Getting Into the Real World Mentality

May 13, 2010

By Kristen Fischer,

The end of the semester is fast approaching for many college seniors. Even though you may be caught up in campus life, the professional world is just around the bend. Here are a few tips on how to get into a “real world” mentality to make the transition a tad bit easier.

Think about what you want to do. You have been studying a particular field for around four years, but that doesn’t mean you will—or will want to—automatically enter it. If you know that you want to pursue something else upon graduation, there is nothing wrong with not going into the field you studied. In fact, you’ll do better off knowing this from the get-go so you can build your career in another field. Regardless of what you want to do, learn about your options. Examine what you want your ideal day to be like. What kinds of jobs are available in your industry and in the region you want to work in?

It may sound silly but most new grads are on autopilot and, understandably, enter the working world taking whatever job they can get. But you want to build a career now that you have your degree; not just get a job. Put some thought into the direction you want to take.

Get crackin’ on a resume. I know it may seem daunting to work on something that doesn’t have a deadline—unlike turning in a final paper—but this document is equally as important. While you are on campus and have the resources, talk to the pros at your Career Services office and get tips for writing a resume, and feedback from people who know all about them.

Compiling a resume is often overwhelming for soon-to-be grads because they feel like there’s nothing to fill up an entire page, but if you really assess your skill set and look at the latest resume-writing trends, you can come up with a powerful resume that will get you the job.

Start looking for a job—yesterday. Again, you may be swamped with class work or you may be trying to relish your time as an undergrad, but nowadays, jobs are hard to come by. Add the fact that you’ll soon have to pay off loans and bills—and probably want to get your own pad at some point—and you will realize that you don’t want to be behind the eight ball. It is frustrating when your peers have great jobs lined up while they are still students. While that does not happen to everyone, many students are preparing to enter the professional world months before they graduate. Be proactive in your job search and start putting feelers out. You never know how long it will take to get a job and it’s smarter in the long run to get something fulfilling and profitable so you don’t have to take any old gig to get by. (Chances are, you went to college so you would not have to just “get by” anyway.)

Even thinking about what you want to do and where you want to live—and arranging for those things—is smart planning. Talk to your parents about the possibility of moving home or see if you can get a roommate if you want to be out on your own or plan to move far from home.

When summer starts and your classmates are at work and you are home on mom’s sofa, it may feel good for a while but it won’t be long before you will want to get out into the working world. Start your search now so you can make a timely transition.

Practice interviewing. If you aced your public speaking class and excel at debates, that doesn’t mean you will be a natural at an interview. Most of the time, the weight of landing your first job and the pressure of impending expenses can turn you into a frazzled mess when it comes time to sit down for a one-on-one. That kind of anxiety can take away every strategy you have mastered in the past. Start developing answers to common interview questions and practice a mock interview with a friend or a professional in the Career Services office. You can submit a stellar resume but the interview is what makes or breaks it. First impressions are huge in the real world.

Coming in to an office wide-eyed and bushy-tailed is common for recent grads, but you can get more comfortable with a professional environment by rehearsing answers and dressing up. Pay attention to things like how much you fidget—you may smell like an entry-level candidate to the interviewer but you don’t want to look like one, too!

Enjoy your last days in college. Even though it is beneficial to think about and prepare for the future, there is nothing like living in the now. Spend extra time with friends, sleep in, stay out late, hit up a crazy party, or enjoy campus activities. Even if you cannot wait to graduate, you will probably long to be a college student again at some point in the future—make the most of it now.

Kristen Fischer is the author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life. For more tips on preparing for life after college and coping with 20-something issues, visit

Triple C – Clothes Care Center

December 7, 2009

The world loves the acronym and to call places and concepts of obvious function something totally off the scale in order to divert a person from reality. For instance, the triple C.C.C, Clothes Care Center. Better known as the laundry mat. A meeting place for all; the workout Nazi jock, the Wii nerd, goth, grode, that cute guy in apartment 3B, the bimbette always tramping in drunk at 3:00 AM on Friday nights, etc. & your too cool self.

We all have dirties and have to clean’em up. Thus, equality abounds in the laundry mat. Still as with all quarter life areas of existence, there are rules, decade’s old traditions to uphold, personal clothing vendettas, do’s and don’ts with panties, bleach and spin cycles. Let us give you a quick top ten run down on the CCC…

