What I Wish I Knew My First Summer Post-College
08.15.17
Collage by Emily Zirimis; photo by Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour via Getty Images

You know that feeling when you walk into the kitchen and forget what you were doing? That’s how I felt the entire month of August after my college graduation, seven years ago. It was disorienting to not go over fall class schedules with friends. It was odd to not know who I would see “so soon!!” It was weird to not discuss terrible collegiate decor, such as who would bring the Audrey Hepburn poster (and which one), and who’s mom offered to buy a new rug. It was even weird to not go to Staples or Target. I had no need to; I had an internship. The company supplied the pens.

That first post-collegiate summer was one of the weirdest summers of my life. I was thrilled to be out of school, to be an “adult,” finally, to feel like I was on my own, making things happen (kind of). But I was desperate for a job, a real one. The Dream one. I missed the friendships I wasn’t so sure would survive an existence outside of a collegiate microcosm. I was suddenly aware of being the cliché “small fish” in what felt like the largest, most intimidating pond on the planet, one with a lot of alligators that swallowed people whole and slimy seaweed on the bottom. Every week that passed I agonized about the wasted breath of my last “real” summer. Every day that passed, I stressed out more and more about my future.

I mean, it wasn’t so dramatic. I had fun. I was 22 and living in New York City and possessed more energy than I’ll ever have again. But about every five seconds, I’d think: What the fuck am I doing?

There’s no guidebook for this time in your life but there is — more than you think — some precedent. At the very least, you begin to realize you’re not the only one who [fill in the blank with a projection of the greatest worry currently lodged in your brain]. Of the things I’ve since learned, there are six in particular I wish I knew during that first “back-to-school” post-grad August.


1.Remember: this is the first time in a long time you haven’t had a clear-set trajectory.

My dad is a college professor. He has educated and advised adult teenagers and young adults for 30 years of his life. Skills honed during his tenure and as a dad have made him an expert at post-collegiate existential crises. He said something to me when I was a sophomore that I wish I remembered that first summer after graduation (of course, it wasn’t until a few years later that his words came back to me): That first August after graduation, which is completely devoid of course schedules and syllabi, is the first time since kindergarten that you’re not on a clear-set trajectory, complete with a print out of what to supplies buy, what to read, what room to go to, where to sit, what to do next.

For most of your life, you’ve known at least the next ten steps: After fifth grade comes six grade, after sixth, seventh, etc. Even if you entered college undeclared, arms flailing because you had no clue what you wanted to do, there were required courses you had to take. This is the first time there is no curriculum, no rubric. Of course you feel as freaked out as you do. Give yourself a break.

2. If you want a full-time job, put more effort into applying for full-time jobs than internships.

I’m not going to tell you not to pursue potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like resume-boosting internships that could lead to big things. Everyone’s financial situation is different, I’m not your mom, and I’m not omniscient. But if what you want is a full-time job, and not having one is keeping you up at night, I advise that you put a majority of your application efforts into full-time positions.

Only apply to new internships as something to keep you tuned-up in the meantime. If an internship description explicitly states that the internship could turn into a full-time position within an amount of time that sounds reasonable (and it’s not an ambiguous, verbal “maybe”), you should still apply to full-time jobs and take those interviews, then weigh your options.

Be clear in your interview that you will, during your internships, be applying for jobs and taking interviews simultaneously. If your summer internship has ended and you’re applying but no full-time job has come up yet, contact your summer internship employer and see if you can take on freelance work as you search. Be patient, yes, but be diligent. Attack the job hunt like an exciting challenge rather than the worst thing on your to-do list, because while work has its moments of “suck,” this part of your life is exciting.

And within all of that, breathe deeply. You will get a job. You are on your way. You are doing the right things. You are not a degenerate because you don’t have one yet. You’re doing great.

