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The "Real" World 

(Seniors Transitioning to a New Job and New Locations)

By Joel Duncan
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Counseling Services

You have almost completed your courses and you are preparing for graduation. Soon you'll be moving out into the "real world". Now what?

The transition from college to the work world is a major change. Here are a few ideas for making a smooth transition.

  • Chamber of Commerce - Schedule a visit to the Chamber of Commerce when you first arrive. The Chamber of Commerce is designed to help orient you to a new place. The things you need to know like where to meet people, where to shop, where you can do your laundry, what fun things are in town, what events are coming up and much more can be discovered by browsing through brochures, or even writing in advance and having the brochures mailed to you. Try to make this your first stop when you get into town.
  • Internet - Do a search for your new town on the Internet. Many towns provide great web sites with helpful information on your new living environment. For example, a quick search on Rochester, MN ( gives you a section on "Moving Made Easy", with hints you may never have thought of on how to get your cable, utilities, and telephone service initiated. They also provide information on where the local DMV is, descriptions of available public transit and their routes. These web sites even tell what to do about trash pick up! Maps are supplied, suggestions on how to purchase a home, and even where you might find your next job.
  • Real schedule - The schedule of a "real world" workweek is usually 9 am to 5 pm everyday!! You can't skip work like you skip a class. Employers are not as understanding as professors. Remember, YOU pay to attend college; an EMPLOYER pays you to work.
    • Tip: Get in the groove now. Begin by waking at a time to make a 9 am job (showered and dressed). Get to bed in time to rise and be at your best the next morning. This way, you will hit the ground running with your job instead of taking weeks or months to adjust to it.
    • TIP #2: If you are reading this early in your college career, consider taking advantage of internship opportunities to get a touch of the real world.
  • Use a moving guide - Many locations such as the post office and rental truck businesses can supply you with moving guides that can prove to be really valuable. They will make your move a lot easier, reminding you of details that could slip your mind. They are also available from moving truck companies, realtors, and many are on-line. Here is an example. See if you would have thought of all these things.
  • Financial aid loan payments - That financial aid loan will come due after you graduate (usually about 6 months after your graduation day). Be sure to contact your lender right away to arrange payment, give them your new address, and find out the specifics of the payback. Budget for this first! It is a substantial payment and can ruin your credit if you let it get out of hand. If you arrange for auto payment (where the bank takes it out of your paycheck first), it will seem much easier.
  • New Friends - Once you get settled in, you'll start thinking about meeting people. Don't fall into the old bar scene. You're an adult now and you need adult friends. First you have to get out of your apartment. No one is going to knock down your door to meet you. Once you get out and about, go to places that suit your interests - a gym (YMCA/YWCA), church / synagogue / mosque, craft fairs, flea markets, bookstores, the library, a park, a coffee shop, local sports leagues, etc.
  • Old Friends - Keep in contact with your friends from college. Don't let the friendships you have built at school fade away just because you've moved. Make a few phone calls & send email. Keeping in touch can make your transition smoother, provide a great "support group" of people going through the same thing, and may even provide some really good contacts.
    • TIP: Even though you keep in contact, everyone will be busy making their own transitions. Don't expect things to be exactly the same as they were at college or for them to be there whenever you call. And don't keep in touch just for "old times sake". Friendships should never hold you back, but support you on your new journey.
  • Living standards - The first place you live is not going to be like Mom and Dad's house. Remember they worked a long time to get their home and you will have to as well. The most important thing when finding a place to live is safety. You may not live in the nicest area of town, but you should live somewhere safe. Balance this with what you can afford (probably more than you paid at college) and the convenience to work and you'll be happier with where you live.
  • Credit Cards - If you ran up credit card debt while in college, get this under control immediately. With your new job, you may be able to transfer your high interest cards to one with a better interest rate. Also, a bank may be able to extend a consolidation loan with a good interest rate so you can pay them off all at one time. When you do this, get rid of all your cards except the one with the best interest rate and then plan to use it only in emergencies.
  • Family - Stay in close contact with your family. They are still there to support you. The advice they can give you during this transition can be invaluable. Respect the fact that they have been through a similar transition and can help. They may also be able to help with short-term financial needs.
  • Stress - All change - even positive change - can be stressful. It is of the utmost importance that you take care of yourself during this time. Eat well - this will probably mean that you will need to visit the grocery store and learn to cook a few simple meals. Sleep well - get in bed at a regular hour and maybe learn a few relaxation techniques. Exercise - physical activity is one of the greatest stress-busters available to you. If you had an exercise program at school - keep it going. If not, start one. Above all, enjoy the simple pleasures. Remember to enjoy this time. It will go by very fast. Savor your first apartment, the meals you cook, sitting and talking with friends, the fragrances in the park, new hangouts in your new town…

The transition from college to the world of work is an exciting time. A little planning before hand can make it even more enjoyable. Start doing the things you can do so you can enjoy this new phase in your life.