Navigating Post-Grad Life Through Personal Connection and Meaningful Work

On May 18, 2019, I was no longer a college student. Dressed in a flowing black robe, tassel on my cap, and diploma in hand, I officially graduated from Saint Joseph’s University. This was an exciting time in my life; it meant new opportunities, new people, and new experiences. It also meant leaving everything I had come to know over the last 4 formative years.

Navigating post-grad life (casually referred to as PGL) can be scary. Friends move away, full-time jobs and responsibilities start adding up, and there doesn’t seem to be a “how-to” guide to manage this seismic change in daily routine. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to secure a job after graduation before my final semester was over. This relieved some pressure, but there were still so many unknowns. Where will I live? Will I like the new job? Am I going to get along with my co-workers? How will I manage the new structure and autonomy of PGL?

At first, I was relieved to be finished school. I was ready for the next chapter of my life. Then, as they always do, the what-ifs and anxious thoughts started to creep in. I pushed them to the back of my mind and tried to enjoy my last summer of freedom. I took note of everything I was doing “for the last time.” Then, in early July, the time came for me to leap into adulthood and become a real working adult, a regular 9-5’er.

I walked into my new office and looked around. There was a large brown leather sofa, a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, and a small kitchen area with a mini fridge. My new work space felt reminiscent of an upscale dorm room, and the atmosphere and culture were refreshingly relaxed and personal. My new title was Social Media Marketing Specialist – I would be responsible for helping colleges and universities find the best prospective students through social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.

During my last semester of undergrad at Saint Joe’s, I took a course called Social Media Marketing. I fell in love with the idea and knew this is where I wanted to start my career. The job of a Social Media Marketing Specialist isn’t all sunshine and rainbows – it’s more than funny cat pictures, Vine references, and Tasty videos. The analytical and optimization capabilities on social are almost endless – and I was hungry to learn all that I could.

My manager was encouraging and friendly, and relentlessly curious. He helped bring me up to speed in the ever-changing world of social media marketing while simultaneously taking an interest in my personal life. I felt like my work had meaning, and I actually enjoyed getting up in the morning! Over the next few months our personal and professional bond continued to grow – we shared weekend plans, went on golf outings, and even joined a gym. I was adjusting to the PGL better and faster than I ever imagined.

While a successful transition from college to the ‘real world’ requires a certain level of maturity and copious amounts of planning and preparation, an equally important component that isn’t talked about enough is the idea of establishing personal connections and finding meaning in your work. This idea can help prevent a creative rut or the infamous “burnout” we’ve been warned about. Maybe, if anything, it makes the transition to PGL just a little bit easier.