I was 20 years old when I graduated from college. Twenty. I thought I had life all figured out. I was going to get out of small-town living as soon as possible, hop on a plane, and move down to Atlanta where I’d find a perfect job and, as they say, “live my best life”. But what literally no one tells you is that life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, and being on your own is tough. I had no idea how to get an apartment, find a job, and to be honest, I can’t cook for shit.
I had to figure out a lot on my own real quick, and it wasn’t always easy. If I had someone to help guide me along the way and give me a few pointers, I probably wouldn’t have had so many breakdowns, and my face wouldn’t constantly be covered with stress pimples. So, I might as well pass along some of my well-learned wisdom from packing up my whole life in Upstate New York, and moving down to start fresh in Atlanta.
I’ve lived in the middle of nowhere in New York for my whole life. I think there’s maybe four apartment complexes in my hometown, so I’ve never really been exposed to what you need to look for when you get an apartment. I thought all apartments cost the same, and you can kind of just walk into one, look around, and move in. Nope. That definitely was not the case. I spent about two weeks frantically checking apartments.com and googling things like, “What’s the average monthly cost of a water bill in an apartment” before I even felt comfortable enough to check one out in person. So before you go and willy-nilly choose an apartment after graduation, keep in mind these five things.
Set your budget.
Know what you can afford. The last thing you want to do is to sign a 12-month lease on an apartment that is way out of your budget. Know what you can spend, and do not go over it or else you’re going to be eating a lot of ramen noodles for the next year.
Ask about utilities.
Most of the time, utilities aren’t included in the cost of your apartment. This means water, electricity, sewage, and wifi/cable will probably be additional costs on top of your monthly rent payment.
Ask about the community.
If you’re going to be living there, you should probably know if the neighborhood is safe or not. Do some research and figure out what the crime rate in the area is. If you wouldn’t feel safe walking from the grocery store to your apartment at 7 p.m. on a Friday, then stay away. Stay far, far away.
Read your entire lease thoroughly.
Yes it’s long, yes it’s annoying, but if you don’t read that lease word-for-word, they could screw you over big time. Make sure you know about all contingencies in your lease – like what you would have to do to get out of the lease early, or if you have to pay any additional fees for pets, and other things of that sort.
Consider a roommate.
I know some people do better with living by themselves, but if you move to a brand new area, having a roommate is a great way to at least know one person. Plus, you’ll have someone to split the costs with you, which is always nice. There are plenty of apps out there that help you to find roommates, like Roomster, but make sure to always meet them in person first, at a public place!
I started job hunting before I even graduated. I constantly googled, “marketing jobs in Atlanta”, and applied for, not even over exaggerating, 65 different jobs, and never heard back from a single one. I was devastated. But instead of letting that crush my hopes and dreams, I went about it a completely different way. A way that I think everyone should try out, because it looks really good on your behalf, but you’re way more likely to actually get a response from someone by doing this, than being one of a million different online applicants.
Before you even graduate, make a LinkedIn account. Take the time and do a really good job on it. Add all the skills, make it readable, with no spelling mistakes, and upload a professional, presentable picture. Think of LinkedIn like your constant online interview. What would you want the CEO of a company to think after looking at your profile?
After my 65 rejections and no responses from the jobs that I applied to, I, once again, took to the internet and googled “marketing jobs in Atlanta”. But this time, I wrote down the names of 10 companies I wanted to work for and looked up the names of their CEOs, Presidents, and HR managers. I then went back onto my LinkedIn, and looked up the name of each person on my list of CEOS, presidents, etc., and sent them a message over LinkedIn introducing myself, giving a snippet of my background. I said what I could bring to the table, how I can be an asset to their team, and asked for an opportunity. Out of the 10 companies I sent messages to, I received a message back from 7 of them – all of which complimented me on being bold enough to reach out that way.
Moral of the story here – put yourself out there, be bold, and don’t be one of the hundreds of people who send in a mediocre application and sits back hoping for the best. Good things come to those who go out and get it, and the sooner you brand that into your brain, the better.
When I moved down to Atlanta, the only person I knew down here was my boyfriend. All of my family and friends were back up in New York, and I had no one. I was fine for the first couple of months, but then I started feeling really lonely. Don’t get me wrong, my boyfriend is great – but you need more than just one person in your life to lean on, or else you start using them as a crutch. Since I’m from a small town, and went to college in an even smaller town, I never really had to make friends. They kind of just fall into your lap when you’re constantly surrounded by the same group of people. So when it came to making new friends down here, I really had to put myself out there. I’m an introverted extrovert. I’m shy but I also really like being around people. So I had a tough time figuring out how to put myself out there. But, I eventually figured it out, and all I really had to do was the following:
Join something that interests you
Whether you’re into fitness, photography, or cooking, there’s a group of people out there who like the same things too. Find a club that you can join (preferably free, because we all know we’re broke af after school) that’s not too far away from where you live. Even though you might be nervous to go the first time, it’ll be so worth it. Give yourself a pep talk, put on your extrovert shoes, and have a great time.
Go to local events.
Events are a great way to get to know your town/city and to meet people. Events usually have some type of theme, so if you go to one that you’re interested in, you’ll find people who have similar interests. Who knows? You might even become friends with your neighbors.
Got to coffee shops.
I personally think coffee shops are the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Because it’s full of opportunity. They usually have flyers all over the place of different events/outings that you can go to, and it’s easy to go and sit next to someone new, introduce yourself and chat over a nice mocha latte. Boom. New friend.
Bumble is like tinder but for finding friends. Listen, I know it sounds dumb at first, but it’s actually a really cool way to meet people! I met a few people through Bumble who are, crazy enough, the same exact people as me. If you’re like me, sometimes you can be awkward the first time you meet people, so Bumble is a great way to get to know someone before having to physically extend an arm to introduce yourself.
So there you have it, three fewer things you have to worry about after graduation. On a serious note, though, life after graduation can be scary as hell. It (usually) is for everyone. You’re not alone. But you need to know that you can do it. You’ve worked your butt off for that degree, you made it through all the all-nighters and hard exams, and if you can do that, you can make it through the first year post-graduation, because it only goes up from there.