Mod Note (Andy): Below is a recent informal Q&A between a student and WSO Super User @thebrofessor. They gave me permission to re-post on the site so more people could benefit from his responses.
Original message from OP:
"What's up @thebrofessor,
I'm sure you get messages like these often, but I just wanted to hear your thoughts about something that's been concerning me lately. I'm a recent college graduate who's staring into the abyss of the "real world." That is, I'll be starting my first job (finance, non-IB) in the next few weeks.
School has been something of a security blanket for me, and now I find myself apprehensive about all of the uncertainty that adulthood brings. Internships have been helpful in providing a taste of professional life, but I still feel somewhat unprepared for the changes ahead. Do you have any words of wisdom for someone in my situation?
If it's helpful, below are a few questions I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on:
1. What do you wish you had known before starting your first job?
So many things, but I think the idea is to be mature, take the job seriously, don't take yourself too seriously, get your stuff done, and so on. for better or worse, I put myself through every summer during college, so I had to work 2-3 jobs simultaneously to make ends meet. this prepared me more than anything for the adult world. I Was used to budgeting, paying bills, showing up to work on time, being punctual, etc.
2. What was something about post-grad life that really surprised or challenged you?
both a surprise and challenge: staying in touch. I was in a big fraternity and we all lived relatively close to each other at the beach. after class or work, I could go to one of 3 houses and find a friend to chill with. I was lucky in that my best friend lived in the same city as me for about 4 months before moving away, but aside from that it's tough. you go to work, exercise, eat dinner, and in my case study for the CFA, and before you know it, it's bedtime.
Kinda hard to keep up with friends. this was all before snapchat and instagram which I think helps tremendously. nothing replaces one on one contact, but just a simple share of a meme or a funny license plate to a group of your boys can make a big difference, it lets them know you're thinking about them and that you respect that neither one of you has the time to talk for a half hour a day like you may have done in college. what will happen is your friend group will shrink, and this is tough, but you have to accept it and just nurture the relationships you do have. if that means talking on the phone when you're on a road trip, talking at night, on your commute, whatever, you gotta do it.
3. How did you adjust to the monotony of office life, as opposed to the unstructured/spontaneous nature of college?
Most things in life are monotonous because humans are creatures of habit. occasional spontaneity I think is more desirable than constant spontaneity. come up with something that breaks the week up. if this is stand up paddle-boarding in the river, intramural sports, weekend trips, a $5 hooker on Sundays, taking an adderall and a xannie snack and seeing which one wins, whatever. be occasionally spontaneous. I don't mind monotony for 70% of my life. I go to work at the same time, do mostly the same things every day, go to the gym with the same dudes doing the same stuff, but I'm occasionally spontaneous (mostly on weekends). monotony is not the enemy, boredom is.
If I was surfing and golfing 3 days a week, that would be monotonous, but it wouldn't be boring.
biggest downside is the occasional "oh shit" moments when you realize you have to deal with real life adult shit. like you have to get a medical procedure that's thousands of dollars and you can't in good conscience ask your parents to help because you just bought a luxury car and a new surfboard. biggest upside is independence. you decide where you live, what you do, who you hang out with, what you eat, etc. no one is the boss of you (unless you're in a relationship), and that's a very liberating feeling. there have been a couple times where my rents offered advice and I had to very politely say "fuck you, I'm doing what I want." of course you listen to advice, but at the end of the day, the call is yours, it's your life. and that's a damn good feeling.
4. Do you have any general advice or tips to someone just starting their career?
be humble, and live hard. work hard, play hard, and try to "do" as much as possible (assuming you're the go getter type). try to constantly better yourself, try new things, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people. when you get to be my age, your career and family will take over a larger portion of your life (wife, maybe kids soon), and you don't have the time to do as much. don't get me wrong, I still live hard, but less so than I did in my early 20's. another exercise that worked for me was thinking in terms of 1, 3, 5, 10 year plans. where do you want to be both professionally and personally? do you want to be married? do you want to live in the same city? do you want to go back to school? what kind of vacations do you want to have taken? what skills do you want to acquire? not only is it fun to sit down and think about those things, but it also keeps you on track.
Other random thoughts:
5. Managing money:
Keep track of your money. I spent a little too much in my early 20s. don't be buying new clothes all the time or buying your friends rounds of drinks. set up an automatic savings program early, live in a smaller place than you can afford, try to be minimalist. your desire for luxury things will fade. and if you think girls care? you're wrong. the dude I know who pulls the most ass just goes to the gym and wears clearance stuff from H&M and Marshalls/TJ Maxx that fits well.
Don't worry about how much money your friends make. I started at a very low point in salary and felt bad that I wasn't "keeping up." unless your friends are dicks, no one cares. just do you.
If you're not already in a committed relationship, don't hurry into one. explore a bit, and if you find a great person, just say "I really like you, and I want to keep hanging out, just know that I'm not sure where I wanna be in a few years, so let's take it slow, ok?" a great relationship is a wonderful thing, but it should be organic, not forced.
Take care of your body. I'm in the best shape of my life now and I'm nearly 10 years out of college. it does wonders for your self confidence and image. plus you have disposable income for better food and supplements (if that's your thing, I'm not a supp guy)
Do the right thing. you may be pressured in your younger years to do things that may not be moral or ethical just because someone's superior to you, don't bend on this. have a high level of integrity always. use this rule: if you wouldn't want what you're about to do to be printed on the front page of (pick any newspaper), don't do it.
9. Never stop learning:
Expand your horizons. try new sports, try new cuisines (I never had thai food in college, now it's my favorite thing to cook & eat)., try new types of booze, try new types of music. if you're not in a job that does regular testing, try a new drug (nothing crazy, but if you haven't tripped shrooms before, give it a whirl).
never stop learning. the amount of stuff you learn after graduation is astounding, but it doesn't have to be structured in a program like CFA or MBA. teach yourself new skills, read books, develop knowledge of current events, and so on."
Continue to network, it's immensely easier when you have a job because you don't want anything from the person and they're more relaxed because they know you already have a job.
Lastly, have fun. life doesn't end after college, it just gets a little more independent.