5 Things About "The Real World" That Surprised Me

peyo212's picture
Rank: Senior Gorilla | 871

This one's mainly for the monkeys still in school, but the rest of you can feel free to contribute to the discussion.

I'm only a couple of years out of college (this may be news to some of you who thought the profound wisdom in my previous posts came from someone older and more experienced) so a lot of what my life was like in school is still fresh in my memory. Some of that experience I miss dearly, but I occasionally still have nightmares about certain other parts. Unfortunately, college for me was like being in a giant bubble, and I was definitely shocked to see what the real world was like after I stepped into my finance career.

So without further ado, here are five things about the real world that really surprised me after I turned the tassel at graduation.

1. Weekends and evenings*

"Weekends? Evenings? What are those?" These may be your thoughts if you went to a target school or if you worked hard for good grades at any college, because any time you were not in class was usually time for doing more work. If you were lucky, you had a little bit of fun in between papers and problem sets to maintain your sanity. On the other hand, time off work in the real world is amazing. Especially when you're young, you have no responsibilities and can pretty much do whatever you want or be a complete bum to rest from a long day at work. And the responsibilities you end up having are mostly by choice and are ones that you enjoy having (like me writing for WSO).

*Apologies to bankers and others with terrible hours, but when you do have time off, you agree..right?

2. Taxes

Holy crap, taxes = a lot. The upside about not having any income during college was that the government didn't try to take your zero away from you. However, in this past year, the amount of my salary that went to the government could easily purchase a new car. But hey, we all love this country, right?

3. Health

There are no longer days when you didn't have class until noon so you could sleep 10 hours to catch up on a rough week. On top of that, in the real world, your body quickly deteriorates from its golden times (~21 years old or so), when it could finish countless games of beer pong, pass out on a couch, and wake up the next morning ready to go again, all magically without gaining any weight. Sitting at a desk 10+ hours a day will slowly kill you if you don't regularly exercise, watch your diet, and get adequate sleep.

4. Schedule

Your schedule will become a lot more structured, for better or worse. While it'll feel awkward at first when you have to actually be a responsible adult and make plans days or weeks in advance, it definitely is a good feeling to have more control and stability in your life. Gone are the days when a text from a friend at 2am causes you to make bad (good?) decisions when you should be sleeping or studying.

5. Relationships

It's a lot harder to maintain friendships in the real world. Especially in big cities, people are often busy all the time and both parties need to be very intentional about their relationship to keep it strong. It's even harder to start new friendships. You might meet up with a new friend once a week if both of you make an effort, but that's still getting to know each other at a rate seven times slower than you could have had in college when it was easy to see someone every day of the week. The same applies for romantic relationships, and I remember a quote about from an older friend when I was still in college: "If you're dating someone senior year and plan to keep that relationship, you can go into finance; otherwise, consider another route like consulting. You can maintain a relationship while working in finance, but it's near impossible to initiate one."

College kids, I hope this helped. Other people in the real world, feel free to contribute.

Comments (31)

Nov 5, 2013

I feel like you're pretty spot on. You've gotta prioritize. If you wanna get weird and go out all the time you can, but your health is definitely going to suffer. If you want to work out all the time and get jacked you can, but you may not see your friends. You've gotta have balance. The part that hit home for me though was relationships. I moved to a new city and didn't know a ton of people and since my office is small it's been hard to meet new friends.

Nov 5, 2013

Strongly agree with #5. Despite the millions of people in NYC, it's really not easy striking up new friendships (ever try to talk to someone on the subway in the morning?). This is especially true if you don't have any old friends in the city or can make friends at work.

In my situation, everyone at work is at least 10+ years older, so their weekend plans and interests aren't really the same as mine (can't really reminisce about a boozy weekend). I have a few friends from school here and the only new people I've really met have been through them. Given I've only been living here about 6 months, but it's certainly not like college.

Nov 5, 2013

Entirely with you on this one, my team's youngest person besides me is 38. My floor has maybe 2 or 3 barely under 30. The people from my college that are in the city are a bunch of hipsters that relate to Occupy Wall Street more than my interests. Luckily, I have the girl or else I might go mad. Anyone wanna be friends? No homo....

#5 is spot-on. It's hard to start a new friendship when you see someone once a week or even less. This is a major advantage to people in IB/S&T analyst classes.

Nov 5, 2013

"I'm only a couple of years out of college (this may be news to some of you who thought the profound wisdom in my previous posts came from someone older and more experienced"

That is a bit too BOLD, don't you think?

Nov 5, 2013
mo2cii:

"I'm only a couple of years out of college (this may be news to some of you who thought the profound wisdom in my previous posts came from someone older and more experienced"

That is a bit too BOLD, don't you think?

¿sarcasm?

Nov 5, 2013

Good stuff, OP. I can definitely relate to #5. I don't think I have made one new friend since I graduated a couple years ago. Most are just acquaintances that I met through mutual friends. It's hard to transition to friends when you rarely see someone after the initial meeting.