3. Buy two interview outfits and alternate them over and over. 

It’s one less thing to think about before or on important mornings. Note: They need to look professional and presentable, not expensive. Also, always bring three copies of your resume. Leave the house half an hour before you think you should. Arrive early. Keep simple stationary with pre-stamped envelopes in your portfolio bag so that you can send a thank you card right away. Send an email thanking your interviewer for her time as well. Keep deodorant in your purse.

4.Comparing your career trajectory to those of your friends, family members, people on TV, a girl you just passed on the street, is not helpful.

Repeat after me: “I am my own person and my own path is different from everyone else’s.” You know how a sixth grade class lineup looks like a city skyline because there’s no more uniformity to height and body type? That’s how careers are going to start looking at this stage. Every person is going at his or her own pace, no one way is more right than another. I promise that if you feel like the short kid now, you will look around in a few years and feel far more at peace with where you stand…and then it kind of starts over again. But I think that’s what keeps us going.

5. Please have fun. You are still kind of a kid.

No matter the weather or your current 9-to-5 (or worse) (or lack thereof) hours, do something that brings you joy this week. Call someone who makes you laugh. Ride your bike. Eat ice cream. I don’t know how to get you to do it, but try not to rush from this point in your life into adulthood. Skip rocks along the way. Look up at the stars and the clouds or whatever it is people who live in the moment do. Ugh, it sounds so cheesy, but I’m telling you: I wish I listened every time someone reminded me of this, because I have never once looked back in retrospect to pat myself on the back for freaking out about something.

6. For as pivotal as this time in your life is, nothing is set in stone.

You are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to make mistakes — learn, and follow them up with solutions. You are allowed to zig zag and go up and down and be confused, worried and terrified. You’re allowed to find new friends, realize you don’t like them that much, then find new ones. You can do the same thing with cities. All of this is fine. There is no grand deadline for you to do all the things you thought you’d do after graduation. Just because you graduated now doesn’t mean you’re done messing up, either. So when August begins to sound like it’s counting down to an alarm that screams, “TIME’S UP! Either get your shit together or get off the pot,” kick that thing off your metaphorical nightstand and tell it to calm the hell down.

But do give yourself a chance to get things right. There’s no perfect answer, but there is a reason you came into the kitchen. If you get on with your life, it will come to you.

Get more Brain Massage ?
  • Hayley

    A++++++++

  • Elena Giselle Licursi

    I really needed this. Holy crap. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rachel

    I have one more year of grad school left and after that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. A Masters in Art History is not exactly the most employable degree haha! It’s terrifying even though it’s still a year away. I’ll have to bookmark this and come back to it in a year when I’m freaking out!!

    • Beki

      Why not apply to a Fulbright or some other type of grant that would allow you to complete a research project in a city that has a wealth of Art History within it (i.e. Madrid perhaps?). That could be a potential option!

    • Amelia Diamond

      it’s amazing and this background is going to make you the most interesting person in sooo many interviews, i promise you.

    • Alissa

      Have you thought about taking some graphic design classes? Your background in art you could pair very nicely with design skills and give you an edge against the competition.

      • Rachel

        I’m a case of those who can’t do, teach. I love and appreciate art and history but I have such little artistic talent. As cool as that would be it’s just not a skill I possess unfortunately.

    • Lucy

      Holla ! I’ve just graduated from my bachelors in History of Art and feeling incredibly unemployable right now! no fear I have faith in us and the wonderful subject x x

      • Rachel

        All through school I’ve just tried to get as much extra curricular experience as possible through volunteering and internships to pad my resume. As qualified as I may feel in certain areas the job market is just so tough! But I have faith! And art history gives us such diverse skills that are applicable to so many fields!

  • Laura

    Holy s**t this just hit me like a truck

  • Love this. Always have to remember that things aren’t perfect (especially in the age of the hyper-curated online image) and that’s ok <3

  • Margaret Stolte

    THANK YOU FOR THIS REMINDER OF WHY I CAME INTO THE KITCHEN AUNT/WISE OLDER COUSIN AMELIA.

