When we’re about to transition from college to life after college, we find that the same conversations happen over and over again, inevitably starting with the question, “So, are you ready for the real world?”
When people refer to life after school as “the real world,” we start to think of it as an unfamiliar place filled with uncertainty, a place we’ll be experiencing for the first time with too many changes to handle. With these thoughts come feelings of doubt, anxiety, and apprehension. Maybe I’m not ready for the real world. What’s it like out there?
Here’s the good news: It’s the same world out there that you’ve been living in up until now, and I can guarantee that when you wake up the morning after you graduate, the sky will still be blue and you’ll still be your wonderful, talented self. Of course there will be changes. For example, when I graduated from college, I went from being a resident of D.C., student of psychology, and president of my sorority, to being a resident of Atlanta, unemployed, and no longer around any of the people I had surrounded myself with throughout my college experience.
As the external ways I had identified myself changed overnight, I had to realize that who I was on the inside would always remain, and that’s what I had to connect to amidst the changes I was experiencing. I still held the same values, went after the same aspirations, and interacted with the world in the same way. Ultimately, the real world wasn’t any different itself; what changed were the roles I had been filling. But I was still me, and the sky was still blue.
The biggest lesson I learned through my transition was to stop defining myself by outside identifiers, because those were only temporary. What I had to start defining myself by were my values and my strengths, because that’s what would stay constant amidst the inevitable changes that came (and will continue to come) my way. This shift in mindset is also valuable when you start to think about your career, especially in regards to the nature of today’s ever-changing workplace. Instead of thinking about what you want to do, think about the person you want to be, because in reality, what you do will change, but who you are at your core will keep you centered and grounded.
So when you start feeling the nerves after people make “the real world” out to be something scary and new, remember that you’ve been living in the real world your whole life, and you’ve made it just fine up until now. So keep on keeping on. You got this.