    • 1
Nov 5, 2013

I also think that making new friends is much harder as a guy. I'm not going to ask some new guy I meet to hang out sometime, especially at the bars. Like yeahright said, can't be all gay and what-not.

Best Response
Nov 5, 2013

#2 and #5 are true as far as post-college life. The accuracy of the other points depends on what your college experience was like and what job you take after college.

But, I don't support this concept of the "the real world" (as it is used here and commonly used elsewhere). I think it's a bullshit notion to make people settle for what society tells them life is supposed to be. High school and college life is as "real" as life lived after. Sure, life changes, but life never stops changing, and that doesn't make it any less real. Life is made up of experiences. Embrace those experiences while you have them and enjoy the moment. That's real life.

I graduated from a regional target school. Partied hard in college and also worked hard. Did two years in a regional office at a BB bank. Got crushed - averaged 85-90 hours a week (no life outside work). Left the world of high finance, moved to the beach, now I surf everyday, I'm healthy and in great shape, I bought a small retail business with a fellow IB analyst dropout using the money we had saved, and I LOVE it.

My point is: my life now is more similar to what is was like in college than it was when I was working in banking. I live in a beach community that feels like a college community (plus there are tons of college students living here). I liked the life I lived in college so I made it "real" for me. You get what you settle for.

I enjoyed experiencing real life in college for four and a half years. I enjoyed experiencing real life in investment banking for two years. Now, I am enjoying real life by the beach as a small retail business owner. How long will this current experience last? I don't know, but it doesn't really matter. (As a side point, I think I may end up making more money in my current career path than I would have had I stayed in banking even though money is not the motivation for what I'm doing now...crazy).

I'm not saying my lifestyle is better or worse than any other lifestyle. I am just trying to point out that you actually get to choose your life, it is not chosen for you (no matter how much it feels like it is). This is not North Korea. You can pretty much make any lifestyle real if you want to. But you do have to try; it doesn't just fall into your lap. If you follow the conventional path, your lifestyle will most likely conform to the conventional lifestyle, which is completely fine (and usually good) if that's what you want. College life may not be CONVENTIONAL, but it is REAL.

Nov 5, 2013

People underestimate how inspiring comments like this are. As someone in his early 20s, I dream of running my own show one of these days (hard not to fantasize about stuff like this when I'm sitting in my cubicle). I just really want to be passionate about what I do for a living.

Thanks alpha, you're certainly not a beta. I'd give you an SB if I had any.

Nov 5, 2013

I am truly interested in learning more about your experience in banking and then leaving and buying your own business. Would mind sharing more about how you decided to leave and how your experience has been so far owning your business?

Great post btw, Alpha!

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken -Late great Col. Sanders

Nov 6, 2013

Regarding leaving, bottom line is that you have to be SURE that banking and/or PE is not what you want to do in the near or far future (though, I wouldn't necessarily rule out PE in the far future, but the odds would go down significantly). I was SURE that banking/PE wasn't for me. You don't want to regret your decision after the fact. That could haunt you. While my life after quitting was uneasy for a while, I never once questioned my decision to leave.

I don't want to hijack this thread, so I'm going to start a thread titled: "My Alternative Exit Opp" later today. I think people would be interested to know how banking helped and didn't help me after leaving (and btw, I just opened my retail operation but the signs are looking good for future opportunities. I'll explain more in the thread). PM if you can't find the thread.

Nov 8, 2013
alphamale:

#2 and #5 are true as far as post-college life. The accuracy of the other points depends on what your college experience was like and what job you take after college.

But, I don't support this concept of the "the real world" (as it is used here and commonly used elsewhere). I think it's a bullshit notion to make people settle for what society tells them life is supposed to be. High school and college life is as "real" as life lived after. Sure, life changes, but life never stops changing, and that doesn't make it any less real. Life is made up of experiences. Embrace those experiences while you have them and enjoy the moment. That's real life.

I graduated from a regional target school. Partied hard in college and also worked hard. Did two years in a regional office at a BB bank. Got crushed - averaged 85-90 hours a week (no life outside work). Left the world of high finance, moved to the beach, now I surf everyday, I'm healthy and in great shape, I bought a small retail business with a fellow IB analyst dropout using the money we had saved, and I LOVE it.

My point is: my life now is more similar to what is was like in college than it was when I was working in banking. I live in a beach community that feels like a college community (plus there are tons of college students living here). I liked the life I lived in college so I made it "real" for me. You get what you settle for.

I enjoyed experiencing real life in college for four and a half years. I enjoyed experiencing real life in investment banking for two years. Now, I am enjoying real life by the beach as a small retail business owner. How long will this current experience last? I don't know, but it doesn't really matter. (As a side point, I think I may end up making more money in my current career path than I would have had I stayed in banking even though money is not the motivation for what I'm doing now...crazy).

