They Do Exist.

10 Tips To Prepare Women for “The Real World.”

Editor’s Note: HAPPY JUNE! I am so excited that we are sharing experiences about being a woman in the workplace this month. If you have a good story + advice, please submit here! Our first post is by Sarah Heinss. She blogs at Simply Sarah Writes, and this post was first published on her blog here! She tweets at @sarahheinss – Lauren

It has been one whole year since I graduated from college. This fact officially makes me…

One: An adult.
Two: A participant in “The Real World.”

This year has taught me a LOT. About careers, about guys, about life, and most importantly, about myself. So for all of my little dearies who just walked that stage, here’s what I’ve learned. Here’s what you need to know.

10 Tips to Prepare Women for “The Real World”

*Disclaimer: this is the advice, based on my experience, that I would give. But every situation is different.
**P.S. Every tip below is stuff I am still working on and reminding myself of every day.

1. Get a Job. Any Job.

No, I’m not insulting your intelligence. I know it isn’t easy. I also know we’ve been raised with a glamorized view of what our first job should look like. I don’t know about you, but I expected it to look something like working out of the Empire State building in a pants suit, ordering people around and directing Hollywood movies on the side. REALITY CHECK: I graduated from college, quickly realized that jobs, even with connections, and ESPECIALLY in New York are not easy to come by, so I waited tables for the first 7 months out. You know what they say, its easier to get a job when you have one. Just get a job and start making some money.

Photo by Well Traveled Woman

2. Aim for Your Dream

Just because you don’t have your dream job, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for it. Make connections, talk to the people that are working your dream job and figure out what its going to take to get you there. Is it really what you want? Do you want it bad enough? And if necessary, start at the bottom. The fact is, it’s going to take hard work. If you are crazy passionate and work really hard, something great will come of it. For me, I started a Wedding Cinematography business and though it is crazy hard work. I LOVE IT. It’s a great thing to pursue a dream that feels alive.

3. Say No to Dates

The world of boys and girls outside of college is a different universe. Nothing could have prepared me for it. People don’t have a tendency to maintain casual friendships, or even good friendships with the opposite sex. It’s kinda like, “Hey, what’s your name? Cool, wanna go out to dinner?” Holy Smokes! Can a brotha get a minute? Maybe people are desperate. Maybe people are just more forward. The point is, if you don’t want to go or you’re not into him, say no. Plain and simple. You get to choose here. Enjoy that privilege.

4. Say Yes to Dates

Wait…but you just said…? Yes. Don’t be afraid to YES if you are mildly to severely interested. Especially if you’ve been burned in the past. Get over yourself, and try again. Yes, it does mean you run the risk of actually falling for someone again. I know, breathe. You’ll be ok. And if you’re not getting asked out, allow your friends to set you up on a blind date. Yeah, it’s awkward. But it also makes for great stories. Grow up. You’re young, single, out-of-college, and in need of a little male attention. Let’s be real, who doesn’t? So if you’re interested, say yes.

5. Take a Trip

Around February, I was so depressed that I decided I didn’t care what anyone thought. I had just interviewed for a good job, and knew that if I got it (which I did), I might not have time for frolicking about the country. So I bought a ticket, and by George, though everyone thought I was crazy, I headed to California for 2 weeks by myself. Was it the best trip of my life? No. Would I necessary recommend an exact replication of my trip? No. But did I have all kinds of crazy adventures? Yes. Do I have crazy stories? Yes. Ask me about them. I can say one thing for sure: I lived. You don’t have to put down 1,000 bucks to go on an incredibly memorable trip. And you sure don’t want to spend your whole life saying, if only I’d gone on a trip before I had kids.

6. Move Out Of Your Parents’ House

I repeat, move out of your parents’ house. I know I know, it’s just so cheap. You just can’t afford to move out. You just need it for a little while, which turns into 5 years. I understand living with your parents as your getting your feet wet and finding a job, but after you have the job, settle for a dump that is at least a place of your own. I would put a 6 month cap on the parents’ house thing. It’s not cause you don’t love them. It’s not cause you don’t need them. It is because for your emotional and psychological health, you need that independence.

7. Know How To Set Boundaries. Physical, Emotional, And Professional.

Set boundaries at work. This is what you are willing to do, this is what you are not. This is what you are willing to allow other men to say to you, this is what you are not. This is time for work. This is time for friends. This is time for yourself.

Also, don’t allow yourself to be talked down to. Learn the phrase, “Wait just one minute.”  This is a great opening phrase to show someone they crossed a boundary you set for yourself. Another great phrase: “I don’t want to be talked to like that.”  This is my new favorite phrases in customer service and yes, I use it regularly.

