College is a remarkable time to find out who you really are: you join clubs, fraternities, teams, get jobs, find friends, and grow up into a whole new adult persona. So much changes in so little time, in fact, that there can be some whiplash coming out of it. Once you’re no longer surrounded by your friends every minute of every day, your identity can become a little harder to define. If you’re feeling a little confused after college, here are some tips to make sure you still know who you are.
Know What Makes You Unique
Your identity is a wonderful thing, but it’s also nebulous and hard to define. You’re a collection of interests, quirks, hobbies, skills, passions, and drawbacks (c’mon, nobody is perfect), all of which contribute to what makes you you. So when it comes to getting out of college, you’ll find yourself being older and more confident in yourself, whether it’s cool or not. Maybe you’re a Jeopardy! fanatic who listens to heavy metal and plays basketball. Maybe you’re a yoga freak who has a passion for Alfred Hitchcock movies and knits in their spare time. Whatever the combination is, it’s a combination that no one else quite has. Take stock of what makes you unique, and build new experiences based on those.
Join Some Outside Activities
Just because you’re no longer in college doesn’t mean that all of a sudden clubs go away. There are a myriad of activities that aren’t just geriatric book clubs or mid-life crisis Zumba classes: cooking clubs, trivia teams, casual sports teams, and more based around all kinds of things. It’s important to remember that most young adults are in the exact same situation as you. Maybe they’ve moved to a completely new city to take on a new job and don’t know anybody. They’re going to be just as confused about their own post-college identities and just as eager to find others who are searching for a place to be themselves. After you’ve figured out what makes yourself unique, it’s time to find out who else might be interested in those unique qualities. And that segways perfectly into…
Make New Friends
Yes, you love your college friends, and the best ones are going to be your friends hopefully well after college ends. But just talking to your college friends after you finish your degree is kind of like when you only talk to high school friends after you graduate. It puts you on a treadmill, and it’s hard to move forward if you are consistently living in the past. So keep the friends you have, but venture out and find some new ones as well.
This goes hand in hand with joining outside activities. Break the ice with people who you don’t know: there’s a reason you’re all in the same place, and it’s probably not because you all just randomly wandered into a room. These are people with the same interests as you, and that’s the launching pad for making new friends and reintegrating yourself into a brand new setting after college.
DON’T Define Yourself By Your New Job
This is a pitfall that can easily be fallen into if you’re not careful. Oftentimes the first thing that truly sticks post-college is whatever your first job is. And that’s great! You’re making money, meeting new people in your coworkers, and you’re starting to build up that new identity. But be weary of how important your job becomes.
Some important things to remember: it’s only your first job, and most likely won’t be the company or even the profession that you’ll end up spending your entire life at. Also, just because you spend half your day there doesn’t mean that your job is who you are. It’s important to maximize the experiences you have outside of work, because otherwise you’ll turn into a workaholic who introduces themselves by their profession instead of by their interests.
Go On Dates
Have you ever noticed that most dates are like college orientation all over again: introductions, icebreakers, get to know yous. It’s like having your own identity interrogation, but usually over dinner and hopefully with some drinks to loosen you up. Weirdly enough, going on dates will make you realize who you really are quicker than just about any other activity. Having to constantly describe yourself, your hopes, your dreams, your hobbies, your profession, your personal details and such . Take note of what you tend to mention first and what you tend to mention often. If you like how you describe yourself, then you are well on your way to solidifying your identity. If you don’t like how you describe yourself, you now know what you have to work on in order to build the best version of yourself. And hey, you’ll even get a nice dinner out of it.
Get A New Wardrobe
Ok maybe not an entire new wardrobe (what are we, made of money?), but you would be surprised how confident you will feel with a few new shirts, blazers, and pairs of pants. College is the time of intense growing up, but you’re still mostly a kid while you’re in college, and your outfits tend to reflect that: casual wear, hoodies, leggings, hair ties that are just completely littered all over the place. Those are amazing clothes, and you should keep them, but they should be relegated to lounge wear/weekend clothes. A large number of jobs require you to update your wardrobe to reflect a more sophisticated and professional identity anyway, so take that as a first step towards growing up and diversifying your image.
Most importantly, there’s no one way to rebuild your identity after college. Maybe you’re completely secure in who you are but are struggling to find your place in a new town. Maybe you don’t relate to the person you might have been in college anymore and want to start over completely. Maybe it’s a mix of the two. Whatever the case may be, you should focus on what makes you happy, because as long as you’re following your bliss, good things will follow.