I'm not saying my lifestyle is better or worse than any other lifestyle. I am just trying to point out that you actually get to choose your life, it is not chosen for you (no matter how much it feels like it is). This is not North Korea. You can pretty much make any lifestyle real if you want to. But you do have to try; it doesn't just fall into your lap. If you follow the conventional path, your lifestyle will most likely conform to the conventional lifestyle, which is completely fine (and usually good) if that's what you want. College life may not be CONVENTIONAL, but it is REAL.

love it!

Nov 5, 2013

Wow, #1 is very depressing as someone who spent their first two years out of school in banking....I found the exact opposite to be true. In college, I'd get done with class Friday morning and have zero responsibility until Sunday night. Now, even post banking, I'm checking email constantly at night and on weekends

Nov 5, 2013

You know what surprised me about "The Real World"? When they filmed Puck picking his nose and then Pedro caught Puck sticking that finger in the peanut butter jar shortly afterwards. Disgusting.

Nov 5, 2013

Disagree with #5. I've made plenty of friends out of colleagues at work. But I guess it's hard if there's no-one your age. The other way for me has been flat-sharing. I got lucky with good flat-mates a few times but, again, it's the luck of the draw..

Nov 5, 2013

Also interested Alpha- what kind of retail business and how did you make the decision to go that route?

Nov 6, 2013

I hear you guys. I work at IBM - before this worked in high finance. I'm really glad I made the switch. Feel free to PM if you'd like to learn anything about the consulting lifestyle ... most agree that it is less than terrible

Nov 6, 2013

Great thread, always good to keep things in perspective as well in terms of the work-life balance. Also interested in what AlphaMale's retail business is.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."

Nov 6, 2013

The relationships part really bums me out. All of my good friends are in different cities and it's so hard to make new ones.

I think 1 good way is to have some shared interest that you could pursue on the side. An "excuse" to meet and shoot the shit.

Nov 6, 2013

I'll add this one - there are a lot more incompetent people in the working world than I ever expected. Growing up, I saw a lot of stupid people around me, and I knew the unemployment rate is only 5% or so, so that's a lot of stupid employed people. But maybe I thought they all worked at Walmart? I dunno. To see them now have senior level positions in every company I've worked for - that blows my mind.

Nov 6, 2013

There is a lot of great advice in this thread. I know my experience has been that making friends can be difficult once joining the workforce so I'll keep these things in mind

Nov 6, 2013

True that, what a different life.

Nov 6, 2013

VTB89 - I have a friend trying to start a retail business - from what i've heard you'll want to make sure you shop around, and keep track of which properties in excel or other tool. Just my $0.02

Nov 6, 2013

#5 It's easy if you have a hobby and go to meet-ups etc. I started doing tennis drop-ins and met tons of people through that.

Nov 7, 2013

Re: that "sitting will kill you" link, would love to see the reaction on the face of every analyst when they read the line:

"People who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40 percent higher risk of dying within three years."

You know you've been working too hard when you stop dreaming about bottles of champagne and hordes of naked women, and start dreaming about conditional formatting and circular references.

Nov 9, 2013

Honestly I'm surprised people are agreeing with number 1.

College is a joke and unless someone loves killing themselves with unnecessary ECs and triple majors, it shouldn't be hard at all (save perhaps junior year fall). I havent had friday classes since freshman fall. I haven't had class before 12pm in the last year. I mean...that's ridiculous.

Nov 9, 2013

May I ask what major you're doing?

I'm majoring Mathematics and Physics with minor finance, computer science and a second language. I run a minimum of 5 hours a day, usually 7-8. That's just 'contact hours', doesn't include the extra-curricular activities and 50-60 hours of home study I'd be expected to do (in reality I get around 45). I get one night out a week and if I have more than 5 beers or stay up later than 3am I fall behind on work.

So yes, college is a joke.

Offshore liffe

Nov 9, 2013
miscer:

Honestly I'm surprised people are agreeing with number 1.

College is a joke and unless someone loves killing themselves with unnecessary ECs and triple majors, it shouldn't be hard at all (save perhaps junior year fall). I havent had friday classes since freshman fall. I haven't had class before 12pm in the last year. I mean...that's ridiculous.

so you went to an easy school...

Nov 9, 2013

I'm going into consulting when I'm done graduating and already am accepting all of these things will happen. It leaves me depressed but we're all here for one reason, and that's to get somewhere in life. We all know that won't happen working 9-5 jobs. I had a ton of fun in high school and a shit ton of fun in college, and now I'll have to pay my dues that will hopefully benefit me for the rest of my life. It sucks, but life isn't supposed to be easy, especially when you want to be successful.

Then again I wonder if I'll still have the same mindset when I'm stuck in a hotel in a random city looking at all my friends having tons of fun on Instagram...

Nov 10, 2013
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Nov 12, 2013

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