(This article was originally written for and appeared in USA TODAY College)
Landing that elusive first job after graduation can be quite an accomplishment. Finding a job where you just spent an incredible four years — a place where you have already formed relationships and a life — can seem like a dream come true.
Starting your career in the same town in which you went to college can make it seem like you have been granted an extension on university life. However, before you start planning to go to Taco Tuesdays or fraternity grab-a-dates after your 9-to-5, there are a few things you should know about living your post-grad life in your undergrad town.
Open yourself up to new experiences
One of the misconceptions about staying put post-grad is that things will remain exactly the same as they were during college. However, your lifestyle is about to do a 180 and so should your routine. Gone are the days of sleeping until your 3 p.m. class and staying up until 2 a.m. for no reason — and if you keep these habits, you may keep yourself from growing.
Approach this new chapter with a fresh pair of eyes. Find new things to do in town. Volunteer, go out to a bar you haven’t tried before or take a trip to the local farmers market on the weekends. Do something different from the college norm, and you will start to feel like your new life is different from the one you had as an undergrad.
Remember to budget your money and your time
As a new adult in the working world, it’s often easy to get caught up in the numbers on your paycheck. You may be tempted to spend more now that you don’t have to live off leftovers and Ramen noodles, but it’s important to remain conscious of your finances. While you may have more of an income, you most likely will also have more bills. Insurance, gas, rent and student-loan payments can add up. Watch what you’re spending on things like going out to eat and try to put a certain percentage of each paycheck into a savings account. Use services such as Mint to track your finances so you’re able to live within your means.
You should also be conscious of how you’re budgeting your time. Staying in the same town after graduation does not necessarily mean your social life will remain the same. Going out every weeknight should be a thing of the past now that you’re working — even if it is ladies’ night at your favorite bar. However, it can also be easy to get wrapped up in the throes of your job and forget your responsibility to be young. Don’t forgo a night with your friends just because you feel like you shouldn’t be out of the house past 8 p.m. If you are going to go out, make sure you’re prepared for everything you need to do at work the next day. Budget your time responsibly and make sure there’s an even amount of work and play.
Get involved as alumni
It can be hard to let go of the days you spent grabbing lunch in the union instead of in between phone calls — especially if you were constantly on campus. Seeing your college friends keeping busy with their extracurricular groups while you’re prepping for tomorrow’s conference call can make you long for your college days as opposed to your work days.
If you’re working close to your alma mater and have some free time, get involved in alumni groups and activities. Volunteer to be an adviser for your sorority or fraternity. Join the alumni foundation and help plan tailgating events for home games. It’s a natural step away from the collegiate world but will still keep you connected to campus life.
However you choose to navigate your newfound adulthood, it’s important to try to integrate a new routine into your old one. Approach your post-grad lifestyle with a new outlook, along with the same preparedness you had in school, and your transition from classrooms to a cubicle will feel that much easier.