Your Future Is in Good Hands ... Yours
GOOD-BYE DIRT-INFESTED DORMS, finals, frat parties, dingy lecture halls, keggers, and waiting in line, on the phone, or online in hopes of getting into your desired classes. The "carpe diem" speech is done. You marched down the family-lined path, up the steps, onto the stage, across to the podium, pausing to smile for the camera as you were handed the rolled and ribboned piece of paper symbolizing your graduation from college ... sealing the deal when it comes to your future success. You even got a job, and you're living on your own (well, without your parents). Life's great! Right? While, yes, life is certainly great, it might not exactly feel that way ... yet. Being "independent" means, really, that you can't screw around anymore. Why? Because your livelihood, your happiness, your success is dependent on you. Which is why it's time to get your life in order--stat!
AFTER THE "CARPE DIEM" SPEECH
The transition from college to career can be a tad intimidating if you don't feel equipped with the information that you need to actually succeed. It's like the concept of "think rich and you will be." Really? Come on now, you can think as hard as you want, but that's not going to miraculously make you rich. Thinking is great, and, yes, an essential step, but then you need to take action, following the path from A (thinking rich) to B (being rich) by putting in the work (detailed in this book) it takes to make it happen. In this book each "QuickieChick's Cheat Sheet" will lay out those steps. It will help you transition from student to adult. (Don't shudder at the thought, this is exciting!)
This is your cheat sheet--your guide to everything you never learned in school about life and how to live it. And since you don't have to worry about selling this book back to the used-books college bookstore, feel free to fill in the "Note to Self" sections, highlight, comment, even scribble if it helps you focus.
What They Don't Teach in School or Anywhere Else
Unlike in college, in the real world we don't simply select our preferred course load, get handed a daily structured list of to-dos, show up before the bell rings, study the textbook at night, and pass with an A if we just go a little bit above and beyond. Obvious, right? There's no textbook, no tutor to help you figure out how to navigate what comes next. In the real world, you aren't handed the step-by-step map to life. Instead you are exposed to a slew of amazing, eye-opening, confusing, frustrating, overstimulating, engaging, brain-numbing, inspiring experiences that, like a thousand-piece puzzle board, somehow fit, forming this incredible, convoluted, but oddly totally sensible life story--yours. But, like braille for beginners, it's a totally different way of thinking.
For your entire life you've been a rule follower (well, mostly), taking all the prereq steps that guaranteed to get you that great job out of college. But now you're out of college and all you can find are low-level positions paying little more than minimum wage to answer some egomaniacal boss's phones or bussing tables. And you, apparently, are one of the lucky few. Lucky? How do I figure? Well, considering that the majority of your graduating class is only being offered unpaid internships--and even those positions they are forced to beg for--you're actually being paid ... maybe! I know you're probably wondering just what was the point of paying for college if the job it afforded you can hardly pay the bills?
Before you get your panties in a twist or call your mom in another tear-fest hissy fit (believe me, we've all been there ... ), know that you're just paying your dues. In time (which may feel like a lifetime) you will climb to a higher rung on the ladder, and even become the boss someday--if that's the goal anyway. Until then, don't let your annual salary get you down. Why be miserable when you can be fabulous (I promise), even on a not-so-fabulous budget.
I know, the commencement address during your college graduation probably threw around statements that yield a lot of power like "claim the success you deserve," "the world is your oyster," "you have the ability to change the world," "if you dream big, you will achieve great things." You tossed your cap into the air and expected your future to fall into place. Many of you then moved to another, a bigger, or simply an unfamiliarly daunting town, with your dreams so clear, your future so bright, your path so specifically laid out in front of you that the possibility of success not landing in your lap was almost laughable. But here's the thing: Sometimes reality doesn't end up aligning with your expectations. I mean, even if you do score your dream job, if you find an amazing apartment, and if you and your college boyfriend seem destined for a fairy-tale ending, even if all of that pans out, reality can really bite. How is that possible? Read on.
Facing Your Fears
Think about what you are afraid of about postcollege life. Really think about it. Write down your fears.
Think of people whom you admire or whose careers you admire. Why? And what intimidates you about them?
Through reading this book, I am going to lessen my fears of (what are your fears?)
so I can emulate the life/career of (name of person or career that you admire)
in these ways (list the steps you will take to make that happen, e.g., get a mentor, research, find an internship, increase confidence, fake it, etc.)
Now that we know the high-level goals, bottoms up--let's start with the reality. Not to be a Debbie Downer, because that's truly not the intention here but ...
That dream job of yours could very well end up being a huge time and energy vampire, sucking the hours out of each day. And any ounce of reserve energy you want to, well, reserve so that you are physically capable to make it through the week and maintain a social life come Saturday? That could be nonexistent at your "dream job."
Social life? Not so much.
Your apartment--yes it might be exactly what you pictured and more, but all of the unexpected expenses and bills are adding up ... .
