How to adjust to life after university
The transition from student life to the real world can be a shock. Here’s what Canadian university alumni can expect, and how to handle it.

1. Adjusting to a new place

A common first step after graduation is changing your location, whether it’s moving back home with mom and dad or to a new city in search of a career. Moving is a big adjustment under any circumstances, but it can be especially challenging after university. If you went to school in a small community, you might be used to having a close social circle within easy reach, and friends around whenever you need them. Creating a new social circle while maintaining contact with your close friends from school are two sides of the same beneficial whole, and will help to ease you into your next phase of life. Making new friends does get harder after school, but joining clubs and groups around your hobbies and interests can be a great shortcut. Always wanted to join an ultimate Frisbee league or a book club? Now’s your time to go for it.

2. A new goal and mission

Being in school is all about pursuing one easily definable goal: a degree, graduation, and a career. As a result, when school ends it’s not unusual to find yourself feeling directionless and lacking purpose. One way to manage this is to set yourself a new goal and a new mission. This can be professional, like finding a job in your field within a certain amount of time, or it can be personal, like getting in shape or learning a new skill. Either way, don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like you’re falling short of your goal. It’s much easier to drift along without a goal than to fail at meeting one. If you’re working towards something, then you are already succeeding.

3. Adjusting to the 9-5

Getting used to a new job, even if it’s in the field you studied at school, will present all kinds of challenges. Among these will be mundane things like simply adjusting to commuting, staying alert through long meetings, dressing for the office, and the many other rigours of working nine to five. You can expect to be tired at the end of the day, and it might feel hard to fit in things like socializing and going to the gym after work, but give it time. In six months to a year you will likely be much more accustomed to your new pace of life.

4. A world of choices

Graduation is a big accomplishment, but it’s only the start of your adult life in the “real world.” Now, with your degree in hand and your life ahead of you, you’ll have some very big choices to make. Where to live and what kind of work to pursue are probably the biggest of these, and the pressure to come up with the “right” choice can be immense. While it may seem like you need to decide these things right away, the smarter move is to take things slowly. Chances are you will change jobs and maybe even cities several times throughout your career, so know that nothing is set in stone. And if a choice you make doesn’t work out, you can move forward from there with newfound knowledge that only life experience can provide.

5. Keep learning

While you may be ready for a break from classrooms, textbooks and exams, learning is a lifelong process and it doesn’t stop when you finish school. And even though you have a head full of facts from your school classes, things like how to cook a healthy meal, keep your home clean and manage your finances can be a different story. Now, however, is the right time to educate yourself in these life skills and get into good habits that will serve you well for years to come. Don’t try to do it all at once, just keep an open mind and never be afraid to admit you don’t know something.

6. Messing up is okay

You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. This is as true in your 20s as in your 60s, and that’s just the nature of life. There’s no way to keep from making mistakes, but you there are ways to avoid making the same mistakes over again. Talking through things with a close friend, family member or therapist can help your figure out where you went wrong, and what you need to do to do better in the future.

Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.

Jeremy Freed is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.

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