changing your mind

You’ve probably heard that tons of people end up with jobs outside of what they studied, even after getting a master’s or MBA. It could be that there aren’t a lot of jobs in that field –or maybe they realized that what’s interesting in theory is not in practice. If this turns out to be the case for you, just remember that fulfillment can be found outside of work. And people can change their minds.

33. Getting help

Unemployment, Medicaid, and other social nets exist for a reason. There are going to be choppy waters, and these services are meant to help. Using them because you got laid off or furloughed isn’t shameful.

34. Home maintenance

When was the last time you cleaned your dryer vents? Do you know how to change the filter in your HVAC? Avoiding these kinds of things for too long can result in big maintenance bills — and potentially be a safety hazard. Not sure what to clean? Check out this ultimate house maintenance list.

35. Growth mindset

When you’re starting out in a new career, you know that you have a lot to learn and need to put in time and effort to advance. After a few years on the job, though, the learning curve can become less steep, making it easy to attribute your success to talent more than to anything else. That is the definition of a fixed mindset. Someone with a growth mindset knows that the key to advancing in one’s career (and evolving as a human being) is to continually be open to learning, improving, and taking on new challenges.

36. Travel

Hopping on a plane and traveling to far-flung places can get a lot harder to do the more “adult” you become. You have to take time off work, arrange a house sitter, find kid- or pet-friendly destinations (or pay a sitter to take care of them) and maybe even have to schedule time for important work meetings or tasks even while you’re on vacation. Even if you’re broke and paying off debt, it’s possible to travel cheap!

37. Saying no

Don’t want to go out for drinks? Can’t finish that report by Monday? Your best bet may be to just be honest. Taking on too much may only backfire, so learning to say no without feeling guilty can be important for your mental health and work-life balance.

38. Lifestyle creep

Lifestyle creep can ruin your budget. The more your income increases, the more you may want to spend. While a pay raise may mean you can splurge on that fancy latte with oatmeal foam, double-shot espresso with coconut milk, and a pump of vanilla, you may want to double-check that the increase in lattes doesn’t mean a decrease in your savings.

39. Sales versus deals

Cheap clothes or stuff on clearance aren’t a deal if you don’t need them or they don’t last very long. For some things, such as your new professional wardrobe, Tip No. 11 about quality over quantity definitely applies.

Recommended: 9 Tips for Finding the Best Deals Online

40. Side jobs

Seems like everyone is hustling, but you may want to be careful that the side gig doesn’t take up too much mental or emotional bandwidth. If it is, you may want to dial it back or find a new side job that doesn’t unduly add to your stress — and possibly interfere with your ability to do your main job.

41. Meal planning

Now that you’re shopping for your own groceries, planning out your meals can be an easy way to save money on food. Taking an extra half hour to take stock of your leftovers and cabinet items can save you from buying stuff you already have or throwing out perfectly good leftover lasagna.

42. Your home office

Are you going to be working from home for some or all of your week? Having ergonomic, comfortable, and functional furniture can help keep your back and neck from hurting and your mind from getting distracted. Click here for some home office ideas if you’re in need of some inspiration.

43. Pets

Before bringing a pet home, you may want to check if you can afford vet bills and cover emergency situations, like a dog biting a visitor or having to kennel your dog for a sudden trip out of town. It may also be important to consider the time pets take. Will you be able to take your pup on walks or to the dog park? Before you dive in, you can check out this list of cheapest pets for lower maintenance friends you may want to adopt instead.

44. Your caffeine fix

Basically, your mom was right: as convenient as buying a coffee on your way to work is, it can add up day after day, week after week, year after year. Making your morning caffeinated drink at home can lead to real savings.

45. Car insurance

If you have a car that’s over 10 years old, you may want to consider auto insurance. This could save you money in the long term if you need maintenance or repair work done to your trusty old wagon.

46. What’s most important to you?

You may think and feel that you can do it all. And maybe you can at first. But at some point, you may find yourself having to back-burner some of your goals. When that happens, you may want to make sure they aren’t all the ones that reflect your values and bring you joy.

The Takeaway

Your post-college years can be exciting and fun while also being confusing and difficult. With your increase in income and independence may come a host of challenges of responsibilities you have to manage. That’s why it may be smart to ask friends, family, and mentors for help.

And if your student loan payments are getting in the way of you living your best post-college life, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. (Please note: in refinancing, you’ll be forfeiting certain federal student loan benefits including payment suspension and repayment programs.) SoFi is a leader in the private student loan space, offering refinancing options with no application or origination fees.

Check out your interest rate in just a few minutes—with no strings attached.

Photo credit: iStock/Rattankun Thongbun

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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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