Lauren Marinigh

Welcome to the real world. What they don’t teach you in school!

By Lauren | July 30, 2014 | 0 Comment

My four years as a college student were the best years of my life, and even though if some days I didn’t realize it or appreciate it I definitely do now. It’s not because I’m not happy in my career, but college flashes by in the blink of an eye, and you don’t really know how to fully embrace it and enjoy it till you’ve graduated.

Real life out of college is great, you get a regular pay cheque, and you get to actually put into practice what you sat in class and learned, but there’s so much in school that they don’t teach you that comes along with graduating and beginning real life. Here are some of those things.

School isn’t experience, its education

This doesn’t apply to every single career path out there, but for the most part employers don’t count your years in school as experience, despite what you may think. Obviously if you are doing work with real clients in your programs, that puts you ahead of people who are just sitting and listening to lectures, but it still doesn’t count as years of experience. So if you see a job that requires 4+ years of experience, I hate to break it to you but you’re not qualified to apply.

You think you should make how much?

SO many grads graduate with out of whack salary expectations, and I know this because I was one of them at one point. The thing is, just because your school may tell you that the average grad makes $50,000+ doesn’t mean you’ll be making that, especially within your first year (or years) of work.

Everyone has potential of making endless amounts of money, but when you’re starting out you’ll be lucky to even land a salaried position. I’m not saying you should settle for nothing, but you should definitely go into the workforce with an open mind, and a willingness to choose opportunity over money.

Schools tough, but not that tough

Endless all-nighters, exams, studying, projects… it never seems to end in school, and you constantly hear the cries of students everywhere saying, “I can’t wait till I graduate and this is over”. Well honey, I hate to break it to you but school work does not compare to normal work. I mean obviously it depends on the type of career path you choose but there may be all-nighters, you may have to work late, or even on weekends.

There is one real big difference with school work vs. regular work. School work is entirely optional, you have the choice on how well you do, or if you even do it. You don’t HAVE to go to class, because at the end of the day that’s your choice, and your teachers don’t really care what you choose to do with your education. In the real world it doesn’t fly like that.

You’re good, but so is everyone else

Let’s face it, you may be top of your class, involved in everything in school, and be wicked at what you do. There’s no doubt you are going to succeed, but if you graduate or go through school thinking someone is just going to handpick you from your program and take you under the wing, then you need a reality check.

I know people that were AMAZING in my program, no doubt could land a really great job, and do great things, but the issue was is they knew it, and thought they didn’t have to work as hard to actually get that job.

If you wait for people to recruit you, or find you, those C+ students may take the jobs out there from right under your butt.

You’re class is cool, but that’s not what you’ll be doing

In college especially you get to do a lot of hands on work, you get to work on a variety of projects, and do a lot of cool things. It makes you a well-rounded person and gives you an understanding of how your industry works. In my programs I got to develop and execute campaigns from start to finish. I got to work on developing the creative, to planning our ad spend & more.

In reality, you won’t be hired to do EVERYTHING. If you’re a graphic designer, you may be hired just to design web ads, you won’t be designing every single thing an agency does for a client. In fact, you may even just be put in charge of finding fonts. If you’re a journalist, you won’t be writing the entire magazine or newspaper, you may be put in charge of just finding leads for a tiny column no one reads.

Don’t leave college with the expectation that the job you are going to do is going to be like the work you do in school. Everyone has to start at the bottom, and the working world just doesn’t work like that.

Real life is harder on your wallet than you think

I was lucky enough to have my Mother and Father help me out with a lot of my bills throughout college, I had an OSAP loan but even though I thought I had a good grasp on how much everything in life cost, I didn’t at all.

Unless you have the luxury of living at home, and your parents paying all your bills, you will learn pretty quickly how expensive life is. On an entry-level salary you’ll be lucky to break even every month or have a bit of extra money to go out for some beers. I know you’re probably reading this thinking, “I couldn’t do that”, but you probably will and have too. It’s life. Enjoy being on your parents payroll while you can, because life is expensive.

Finding a job takes work

If you get turned down 5 times, you can’t just give up on finding a job. No matter your program, how great you are, or what school you went to, finding the right job is going to take work. In fact finding a job is almost a full-time job on its own for most people.

Be prepared to work hard and apply for lots of jobs before you land one! I probably applied for 100’s of jobs, and attended multiple interviews before I finally landed a job. The key is to be prepared to work, and not give up. Otherwise you’ll end up living with Mom & Dad forever if you give up after being turned down a couple times!

Health insurance is more important than you think

Not every job comes with health insurance, and yes we live in a country where healthcare is “free” but have you ever thought about how much a dental checkup, eye doctor appointment, or even your monthly birth control pills cost? Probably not, because you’re hopefully luckily on your parents benefits.

Many plans only allow you to be on them until you reach a certain age, my Dad’s health plan automatically kicked us off when we graduated school. Be prepared to either start paying for your appointments if your job doesn’t included benefits, or make sure this is something you ask when getting a new job.

Grades Don’t Matter

I hate to break it to you but all those 100% you got really don’t matter and aren’t going to be a determining factor on how successful you are. My graduating class from college, all the students that had no fun because they were too busy studying all the time, most of those students didn’t end up scoring their dream jobs. In fact, most of them either ended up in a different profession, or the students that got C’s landed jobs before them.

Don’t base your success on your grades. As long as you pass and take away from your classes the valuable information you’ll be fine. Employers aren’t going to care if you got 100% in a class, they’re going to care that you are capable of doing the job at hand.

Don’t stop learning

Ahh.. an important one! You graduated and your free from school forever!!!!! Don’t let that stop you from learning. You don’t want to be one of those 30-something professionals who aren’t up to date in your field. In this day-in-age industries change so quickly, and become more and more competitive. Who knows if a new grad will replace you after 5 years of working? Keep on top of your industry, continue learning, and improve your skills. It’ll help keep you valuable.

This article isn’t meant to make you depressed or scared about life, life is a beautiful thing and graduating college is exciting but if you want to prevent being kicked in your butt the minute you walk across that stage to receive your diploma, start thinking about these things!


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