8. Know How To Be A Lady

I heard a quote this week that said, “If more women stood up for being Ladies, more men would stand up for being Gentlemen.” Or something like that. The saying goes the other way as well. Be classy, even if it doesn’t seem popular. Stand up for what you believe. Comments that turn you into an object should not be OK or tolerated. Speak up. You are strong, confident, beautiful, and by golly, YOU LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE. Some guys like to think that if only girls would like guns, war-movies, rock-climbing, and Family Guy, then they would be perfect. The thing is, if every girl loved all those things, we wouldn’t be girls. We would be men. And I promise, they don’t want that. The guys you want to be with will appreciate the things that make you a woman. You are worth waiting for.

9. Invest In At Least 3 Complete Outfits That Make You Feel Crazy Beautiful

Need I say more? It’s worth it. And you will need one of them the day after you ate a pan of cookies after work.

10. Know That You Are Worth It.

If you are not married, GOOD. In the South, we are constantly under a social expectation that when we graduate from college, then duh, the next step is to get married. If you did, great. I am genuinely happy for you. If you haven’t found him yet, FANTASTIC. You have been given an incredible opportunity to find things that make you YOU. Invest in girl friendships, watch chick-flicks whenever the heck you want, explore random hobbies cause you can. Craft, cook, run, write, travel, spend time with family, go on dates, develop crushes, buy a poster of Zac Efron, get your nails done, mentor younger girls. HAVE FUN and enjoy this time. All the while remembering, you are worth waiting for. I know I said this earlier, but it is the most important thing. You might even need to write that on your bathroom mirror. Remember the things that make you awesome and wait for a guy who notices those things too.

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37 Responses

  1. Sarah


    I'm only three years out of college, but you are 100% spot on. This stuff isn't easy, but let's be real – the easy stuff is rarely worth it. Really great (and totally true) stuff.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

  2. lizrenee

    YES!! Thank you so much for posting. Life post-grad has NOT been what I was expecting at all.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

  3. Jessica Eve

    Wow, this is fabulous!! I'm 23, but I'm actually a sophomore in college — I started late. You might say I had to do things backwards, meet Real World and THEN get the college experience. But either way, this article is full of great advice and stuff I really want to pay attention to in this season of my life.

    June 1, 2012 at 11:21 am

  4. This is my exactly my life. Thanks for the reminder that, despite what things look like, I'm actually on track!

    June 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

  5. Brooke

    At 25 and four years out of college…YES. To all of this. It's true. It's stuff that you learn and re-learn. And that's ok.

    June 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

  6. Hooray for girls growing up into awesome, mature, Godly women and not feeling sad for themselves while they do! I kind of want to print this out and use it as a to-do list for the next few years of my life…

    June 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm

  7. Erica

    What an awesome post!! I am three years post grad and this all still applies!! This needs to be a must-read for all college grads! :)

    June 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  8. frabjousflamingo

    So true. I'm a year-and-a-half out of college and was just today bemoaning the fact that I'm "STILL" working as an administrative assistant when what I really want to be doing is writing children's books. Then I had to remember that I am BLESSED to be working at all, and if I want that dream to come true I have to KEEP working my butt off for it. It's easy to succumb to disillusionment if we don't get our dream job right out of college. Great post!

    June 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  9. Kathleen

    I loved all of this except for point one. I did just that and regretted it hugely as I was pressured and pushed up a corporate ladder that I never wanted to climb in the first place. I felt stuck in a job that paid too well and had too many great opportunities, yet was suffocating under all of it and the realization that every day was squeezing the life out of my real passions in life. The best day of my life was when our company closed and I got laid off! And now…I’m moving the Middle East to basically live off a bare minimum salary but I am SO excited because I know it’s where God wants me. If only I had taken 2 seconds to think about life and ask Him what the next step before accepting the first place that offered me a job!

    I’m not saying to be a lazy bum or party it up without taking responsibilities seriously, just make sure you don’t cut God out of your decision making just to quiet your panic over not having a job!!

    June 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm

  10. Incredible post. Thank you for bringing out these points. I graduate next Spring, and I'm glad this post comes a year earlier so I can sink in these ideas. They all seem so true, looking at the lives of friends that have already graduated. Thank you!

    June 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm

  11. Bethany

    So good. I would add that if in the first six months after you graduate, you feel incredibly lonely and depressed, that it is a totally normal part of the bubble of the enchanted adult world bursting. The good thing about that dark time is that once the bubble is burst, you can look at these pieces of advice and the lessons you've learned and move forward in making the life you want instead of what you think/thought life "should" be. Thanks for putting all these lessons in one spot!

    June 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm

  12. Katy

    Hello, this post is me, right now. I graduated a year ago and so much of this resonates with me, including the additional comment. Thanks for spelling everything out and 'writing it on the wall' – sometimes it takes that to move onto the next step of realisation and actually doing something and changing attitudes to life.

