Life After School
The end of college is more than a mere turning point. Until this time, most young people have had the “next thing” to look forward to every year of their lives. But what is the next thing? It is the next institution of learning, of course.
Sure, finishing high school and saying goodbye to friends, clubs and in some cases, your popularity can be a difficult thing. But the next thing is, once again, right around the corner. In this case, it is college, which plenty of young people gleefully make the transition to because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s what their parents expect too.
Turning the clock back a bit from the end of high school shows a world of great predictability and lack of real change. Preschool becomes Kindergarten. 6th grade becomes 7th grade. Middle school becomes high school. Juniors become seniors.
But there is no transition like the end of college. Few are truly prepared. Many students, having received straight A’s, rewards, and great test scores stumble terribly out of the gate and are miserable in the real world, working long hours in miserable jobs, taking a long time to “become successful” while a few others thrive. Why is this?
1. There is no “next year.”
What happens next, as they say, is up to you. For quite a few people, this is exciting, but for some, it’s scarier than the ingredients of a Twinkie. Many people go through their young lives having always done what is expected of them (or, more appropriately, what their parents/teachers/social networks expect of them.) The decision to go to school isn’t even a decision for them. It’s more a decision of where they will go and what they’ll study when hey get there.
After this phase of their life inevitably ends, they will find themselves in a position with nobody telling them where to go next. Not always easy. This is why you see some young women longing for their sorority days and desperately staying in touch with all their sisters, and some young men sticking around the college they attended, going to parties long after it ends. (Yes, the gender roles can be reversed here!)
2. Work Sucks
Are you still in college? Ever seen “Office Space”? If not, watch it. I’m not kidding. This is what it’s like. Your boss will invade your space. He will drive a Porsche with a vanity plate that spells “MYPRSHE.” You will be asked to work weekends. I am dead serious!
Whether or not you may think so, there is a big difference between working hard in school and working hard at work. No matter how much homework you do and how many classes you take, it isn’t anything like the time-consuming death march of the work force. Even if you do manage to do 40 hours a week of school-related work, it isn’t the same. Rarely does a student work this hard, this consistently for much longer than a week or two (pre-finals, I suppose.) And even if you do, you can always take some time off and “set your own hours.” You can cram for a final all-night of you want, or just do it in the afternoons.
Feel like postponing your homework and skipping a few lectures until the weekend so you can stay up late with friends and go to the football games for a week? You can do this in school, get away with it (a few times) and still get decent grades that semester. I skipped every single lecture except for the first one in my art history class (and this was like 15 lectures) and got a B.
Do this at work and you’ll probably get fired. You can’t skip “lecture” at work, and your “lecture” is 8+ hours per day, every day of the week!
3. The End of Social Life
This section may seem like it doesn’t belong on this website, but it definitely does, because it is all related to the same problem. You’ll miss your friends, lunch meetings, study dates, and the random college groups you could join at any given time. One of the hardest things about leaving school is the sudden lack of social life. This isn’t because you suddenly stop talking to your friends (usually you’ll keep in touch) or because you live off campus now.
It’s really because you, and all your friends all work 40 hours a week now! How can you ever find the time to meet up as often as you did in school? It’s impossible. Ask anyone who is a recent grad what they miss the most about school.
The social life!
It’ll be an almost universal answer. And it’s because of the 9 to 5 work.
I know a guy who started his own matchmaking business based on personality compatibility. (His site is echemistry.com) He is a really interesting guy – travels a lot, runs an online business, and most importantly, is VERY well connected.
I’d argue that if he were stuck in a 9 to 5 job since his college days he would NEVER have the amazing social life that he actually has. The guy has friends from all over the country, and even the world. Probably a good portion of them are self-employed or students themselves, because these crowds tend to have more time to meet up.
So, if you join the 9 to 5, say goodbye to your social life as you know it. Everyone is always too busy.
I probably have scared you a bit now if you are still in school. So now I owe you some comforting thoughts to make up for it!
First, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. No matter what anybody says, all you really have to do is earn enough money each month to live on. After that, the rest is up to you. 9 to 5 isn’t the only solution. Don’t continue the same path you’ve been on. Don’t just go on to “the next thing.” There is no 17th grade.
Secondly, it’s never too late. You can lose your social life, your friends, and even your job, but there will always be opportunities for change. You can work in a terrible job for 10 years, only to reinvent yourself, quit, and start a business. Anything is possible. That’s the beauty of the real world – you are in charge!
University of Shame: Credit Card Offers for AlumniJune 10th, 2010
Wise Student, Foolish Student (Part 3)March 24th, 2010
Wise Student, Foolish Student (Part 2)March 23rd, 2010
Wise Student, Foolish Student (Part 1)March 20th, 2010
The Perpetual StudentMarch 28th, 2009
Scott Jackson February 9, 2008 at 4:35 pm
I think you are really exaggerating how bad “regular” work is. Everyone I know at work has a social life. And to say it’s not a social life “as you know it” is redundant. Obviously things will not be how you knew them since your environment has changed. I think your attacks on “regular” jobs as awful is incredibly slanted by whatever experiences you yourself have had. Not everyone else has those experiences. I for one do not think my job is awful. There are good times and bad times like with anything, but I’ve never said to myself “this is awful.” Working in fast food is awful. Or a mine. Or a factory. What I do is certainly not.
Mike February 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm
You have to remember the nature of this blog. It isn’t a place for people who are happy with their jobs to come and joyfully talk about how wonderful their days are. Quite the opposite – it’s meant to be a support for those who aren’t happy.
I’m fully aware that not everyone hates their jobs (I can think of quite a few who are happy) but there are also a huge number of people out there who do not.
Secondly, some of my comments are more “tongue in cheek” – when I say the “9 to 5” world is an awful place, for example. It is, for a lot of us (and many who would read my entries) – and I am speaking from my experiences in many cases, which I make pretty clear.
That said, I have always liked your commentary on my blog and welcome criticism too… even if I don’t always agree 🙂
Scott Jackson February 11, 2008 at 7:07 pm
Madison February 9, 2013 at 7:47 pm
This is an amazing post.