    • Amelia Diamond

      can you please tell my younger cousins I am almost cool? they forgot when they turned 12.

    • Amy L Campbell

      re-tweeeeeeet

  • Adrianna

    I graduated in 2011. I lived in NYC and had a lot of anxiety about the fact that I had zero safety net and therefore needed a job. I got hired by the first company that offered me a job interview. It turned out to be an awful experience that barely paid and seemed to hinder my resume, not enhance it. (I’ve had interviewers laugh at the antiquated software and workflows we used in that company.) I’ve been unemployed very long term, so I know it’s not easy to just tell yourself that “it’ll work out.”

    I don’t know if I necessarily regret taking my first job, but I do envy people who were taught that things like internships or taking a road trip across America are even an option.

    • Mellisa Scarlett

      I say this everyday. I wish someone told me to look up at the stars and live in the moment. I also wish upon many stars someone told me the importance of internships while I had the option to work for free.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I’m so sorry for this early part of your career!!

  • Needed this. Thank you, Amelia 💗

    • Amelia Diamond

      <33

  • J

    “You are allowed to zig zag and go up and down and be confused, worried and terrified.” THIS. I graduated in May, moved to NYC for a “real job”, and today is my 22nd birthday and this article could not have come at a better time. THANK YOU.

  • Amazing, and soooo needed! Thanks for all the great tips x

  • Caroline

    As someone who was just about to settle in for my second daily panic attack about what’s going to happen when I graduate in a year, yet wants to work in an industry where having a concrete full time job nailed down before graduating is extremely rare, this was SO reassuring to read. I’m a planner and a control freak to a ridiculous extent (is my INTJ showing yet?) and reminders like this are so important – thank you Amelia!

    • Amelia Diamond

      ” (is my INTJ showing yet?) ” hahah

    • Bee

      Fellow (rare) female INTJ here just wanting to let you know that I feel your pain! It’s ridiculously hard not to worry and freak out when you can’t control the outcome of a situation, especially coming out of college where most success actually comes directly from good planning. But, knowing nothing about you other than that you’re an INTJ and a Man Repeller reader, I can still confidently say that you’re going to kill it in post-grad life! 🙂

      • Kate

        female INTJs unite! I’ve been out a few years and something that has helped me is to plan for freaking out. I’ve known for a few months that I would be leaving my job to go to law school, and knew that I would probably hit a freak-out spiral in the last week at work and before moving. Well, it’s my last week now and I’m deeply immersed in my freak out, but it’s less scary because I told myself it was coming. It’s about being able to say “relax, you knew this would be a bumpy time.” Does planning ahead for panic make me a total psycho? Sure hope so

        • Bee

          Planning for panic actually sounds helpful! Ugh, we just need to have a female INTJ support group. Haha.

          • Sarah Sickles

            I need to join this group ASAP.

  • Tessa

    I so needed to hear this! I’m 22, graduated in May, and just to moved to DC to start a great job. I had all the right internships, good grades, etc–but I felt like I was just working to get to this point. It feels like a big “what now?” that I forget that everyone else is dealing with too. Man Repeller has been such a great community during this transition–I’m originally from the NYC area and you all feel like my big sisters giving me awesome advice 🙂

    • Amelia Diamond

      !!!! have the best time in DC, so exciting

  • abby

    THANK YOU

  • Dymond Moore

    I actually begin my freshmn year of college in 2 days and I’m still wrapping my mind around it. I feel some of this advice is still applicable, and it is making me feel strengthened and I no doubt will be referencing this in the next couple years. Thanks Amelia!

    • Amelia Diamond

      ahh have the best time learn so much soak it up like a SPONGE!!

  • Shevaun

    Hey Amelia thank you for this, this is stellar. I’m 28 and just graduated in June with my masters and haven’t got a job yet and pretty much every day I’m panicking and kicking myself over the fact that I am still unemployed (complete with comparisons to my classmates! THANKS LINKEDIN). So this was a really well-timed and pertinent article for me. Ima take time to smell the damn flowers!