That boyfriend of yours--is he needy and suddenly seriously immature, now that your priorities and lifestyles no longer puzzle-piece together? Is heout partying at keggers while you are attempting to save enough money to buy a decent suit?
Did College Teach You What It Realistically Takes to Get a Job That Leads to a Career?
Julia, 23, Environmental Educator: "Hell no. I went out on a limb applying to a job that required a background in biology. I didn't have that background (barring a ninth-grade biology class) but won the position nonetheless. It's been a steep learning curve, but what college did teach me is how to be adaptable, process information well, and be confident in speaking about what I do know."
With a new job and a new life you have new priorities and interests that take up any extracurricular space in your life. But your life can still be fabulous ... I promise. Just keep reading, and we'll get through it together.
How to Get a Grip When You Can Barel Get By
So how do you achieve this so-called fabulous life despite the fact that you are struggling to just get by? By following a few trade tricks, the kind not learned in school. Nope, these are tricks passed down from insiders and older sisters who, through time and practice, learned the loopholes and don't feel the need to hoard the hard-earned insight. Hazing is for sororities; this is the real world. It's time to get down to business!
Initial postgrad life can be head-spinningly stressful and out-of-breath overwhelming, as you feel like you're speeding around in this odd Tasmanian-devil fashion in, ironically, an attempt to just get a grip ... .
Well, take a deep breath.
Come on, big-belly inhale through your nose. Expand your stomach. Let some oxygen return to your brain. Now let it all out with an open-mouth exhale and a guttural sigh of relief.
I'll help you get through this rough patch ... without eliciting an anxiety attack. Suddenly you'll realize that you're living the high life, albeit from a tiny apartment and on a shoestring budget.
Edit Your Expectations ... for Now
The average chick graduates from college and pretty much expects everything to just fall into place. Up until then, life has been mapped, thanks to an annual schedule of an educational grade-based hierarchy, organized by elementary, middle school, high school, and finally, college. Some chickscontinue to grad or trade school, extending their education in an attempt to land a higher paying job (hopefully), follow their "destiny" to be a doctor/ lawyer/chef/environmentalist ... while others simply don't feel ready to take that leap from the nest to test their wings in the real world quite yet. If you were lucky enough to have parents support you through school--aside from maybe a lame job at the corner café, providing a little spare change to keep you just above broke (though you tended to spend most of it on café mochas from the café anyway)--the postgraduation cutoff can be a very scary thing. Snip! That's when reality sets in and it's time to figure it out. Find a job. Get an apartment. You're on your own, sweetheart! But that's the exciting thing! It is!
What It Really Takes to Make It on Your Own!
Your whole life you've dreamed about being independent and self-sufficient. For years you've done your best to prove that you can provide for yourself, that you "don't need" your parents, and that you can make it on your own. And you can. I promise you. How? The perfect integration of the three Gs--gumption + grace + guidance--all of which will get you exactly where you want to go (even if you're not exactly sure where that is yet): Fulfilling your dreams in your ideal career surrounded by emotionally and intellectually stimulating, comforting, and inspiring people who authentically care about you. All in all, an honestly pretty fab life.
Wait, hold on, I need to make sure you got that sentence about exactly what it takes, so I'm going to say it again for the sake of it sinking in: All you need is a little gumption, grace, and guidance. What's the point of the repeat? Sometimes hearing something twice is the best way to have it sink in, as opposed to just skimming over it. So let me break it down for you:
Defined: Courage, spunk, guts, resourceful
Why: You're not afraid to stick your neck out, take risks, and make your mark. You have the self-assured knowledge that you can and
You're Not Carrie Bradshaw
Charlotte, 23, Magazine Writer: "Leave all of your fantasies behind. Don't be an idealist about your job. Work is called work for a reason. Suck it up, pay your dues, and when you have the clout to do something better, you will. Everyone thinks they can be Carrie Bradshaw--but she's a character."
will succeed ... which can come across as arrogant, so it needs to be tempered with:
When Is It Time to Finally Detach from Your Parents' Clutches?
Felicia, 23, Television and Commercial Art Department Coordinator: "When I felt like it was stunting my independence. When you are able to afford it, moving out can make you feel more confident and shock you into getting your life organized and focusing on your career. Other motivating factors: the thought of being able to decorate to my taste and have my friends over for dinner, night-out prep, or TV watching ... without being in my parents' way."
Defined: Seemingly effortless charm, refinement, elegance
Why: In order to successfully carry that headstrong, self-propelled attitude without seeming like a bull-headed egomaniac, you've got to do it with grace, being careful not to be totally offensive and therefore isolating yourself. Be kind, yet strong. Self-assured, yet just slightly self-deprecating (in order not to be hated for being "too perfect"). Driven, yet accommodating. It's a definite high wire to walk, but you'll get the hang of it. Which is why you also need:
Defined: Leadership, instruction, direction, insight
Why: You may think you "know it all." I remember when I "knew it all." But just because you are well-read and know a whole lot about learned-in-school lessons doesn't mean you know the ins and outs of life quite yet. Of course, the most effective way to learn a lesson is "the hard way," but guidance from a mentor/sister/wiser one is the less-excruciating way to learn.
