Adulting IRL: Life After Graduation
For many of us, adulting is a lifelong process of growing up and slowly but surely making grown-up decisions.
Over the years, we might land a steady job.
Over the years, we learn to do our taxes.
Over the years, we might even learn to cook a meal or two.
It’s clear (to this millennial, at least) that being an adult and adulting are one and the same. Adulting is part of the process of being an adult and having to build this independent life of ours.
But when does adulting actually start? For some, it might be the second they turn 18, the first time they vote, or when they move out of the house.
For millions of students who are about to graduate from college, for millions of students who have been working hard on their studies but not yet working on their careers, for millions of students who are cramming a little bit more beer pong into their last few weeks…
Graduation means that it’s time to start adulting in real life.
10 Steps To Becoming An Adult IRL
Sure, college had its Adult Light moments.
You may not have had a parent as your backup alarm clock, so you had to get yourself up. Your pantry didn’t restock itself, so you had to get your own groceries. And those groceries didn't turn into meals, so every once in a while you had to cook (by putting the milk in the cereal).
Now, though, Adult IRL is coming. Though your ID may say you’ve been an adult for years now, for many of us graduation means the first time we’re making these big decisions, like what kind of job we want, what kind of schedule we want, and where we want to live.
So now that your adult years are finally, fully, unstoppably here, we’re sharing with you 10 important steps to becoming an Adult In Real Life.
Start Thinking About Maybe Starting A Job Search Someday Soon
Smooth Out The Social Media Profiles
Cheers… To Credit!
Budget Me, Bro!
The Fun In Emergency Fund
On Wednesdays, We Workout
Taxes Are Taxing
Making Time For… Friends?
Sleeping At The Same Time
Ignoring This List Once In A While (But Not All The Time)
There are some career paths that are fast-tracked. You know the friends. The ones who had paying internships every summer while you were taking film classes and traveling the world (just me?). Other career paths are less obvious.
While how we think about careers is changing (Motley Fool says we should think about changing jobs every 3-5 years), there’s a decent chance you’ll need a job at some point. Start the search while the stakes are low by stopping by career fairs, talking with mentors, and practicing interviews.
I’m not here to tell you to, like, get all corporate, man. I am only going to gently suggest and lightly prod that maybe your public profiles that are accessible to everyone and come up easily in Google searches of your name are a reflection of the multifaceted, beautiful butterfly you are (and not just the taunts you do after winning beer pong tournaments).
Or maybe it’s not even your posts that are the problem, but the friend who tags you in memes that are a little questionable. With a few untags here and some tidying there, you'll be in great shape. If you’re looking for some guidelines to help you clean up your social media act (and are all-too-aware that 45% of hiring managers check out social media profiles), check out these eight easy-to-follow steps.
You didn’t need credit to live with your parents. You likely didn’t need it to get into college dorms. Pretty soon, though, your credit score is going to be helping or hurting you IRL, so it might be worth thinking about, at the minimum, knowing what your credit score is. Then get a plan in place to start building it (including the overrated but necessary bill-paying).
Another trick of the adulting trade: you’ll want to learn how to freeze your credit. For all the diligent work you’ll put into building it (by paying bills on time!), a credit freeze prevents pesky fraudulent claims, so your credit stays your own.
Our college budget included weekly rations of Hamburger Helper, tubes of ground beef, and those instant dried mashed potato flakes. IRL budgets are slightly more comprehensive. As you approach graduation, consider the tough questions: how much money will I be making (or do you hope to make), and how much of that can you afford to pay in rent?
From there, break down your other expenses, noting which ones are necessary (utilities, cell phone, some amount of food) and which ones are niceties (fancier food, for example). From what’s leftover after the necessary section, see how your other costs fit in. Want to dive into the nitty gritty? Frugal Rules put together an easy-to-follow post-college budget here.
Wait - three items in a row about money? You might start to get the idea that adulting is all about being responsible with money. As unfun as it sounds, being money-focused and precise now will pay off later on down the line. With that, consider an emergency fund.
From car-related costs (like tickets and repairs) to medical bills, life comes at you fast when you’re in charge. Though building credit is part of the plan, using your credit card for emergencies is… well, it should be for emergencies. After all, what would adulting be without learning how to handle the occasional emergency? Aim for $500 to start. Once you’re there, see if you can stretch it to cover your expenses for a three-month period.
As you move on up and master IRL, you’ll start to experience the fun of weekend brunches, the spontaneous trips, and the late-night dinners out. All of that eating out, all of that drinking out, all of that being out in the world can make it hard to stay consistent with your exercise or workout routine.
While youth was kind to us, either with its regular soccer practices or our naturally svelte bodies, adulting is the process of becoming an adult whose body is not quite as svelte. Like saving for your emergency fund will keep you covered for emergencies later on, investing in regular exercise now (adult dodgeball leagues count, we promise!) can help to prevent health-related emergencies later on.
Oops, money again. While you may have already started paying taxes, especially if you’ve been working part-time, now you need to take it seriously. How seriously? Seriously enough to know the difference between married, single, and dependent.
Depending on how quickly you adult (like diving straight in for real estate, overseas investing, and that sweet, sweet cryptocurrency), taxes can be a relatively straightforward process. Take your time to get it right in the beginning and each successive year is just one more step (and remember, the goal for paying your taxes is not to get a refund!).
I remember having a conversation with my mother while I was in high school when she mentioned going to see a friend she hadn’t seen for five years. Five years, I thought, why, how could that be? I had seen all my friends every day for months straight. Post-college, though, your friendships are less about convenience and more about quality. Adulting is the process of keeping those friends (even after they keep canceling on you for brunch), even if it means asking them to do chores with you.
In college, a consistent bedtime was something you flirted with, teasing it with a few 11pm weeknights before cheating on it by partying until you fell asleep at 4am on Sunday and then pulling an all-nighter to write your last paper. Adulting is all about settling down with a sleep schedule. While in college your flexible sleep schedule was all about seizing opportunities (to party, to study, to watch the end of that Lord of the Rings marathon), your consistent adult sleep schedule is about a whole new set of healthy opportunities.
As VeryWell Health lays it out, these are the benefits of sleeping like an adult person: reduced caffeine dependence, decreased pain, better job performance, better immune system, improved alertness, sharper short-term memory.
It’s not like Captain Jack Sparrow would’ve ever been easy enough to contact for a graduation speech, but we imagine it would’ve been a pretty good one. A sure-fire line he’d include if he were writing this list? This is more what you’d call guidelines than rules. And if there was ever a character who was the embodiment of perma-Adulting, it’s Captain Jack.
Adulting IRL is inevitable. Just like butterflies can’t wriggle their way back into the cocoon, you’re out on your own. That said, there’s no race to being the perfect adult. And there’s no award for becoming a perfect adult. It’s all about progress. Some days, you might just want to head out to eat instead of cleaning the pots to cook another meal. Some nights, you might want to stay over at a friends, even if you have to stay up past your own bedtime. Make little mistakes, try and avoid the big ones, and most of all, enjoy what’s coming up.
You deserve it.
–Have someone in your life who’s emerging from their college cocoon? Grab them their very own Adulting IRLA Pack to help them celebrate their own grown-up and growing up moments!