30 Tips for Joining the Real World

By Kaitlyn Farley · March 08, 2024 · 12 minute read

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30 Tips for Joining the Real World

Woo-hoo! You have your degree, perhaps a job offer, a place to live with a chill roommate, and you’ve found your favorite cafe where the cold brew is just right. Life is great, right?

Yes, it is. Even if you don’t have all of the items above checked off. Starting your independent, post-school life is an exciting time, and it’s a moment to learn all sorts of adulting skills.

To help you with that, here are 30 things to consider, learn, or do to help you as you discover everything from how to speak up in meetings to how to find an in-network doctor. Just as you were probably on the receiving end of a lot of tips for college or freshman advice, now it’s time to level up on post-grad life.

30 Tips for Recent College Grads

Whether you’re just out of college or several years out, you’re hardly alone if you feel you have lots of questions about post-grad life and how to live it. Read on for tips for joining the real world and finessing your finances, career, and personal life.

1. Tackle 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 understanding what your monthly bills are.

💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.

2. Embrace a Budget

Here’s another bit of advice for college grads: 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? The popular 50/30/20 budget can be a smart start.

3. Learn About 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, commuting stipends, and the like.

4. Start Saving for Retirement

Seriously? Yes! This may not be the most fun thing to review (and likely wasn’t part of your college advice), but your future self will thank you. Take time to learn about a 401(k) plan that may be available at work and hopefully enroll. You want to at least contribute enough to get any company match, which is like free money.

No job yet or retirement plan you qualify for? Spend a bit of time learning about the different kinds of IRAs.

5. Evaluate Your Housing Costs

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 rent. It can be expensive to live alone; having roommates can be a great way to save money.

6. Check 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 about hiring you. Those wild nights out with friends definitely don’t need to be broadcast via an account that’s public.

7. Network

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.

8. Schedule Some “You” Time

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. Start an 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 start an emergency fund, perhaps by a recurring automatic transfer into savings. Start slow and steady, and aim to build up to at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. This will help protect you if you have an unexpected major car repair bill or job loss.

10. Find Your Medical Team

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. Ask coworkers, do online research, and don’t forget to explore where the nearest and best urgent care centers are.

11. Snag a First-Aid Kit and Emergency Bag

This may sound like your parents or grandparents talking, but no one sees an accident or disaster coming. You could get burned cooking brunch one Saturday, or a major storm could sweep through and leave you without power.

Store-bought first aid kits may be good starting points, but extra bandages, 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.

12. Consider Life Insurance

Yes, you are young. But if your employer offers life insurance as a benefit, you may be wondering what it is — and whether you need it or should even pay more to increase the amount. So, how about a little research? Understanding life insurance policies can help you make the right decision for you. Even if you decide you don’t need it right now, you’ll be better prepared to sign up when the time is right.

💡 Quick Tip: If you have student loans with variable rates, you may want to consider refinancing to secure a fixed rate in case rates rise. But if you’re willing to take a risk to potentially save on interest — and will be able to pay off your student loans quickly — you might consider a variable rate.

13.Dive into 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. Or maybe you’ll want to give back and spend some time planting at a local park or prepping meals at a soup kitchen. Find some passions, and pursue them.

14. Tackle Your Taxes

Welcome to the world of taxes, which likely wasn’t part of your college advice. But now, if you’re employed (full-time, part-time, seasonally, side hustle, or whatever), it’s time to learn how to prepare for tax season, which 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.

Then, determine if you’ll do your taxes yourself (say, with tax software) or work with a income tax preparer to get your return in on time.

15. Find Your Work-Life Balance

Each person has their own idea for work-life balance. If you’re not sure what yours is, consider taking the first few months on the job to figure that out. Being a good employee, for instance, doesn’t have to mean being the first person at the office in the morning and the last one out at night. If you feel tired or overwhelmed, it may be time to dig into and renegotiate those work-life boundaries.

16. Master Basic Home Repairs

Home repair costs can add up (especially as the years unfurl). 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. Such problems as a clogged sink, broken light switch, and dripping shower head may be easier than you think to fix.

If you do have a landlord, you might even 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.

17. Be Smart About Subscriptions

Monthly subscriptions can be so appealing, whether that means Japanese snack of the month club, exercise gear, or language lessons via a fun app. But these add up over time, and it’s easy to forget how many you have going at a given moment. Consider looking at what you’re actually subscribed to. Do you really need Max, Hulu, Peacock, and Netflix, or could you save on streaming services by dropping one (or two)? And do you really need so many gym passes and coffee clubs? Take a closer look, and spend less.

18. Learn to Cook

Takeout is great, but you could save money on food and healthy up your meals if you cook at home. It’s also helpful to plan your groceries ahead of time to avoid overspending and food waste. Plus, it’s a fun pursuit with loads of free recipes and cooking videos available online. Invite a friend over and make it a social occasion.

19. Speaking up in Meetings

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.

20. Tweak Your Sleep Hygiene

Getting enough high-quality sleep can be a key contributor to your wellness. 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. And here’s a reminder that taking your mobile device to bed with you is likely to lead to an hour or more of rabbit holes that rob you of your rest.

21. Invest Some Money

The idea of investing may sound intimidating, but you don’t have to be a Wall Street wolf to invest. Many rookies start small. Learn more about investing in your 20s and perhaps open an account.

22. Find a Mentor

If there’s someone higher up the ladder at your workplace with whom you click and who offers great guidance, ask them out for coffee to learn more about how their career progressed and see what advice they might share. You might wind up under their wing. You can also look for guidance via a professional group; you might find a mentor at a summit or similar event.

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

23. Change 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.

24. Get 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. And if you can’t find employment, that’s another reason to get support vs. staying silent and toughing it out.

25. Put Home Maintenance on Your Calendar

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 a house maintenance list and put reminders in your mobile device’s calendar.

26. Travel

Hopping on a plane and traveling to far-flung places can get a lot harder to do the more “adult” you become. It can be harder to take time off work, and perhaps you’ll have a family, meaning you will need a bigger travel budget. Now, when you’re young and probably okay with “roughing it,” it’s possible to travel cheap!

27. Learn to Say No

When you were younger, you probably didn’t have a lot of say in things; you did what your parents or professors said you had to. How times have changed! 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.

28. Avoid Lifestyle Creep

As time passes, you may well get raises and bonuses. And lifestyle creep can become a problem. What’s that? It’s the situation in which the more your income increases, the more you spend. While a pay raise may mean you can splurge a bit, if you wind up renting a bigger house, leasing a luxury car, and treating yourself to a week in Tulum, you could wind up in the hole. Instead, treat yourself within reason, and plow more money into savings, such as for a down payment on a future home.

Recommended: 9 Tips for Finding the Best Deals Online

29. Outfit 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. Don’t just perch on the couch or in bed with your laptop. Scan home office ideas if you’re in need of some inspiration.

30. Give Back

You’re joining the ranks of adults, so do the right thing and find a way to contribute and help others. Maybe you can spend some time on the weekend at a Habitat for Humanity site or make a charitable donation to a favorite cause.

The Takeaway

Your post-college years can be exciting and fun but also a bit confusing and challenging at times. Start with a few items on this list, and work your way through to build your life skills, launch your career, and manage your money confidently.

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.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

Photo credit: iStock/Rattankun Thongbun

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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