    • Amelia Diamond

      SMELL ‘EM

  • Ramses Martinez

    Amelia this is such a timely and wonderful refresher for things that I already knew but definitely needed to be told by someone else. Reading through this felt like taking deep breaths during a panic attack and instantly feeling calmer, except of course the panic attack is a constant state of worry that spans a good amount of months. Nonetheless reading over the sentence “For as pivotal as this time in your life is, nothing is set in stone” made me feel confident in where I am in life, and proud of my accomplishments. Thank you, a much needed read. 🙂

    • Amelia Diamond

      🙂

  • Grace

    “I have never once looked back in retrospect to pat myself on the back for freaking out about something.” This is so so important! I really think Man Repeller – especially articles on MR like this one !!! – make me into a better person so THANK YOU.

  • Mellisa Scarlett

    Does this apply for the 27 and up club? because I STILL feel this way! Ugh.

    • Amelia Diamond

      100%

    • kellymcd

      BUT REALLY THOUGH

    • Jessica

      YES ME TOO.

    • Sheila

      Hell, I’m 59 and it resonated with me too!

    • MelanieYvette

      Honestly, I turn 30 this saturday and I really feel like this now re-applies to my life. Like, no, Melanie, you don’t have to know who you want to marry, if you even WANT to get married, and it’s okay that you’re still in debt trying to figure some of this sh*t out. But yes, proceed with doing the things that you love, working hard and following your gut. Just also…chill…the…f…out.

      That’s what I plan to do lol.

  • Katy

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from a hyperventilating 22 year old.
    MR, you are always exactly what I need.

    • Jenny

      My feelings exactly!

  • I found that the time between graduating and looking for a new job was the most stressful time… more than exams, more than applying for school etc. Getting a job was a brand new door to life, working and having your own money to spend is such a great feeling. Advice would be just keep looking and know that it’s tmporary

    https://thedianaedition.com

  • beccamu

    i’m about to be 25, and this is still so applicable

  • Megan Allen

    I am in this August! It’s terrifying but I’m currently reading this on a swing in my backyard so it’s already working!

  • Allison Russo

    Man I love this

  • Katie Girouard

    Needed a big gulp of this truth tea. TY.

  • june2

    I feel like professional career counselors/head hunters are what this time of life are for…at least you get feedback and maybe you get great interview practice, if not a job!

  • Dale Chong

    One year out of college, about to embark on my second. This is so, so helpful as I try to navigate the murky waters of freelancing while also looking for a job in a competitive market.

  • Emily

    THANK YOU for this from a 22 year old finishing up this exact post-grad summer. Trying to sit with my feelings of discomfort and find ways to enjoy moments of freedom as my internship comes to a close and I have no idea what’s next.

  • Sabrina Abbas

    THIS COULD NOT HAVE COME AT A BETTER TIME! I’ve been in classes all summer, just finished a couple weeks ago and every waking moment since then has been spent in a state of dread/discomfort/dysphoria. I decided to jump into the fog and am moving to NYC next month AND IVE NEVER BEEN MORE TERRIFIED IN MY LIFE so thank you for the reality check Amelia/MR!!

  • This: I have never once looked back in retrospect to pat myself on the back for freaking out about something.
    Feel like I need to write that on a post-it and stick it on every surface within my field of vision.

  • Emily Facoory

    This article came at the perfect time as do all Men Repeller articles! I graduate in 3 months and I have the urge to cry everytime I think about it. Though then I have little sparks of excitement that pop up when I think of what I’m going to do next, even though I have no idea what that is. Everything is changing and moving too quickly and just UGH. Fingers crossed we all come back to this article in 5/10 years time and reminisce over the wise words of President Amelia.

  • Nschne

    Rinse and repeat as necessary!

