Things I’ve Learned: Post-Grad

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m still young, naive and maybe a little bit stupid. However, I’ve picked up a few things during my 10 weeks post-graduation. If you weren’t aware, I’m now living in Ann Arbor- the home of the University of Michigan, the state’s most vocal liberals, independent bookstores and movie theaters, and Phire Group (the ad agency where I now work). Moving from communities plagued with a lack of diversity to a city that thrives with diversity has, not to my surprise, introduced many new perspectives and learning experiences.

By no means is it necessary to be an upcoming graduate to find meaning through reading this post. This post is all about finding your place in a new community, a new mindset. There’s no magic formula to this, but here’s four guidelines I believe help steer the way.

  1. Routines will try to rule your life. Don’t let them.

When you’re frankly disconnected in a new community it’s easy to latch onto routines. With few new friends and few post-work happenings, I quickly latched on to several solitary routines: I caught a movie every Wednesday night, I took my hammock to the park every Saturday, binged Netflix every Sunday.. I could go on. While these activities might sound nice, they made life mundane and dangerously normal. A month in, I decided I needed change. I joined a trivia team (more a social club than anything), I connected with a local theater group, I tested the best local brews and I let new friends choose the movies.

Uncertainty is not just okay in a new place, it’s normal. Explore your community through spontaneity, not forced routines.

2. Don’t let your budget rule your life, either.

This was a tough one for me, without a doubt. I walked into post-grad life with a full-blown Google spreadsheet outlining my budget accounting for taxes (a numbing post-grad reality), my cherished 401K, savings.. all the way down to my streaming subscriptions budget. I walked into my new life with the full intention of recording every transaction.. and to this day, this continues to persist. However, I think i’m ready to make a change. Although I still intend on tracking my overall expenses/ income, I hope to become less attentive. I don’t want to downplay the first two months of budget tracking, however: this was really important! This made me realize where I stood with my spending habits. Thankfully for me, I spent a lot less than I thought I would.

I realized my budget truly didn’t need to rule my life. As long as I hit my saving targets, I plan on being less proactive from now on- I encourage you to do the same.

Set goals and meet them but resist micromanagement unless an intervention is in order.

3. Find a sense of community. (this one’s really, really important)

So many people I know of seem to struggle with this one when moving to a new place. When I ask many people about their new communities several months into living there, they still seem to speak from the perspective of a tourist. They work simply work 9 to 5, travel home on the weekends, visit mundane chain restaurants, and favor the couch over the sidewalks. This is one I didn’t really struggle with coming from a hometown with little identity (although I did love growing up there). For people coming from larger cities with more of an identity, I can see why this is often a struggle. 10 weeks into post grad, I consider myself an Ann Arborite- tried and true.

How I did this? I skipped the chains and supported the local businesses (as do many in a2), I people watched, I read the local news, I begun to find ways to express my passions (theatre, music, writing), and I truly moved into my new home.

After you’ve finished Stranger Things, step away from the couch, get out there, and explore your new home! (oh, and by the way.. aimlessly walking around town is completely acceptable)

4. Find purpose in what you do.

As you likely know, I work in advertising- a profession that often gets a bad wrap much like that of a used car salesmen. I’m not here to sell advertising as a noble profession- I acknowledge that a lot of a advertising, a majority of advertising out there is bad. What I am here to sell is finding a purpose in what you do, as I have.

Aside from the obvious reasons that I was drawn to advertising (the creativity, the collaborative work environment, the role of design, my interest in business), I was drawn to advertising with hopes of making it better. I was drawn to bring out the good that many businesses do- the services and goods they provide, the ways they give back, and the great people behind them. Working at a small shop, I’m given the opportunity to make a significant difference at multiple companies of various sizes. I’m doing what I love and I believe I’m making the world a greater place in my own way.

If I could find purpose in what I do, I’m sure you can do the same. Be the exception.