Since you weren't taught this stuff in school, I'm going to lay out the details on the basic get-your-life-in-gear essentials, while filling you in on how to be fabulous on your, yes, pitiful pay.
What to Expect (Not from Life, Just from This Book)
Here's the basic breakdown so you understand the ins and outs of the book. Each chapter will have:
Quick! Answer each question with the first thing that comes to mind. That's often the best way to get a gut response, sometimes a response so real and honest that even your critical, self-correcting, opinion-editing, "appropriate" side might be surprised by it. Why? Because you don't allow yourself the opportunity to think through the question long enough to place a strategic slant on your answer. Plus, let's face it, quizzes that just might shed a glimmer of enlightenment about ourselves are fun. And not to worry: The questions posed will be addressed within the chapter so that you can better understand your answers and maybe shed light on a few alternate approaches that might better suit the new empowered you!
NOTE TO SELF
Take notes! You know that pulling out the highlighter and jotting "notes to self" along the sides of your books helps you remember useful insight. That's what this section is for. Plus it's a way for you to add your two cents. Sometimes blips of brilliance come at the most random times. If something in these chapters speaks to you or sparks a blip, write it down before you forget it!
One essential component to success in the real world is knowing what you know and knowing what you don't. That's why I contacted some of the best experts in their respective fields to fill in the holes of my knowledge, giving you more in-depth insight that I simply can't. Fact is, I know a little about a lot of things. Some things I know more about, others less. While it's important to put yourself out there as an informed and experienced authority, you can't know all there is to know about everything. You just can't. Oh, and the experts--all of them are successful chicks who, at one time, were just like you, trying to carve out their own self-defined paths to success, happiness, respect, and fabulousness. Not that it was always this flower-lined, yellow brick road. Many of the life-envying chicks arrived at success through lots of trial and error, even mid-course corrections--in other words, they were on a specific path, positive that they were headed in their dream-destined direction, only to realize halfway there that this was not the path for them. Instead of an "oh darn, I guess I'll just deal" attitude, they began to carve a fork in their road, facing an altered, new, or totally seemingly backward direction. A mid-course correction takes guts, as it can look and feel like you'rebacktracking. But you're not. You're simply constantly reevaluating, going over effectiveness, taking real-time feedback, and altering the strategy based on conditions and influences. After all, it's better to change mid-course and put yourself on a better path than to stubbornly force your way down maybe not the best path just because that's the one you're on right now.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
You're not alone. Even if you feel like you're the only one in the world going through whatever crisis/frustration/breakdown/thrill ... you're still not alone. And that's actually a good thing, because that means that there are other chicks out there who have lived through it already. This is where you can read insight from other chicks who have learned the lessons the hard way--by experience. Why not learn from them?
QUICKIECHICK'S CHEAT SHEET
Kind of like CliffsNotes, each QuickieChick's Cheat Sheet lists the most important components of the chapter, creating a bullet list out of the need-to-know snippets that will make it seem as though you read the chapter in its entirety, even if you didn't.
Mommy and Daddy's Little Girl
Look at photos from your childhood, at toys, or visit old playgrounds, etc.
I am going to seriously miss this aspect of living at home because
(It's OK. Admit it! You'll probably find ways to remedy that feeling of loss in this book.)
Reality Will Check You, but It Doesn't Have to Suck
So what's the point of this novel-length diatribe on how to live your life? To help you not just survive those difficult postgrad years (like your entire twenties and, for some, your thirties, too), but live them fabulously. Because the fact is that despite the pomp, circumstance, hoopla, and fairy tales, whenreality checks you (and it will), you'll want to be ready for it. Sure, you may be digging your red-soled heels into the dirt and hanging on to your sanity with a string, but you will still be fabulous, yes, even on a budget.
Life Can Take Longer to Figure Out
Lindsay, 28, Works for a Nonprofit: "I thought I would know who I was going to be and have life figured out by twenty-eight. I'm not sure why that is the magic number, but it has stuck with me."
What was the reality? "The reality was that twenty-eight came and went, and I was not any closer to figuring 'it' out. The only thing I know for sure is that the version of myself that I had in my head at twenty-two is not the person I want to become now. It's no longer about becoming someone, but about figuring out how to be happy now."
The great thing is that reality doesn't necessarily have to "suck." It just may be different from what you were taught (in school), told (by your parents), and expected (that's your own fault). Now it's time to reposition your perspective and view your future in a more realistic way. Onward and, yes--upward!
Postcollege Expectations vs. Reality
What were your built-up expectations of life in general when you graduated college?
What was the reality?
QUICKIECHICK'S CHEAT SHEET TO LIFE, LOVE, FOOD, FITNESS, FASHION, AND FINANCE --ON A LESS--THAN--FABULOUS BUDGET. Copyright © 2012 by Laurel House. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Cotterill. Photography copyright © 2012 by Megan McCarthy. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.