    Will be using this to refer back to every so often. I have a feeling this isn't only relevant for just after graduating but a few more years ahead.

    June 2, 2012 at 10:57 am

  13. redefinedinlove;

    Thank you so much! I'm still in college…but it's really great to know what I'm going to be facing in a few years! Thank you :) This is much needed!

    June 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm

  14. Velvet

    Nice article! But I don’t recommend buying a poster of Zac Efron. If you plan to show that to your man, lol, you have another thing coming. Women more than ever need to be careful about gushing over men that aren’t THEIR men, watching soaps (men HATE that), reading vampire romance, and doing all these things that make our guys jealous or distanced, or give us distorted and unrealistic expectations about all sorts of things.

    June 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

  15. Jessica

    Great Post! I’ve been out of school for 1.5 years and couldnt have put it better. So great to know that there are other women out there who have gone through the same thing.

    June 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm

  16. Am I the only one rubbed wrong by some of this (otherwise beautiful) post?

    "Some guys like to think that if only girls would like guns, war-movies, rock-climbing, and Family Guy, then they would be perfect. The thing is, if every girl loved all those things, we wouldn’t be girls. We would be men."

    This sentence, combined with your entire last paragraph, is really kind of breathtakingly stereotpyical. Am I less a woman – manly, even? – because I actually LIKE guns, war movies, rock-climbing, and Family Guy? Like, I actually LIKE those things; I actually really dislike every activity in your last paragraph. That's just the kind of woman I am – makeup-optional, never had a pedicure, wouldn't know Zac Efron if I passed him on the street. Isn't there enough reinforcement of rigid gender roles out there without finding it in this kind of forum, too?

    I'm sure you didn't mean to come across as critical of women who don't enjoy the things you do, but if part of celebrating sisterhood is celebrating ALL women and their proclivities, then you should know that, to at least one person, some of the things you said here really missed that mark. Your reinforcement of rigid gender roles really caught me off-guard; I wouldn't dream of calling you "prissy" or "not as tough as me" simply because you like things that are stereotypically "girly."

    Many of the other points you wrote were great, for what it's worth. :)

    June 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm

  17. I love this! I'm a year out of college, unmarried, and have in my head the things I want to do–which have turned out to be somewhat hard to make happen. But your encouragement helps me think its OK. I have a job, I have goals, and I have had time to pursue things I always wanted to but never did–including random dates, trips, EMT training, and the military. Sometimes the road is long and a little lonely but I'm so thankful for the freedom to do all of the things you mentioned and more! Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement :)

    June 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

  18. Nia

    I totally loved this! I'm only 19 and I'm about to start my sophomore year at Clemson, but this post spoke volumes to even me. I love how it celebrates your time as a single woman, and how it says it's okay to be a girl and enjoy doing girly things. I hope I run across this again after I graduate :)

    June 5, 2012 at 8:25 pm

  19. Hannah

    I am one year out of college, too. I think you are spot on with everything. I am in a job that may not be my dream job, but it's with people I enjoy and I am learning a TON. So will I be here forever? No. But it is a great start.

    I hate that dating can be a crazy thing and people don't often want to hang out and be friends first but oh well. I certainly need to learn to say no. But saying yes is good, too.

    My favorite is buying a few outfits that you feel good in. I have found that since graduating I wear makeup less often, do my hair rarely, and tend to hop back into sweats after work. But all of it is because I have learned to see my natural beauty and ignore the pressure that I have to look a certain way. And the great thing about being content with how I look naturally is when i do go out with my girlfriends and get all dressed up…I feel SO good about myself and it makes it so much more fun.

    Knowing you are worth it can be hard but I think it is the most crucial. Your final quote was awesome. Although it is certainly difficult at times to hold on to the standards I have set when my friends around me aren't. If I were to add a #11 to your list, it would be to invest in females that will build you up and be good examples in your life. Some girls can be like poison, so obsessed with their looks and hooking up with boys that it can drain your self-worth.

    June 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm

  20. Josh

    Yeah Women, the world is your oyster. Don't get married: craft instead!

    Social norms be damned.

    January 10, 2013 at 8:35 pm

  21. Josh

    Yeah Women, the world is your oyster. Don't get married: craft instead! Maybe cook too <3 <3 :P

    Social norms be damned.

    January 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm

  22. HappyGoLucky

    I read this a year ago when I was still in undergrad and thought it the best thing ever. A year later, I'm a graduated lady trying to keep it all together. I came back and reread this tanite and still think it's the perfect article. It's light, not heavy, and gives me hope that the best is yet to come!!

    June 20, 2013 at 10:31 pm

  23. A lot of women I know (myself included) wanted to get married from a young age. Im not sure why, we just do and we still do!

    February 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm

  24. Sasha

    This is an amazing article. You're awesome!

    May 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm

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