10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Graduating College

Navigating through your 20s is difficult, there’s no way around it. Did I mention taxes?

Growing up as #blessed as I was, I never knew what it was like to have to hold a job while getting a degree, to pay my way through college.

The first time I really had any serious adult responsibilities occurred, not just after graduating but when I moved out of my parent’s house.

You take on most, if not all, of your personal bills and even appointments in life, and things can seem extremely overwhelming. How did your parents ever keep track of you, let alone themselves?

Between doctor and dentist appointments, cell phone bills, credit card bills, there is so much to keep track of for a single person! Well, like anything else, “adulting” takes major practice. So let us begin.

Here are the ten biggest things I wish I could’ve known before embarking out into the world of “adult-ing” #Realtalk. 

How to write a proper resume…

It should never exceed one page! There is a proper format and any Google image can show you but find what works best for you. Do not put too many bullets under each job description.

Only keep the most relevant jobs on the application. You can always explain the others in person, hence the point of interviewing. It’s okay to have more than one resume!

Each one tailored to the job you are looking for. For example, having received a BFA in fashion design I had a resume I would send for design positions versus a resume I sent out for marketing/buyer and merchandising positions.

I worded my descriptions differently to target my audience accordingly. Also P.S. never lie about knowing a language (or really about anything) in the skills section, they may start a conversation suddenly in French because you said you were fluent and you’re just sitting there. Don’t do that.

Always write a cover letter, you never know who is reading and they may like it more than your resume!


You will need a minimum of three references…

who are not teachers or parents of kids you babysat for. This is so crucial, to make an impression at those summer internships so employers know that you stand out in a crowd because you are special and a hard worker and not just your mommy or Mrs. Johnson down the block thinks so.  


That the summers in between college semesters were crucial in locking down a good…

internship that might even help secure a job for you post graduation (and or be the true test to see what kind of field best suits you).


Learn how to set a budget for yourself and stick to it!

Try using helpful apps like mint and mint.com. You can plug in a hypothetical earning and practice annual or monthly. These budgeting techniques will help you understand what you need to be making in order to move out and pay rent!

It is always better not to be surprised when it comes to paying the bills.


Talk to your parents and any other functioning adults you can about TAXES!

Ask them questions. Even if you think it sounds dumb, trust me no one has a clue if they should claim 0, 1 2 or 3 on their W-4 or W-9 tax form. You need to know what it means and how much will be deducted from your earnings.

You will also need to know about putting money away into a 401k (when you actually start to make enough that you can start saving) and even health insurance at 26… but for now baby steps.


That I would need to actually memorize my social because every single job app requires it and they actually take a bitch of time to complete.

This is super important and I cannot stress it enough. It really helps the job application process go more quickly if you don’t have to whip out your iPhone every ten minutes to look down at this secret nine digit number.

In addition, I suggest you keep a record in your notes of names, numbers, and emails of your most recent employers. This will make things easy when you get to the recommendations part of any job app!


That not everyone holds the same job for more than a year post college, your path is specific and unique to you and you alone.

Now personally for me, as a fashion design student going into the real world my game plan was to work retail for a brand I loved and then move into corporate.

This was difficult and not exactly the best approach. The company I worked for was a Parisian brand and not only did I not speak French but I was never going to up and move to France for a design position post-college.

Regardless a customer I grew friendly with happened to be well-connected and helped me land my first design job in NYC.

After six months this small company took a turn for the worse and they made major cuts. Before I knew it I was back at square zero looking for a job.

This is a huge blow to your self esteem and it is embarrassing to tell your friends and family. Will they even believe you got let go?

Will they think I really got fired and don’t see me as a reliable adult? And also FUCK, now what!? I had to apply to a minimum of five jobs a day.

I revamped my resume and portfolio immediately. I got in touch and met with those free recruiters all over again. The more you stick to a plan of action, the less time it takes to find a job. The more things you apply to the better shot you have. It’s really a numbers game.


When shit hits the fan no one else can help you but you.

As I was saying before I lost my first design job before I had even moved out. It was a scary and depressing time.

I felt like a failure, but I was fortunate enough to have a roof over my head.

Stick to a game plan and apply to as many job postings as you can a day. Reach out to anyone you know who works in your field even if you don’t believe they would help you. It is always better to ask than to stay quiet.

These are hard times for everyone our age, someone is bound to show empathy and stick their neck out for you.

Swallow your pride and ask everyone you know for help if, and when, necessary, we aren’t superheroes we can’t do it all on our own.  


Practice being your own biggest advocate.

This speaks volumes in adulthood.

It is a tricky thing to know when to speak up to your boss or supervisor and saying, “Hey I am not happy here”—meaning hey the work I am doing feels like intern work and I can handle more responsibility than that because I am smart and capable!

 And then there is the “hey I feel like I’ve stopped learning” yes my learning curve is over and I have perfected every task in my job and want to move upward and onward!

These conversations open up the door for either a change of position within the company, a promotion, or even a simple pay raise. To be noted, proper etiquette would be to ask for a six month review if you are looking for a raise and or discuss with your family or any other role model if you think it is time to move on career wise.  


It is okay to get a job you didn’t get a major in, most people went to school for something that has nothing to do with their careers today.  

One of my best friends majored in photography; she ended up going into real estate.

Today she photographs luxurious apartment,s but these photos are not always used to advertise the apartments for sale.

Regardless she does it because she enjoys it and it will always be useful information to her because it will always be her passion and her hobby. Sometimes life experience is more crucial than what we learn in a classroom.

Also your major might have been a waste of money but if you enjoyed it and you learned something, it’s value is bound to be useful at some point in your lifetime.  

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Hayley Nerenberg

Hayley grew up in the suburbs outside of NYC and went to Syracuse University where she received a BFA in Fashion Design. Currently residing in Manhattan, she designs womenswear couture by day and tries to have a social life by night. Her hobbies include spending time with family and friends, staying active, listening to NPR and drawing doodles.