  • Bee

    I graduated two years ago but kind of feel like this again since I left my first post-grad job a month or so ago. These are all great reminders, so thank you!

  • And if you’re not financially lucky and can’t instantly afford to move to the largest city for an unpaid internship or minimum wage job, there is NOTHING WRONG with getting a shitty job to pay the bills while you freelance, pay loans, live with your parents and take job interviews.

    I worked with my mother as a lunch lady serving teenagers at the same high school I graduated from for an entire semester before I landed my first job in my field post-grad. I could save up money, got a few freelance gigs and had an amazing support system while doing it all (it was like having ten loving, caring moms at once!).

    • MelanieYvette

      Yasss!

  • Can’t begin to tell you how much I needed this rn as a 22 year old recent grad applying for jobs. Phew.

  • Amanda Orlando

    Tip 3 is sooo important and I found that when I first started interviewing after finishing university, knowing I didn’t have to think about my look was such a stress reliever. I had bought this black suit from The Gap that had a chiffon detailing around the edge of the jacket. It fit really well and that little detail made it feel very “me”. I wore it to every interview and just rotated my shirt and shoes. And I got a lot of compliments on it which always helped me warm up at the beginning of an interview 🙂

  • Haley Fox

    This is really coming at a perfect time. I graduated in May and had a lot of fun traveling for the first couple months out of school. Now I’m settling into my new job, and like you said, not buying textbooks and school supplies. The anxiety I used to have over school is now strangely mutated into anxiety over not being in school. Without the grades, how do I know if I’m doing well? It’s hard to suddenly have no concrete checkpoints and it’s easy to get caught in a spiral of bad thoughts. Thank you for the article. Exhaling a deep breath now.

  • AnnabellHobbes

    Long time reader, first time commenter, and echoing what many others have already said; but thank you Amelia this could not have come at a better time! I graduated in May, am 22, and still am completely unsure of where I am going next (both career & city wise). Its been hard for me to put into words the anxiety and fear I have been feeling in regards to the future but this piece does in the best way possible. Thank you thank you !!!

  • Claire

    I didn’t talk at dinner, left to go be alone in my room and read this. I am living at home right now, I’m 22 and I have a job but I feel like I’m stuck where I grew up while everyone else around me flies off to a cool place. I’m yearning to go somewhere, but I really, really don’t even know where I would go.

    I needed this and I still don’t have answers, but at least I feel less alone in this.

  • curly215

    I needed this today. Thank you!!

  • So I guess what this article made me think of is that I’m accepting my path is fine and I’m actively trying to not compare myself to others, but I can’t stop other people from perceiving me as a person who is still at this figuring out and freaking out stage of life.

    I’m a 27 year old getting a master’s degree with a cohort that largely consists of people who came straight from undergrad. I’m also maybe the only one who knew going into the program that I’m also going to complete a PhD afterwards.

    Financial talk is pretty taboo, and most people don’t know that I worked a salaried job for years during and after I finished undergrad to afford my degree, that I’m paying out of pocket without scholarships or loans, and that I don’t depend on my parents for any expenses. My general life trajectory is fairly solid and I’ve prepared to take care of myself while I execute my plans.

    However, feeling scared of adult responsibilities and “not having your shit together” are common discussion points between peers, things I don’t really feel anymore, yet these are discussions I still get included in and other people tend to assume I’m in the same boat. Additionally, people who are in long-term relationships (especially those who are newly engaged or married) are seen as so adult, which annoys me (as a single woman) to no end.

    I want to be taken seriously as a young woman who actually does have her shit together even though I’m now doing things like interning for school credit with people who are almost a decade younger than me, and I guess I wish the people around me would pay more attention to our difference in paths.

  • Sarah Sickles

    Basically crying because I NEEDED THIS. THANK YOU.

  • Evelyn

    I’m currently in the post college freak-out phase and this made me cry tears of comfort. Thank you!!

  • Chelsea Rose Shannon

    This was really helpful.