  1. Quarters and swipe cards – You find, you use. You lost’em…sucks to be you.
  2. Not cool to handle anyone’s undergarmets. Whitey tighties or lacy thongs. A little pervy and maybe a wee bio-hazardy.
  3. Read clothes labels. It’s just that simple! Colors in cold, whites in hot. That is all. Oh and bleach, not just for CSI. Careful, its effects do not go backwards.
  4. For the ladies. More types of unmentionables than ever. Your $50 bra needs hand washing, the monthly visitor panties need bleach, above mentioned lacey ones need cold delicate cycle, etc. Put an expense line in your student budget for clothes care. Dry cleaning and Woolite add up.
  5. Make a party of laundry. Suds and Buds. With that there is also the concept of drunk dryer rodeo. Google it. Maybe even give it a whirl. And also, you might be using a drier that someone used for such the evening before. Think before doing.
  6. Waiting etiquette. The prof is late fifteen minute rule does not apply. Bad form to take out someone’s laundry to put yours in. If it has been there a week, sure. But, to touchy is to invite a revenge something gross into your spin cycle. Best just move onto the next machine and not risk it.
  7. Check your pockets. iPods are smaller, flash drives are not water proof, pens full of ink, that hot chick’s digits are on your phone, and you might actually find your pants pocket is a cash cow ATM.
  8. Beware of the ancient Commodore washer your legacy father had. And just use good sense when late night washing at the mat in da hood.
  9. Laundry-cest. Love abounds. Surprising who ya can meet doing a load, what you learn by their underneaths and where that stain can from. But no place for an emotional “soap” opera. Get it?
  10. MacGyver trick. A machine that eats quarters and swipe cards can be usually fixed by pulling the plug. Wait a few, give back the electric juice and watch it reset. First load is a free one.

Hope these tips help. Wash Well!

Poor Little Rich Kid: Life Among Have Nothing Snobs

November 30, 2009

From 1999 – 2003, I attended New College of Florida (NCF). A liberal arts college with a history of rigorous academics fueled by personal passions, throwing legendary parties that attracted triple the school’s entire enrollment, and angering conservative talking heads who have heard of it (not many),NCF is a unique little institution. Like many of its graduates, I dearly love my alma mater, New College of Florida. I’ve loved it ever since I was in second grade and my grandmother and mother took me to visit the campus – I remember ending our tour on the bay and sitting in the shade of large stained glass domes that were someone’s thesis project. My love only grew when I was eight years old and received a letter from the admissions board suggesting that perhaps I should wait until I completed elementary school to apply again. (They also refunded the application fee I submitted and complemented the markers, crayons, and stickers I had used to make my first attempt at applying extra fabulous.) On graduation day, there was no prouder graduate that me to be joining a larger family of novo collegian alumni.

However, though I always felt like I belonged at the place, I noted quickly that there were a large number of people who didn’t feel that I belonged. The first lesson I learned at New College wasn’t about American Literature or Ancient Cultures or Art History. No, the first lesson I learned at New College was about social dynamics. Mainly, it was my sudden emersion in a group of people I like to call “have nothing snobs” – or HNSs for short. These are not garden variety hippies and vagabonds. These are people who purposefully throw out all their possessions – save for maybe a brand-new Volkswagen Bug or Apple computer – and live as if they had nothing while sleeping nightly with the security blanket of family wealth and support. They replace their material wealth with passive judgment for those around them who live, in their estimation, menial lives. Though I was always on the lower end of the economic spectrum growing up, my compulsory schooling had exposed me to several run-of-the-mill snobs. You know, the type that had compact disc players when everyone else was still listening to cassettes and would roll their eyes and sigh loudly whenever someone wore knock-off brand tennis shoes in their presence – as if the sight of cheap factory stitching was literally straining them physically.

HNSs are different. They may have started out with a set of parents who set the silver spoon in their mouth, but they now disown the spoon, and everything that comes with it, for a life filled with dreadlocks, rope sandals, and a holier-than-thou attitude save for the religious overtones that usually accompany that sort of thing. Their lawyer and doctor parents fret over their sloppy appearance, their grandparents worry that they are becoming bisexuals, and their friends back home really miss them at the annual Christmas mixer. Meanwhile, you find them at a drum circle that’s, “totally going to change the whole way you see the world, man.”

So, yeah, they’re stoned, too.

They eat out of garbage cans, calling themselves freegans, while simultaneous biting the hands that fill those cans with caustic words about consumer waste and the death of true community. Obviously, eating in the school cafeteria – with food cards each student was required to purchase – was a large contributor to the downfall of decency and goodness. They sit and complain about how their parents, “don’t get it,” and what and idiot their mother was when she tried to make a vegan cake and dared to use refined, white sugar. Bitch!

HNSs don’t do a lot of things. They don’t shop, watch television, talk on the telephone, or go to the movies – social action doesn’t leave them time for such trivial things. They don’t recognize the stupidity that is organized religion and they scoff many common social practices as they aren’t part of “the machine.” Most importantly, though most don’t have jobs that pay in things other than hugs and warm fuzzies, those on the docket wouldn’t be caught dead working for anyplace that couldn’t be described as “quirky” – – or at least any place that would make them stifle their individuality by forcing them to cover up their Che Guevara tattoo. My Hertz Rental Car uniform now produced the same reaction that my off-brand sneakers had just a few years before. These snobs may swear off deodorant, but they obviously didn’t lose that yacht club classism.

I harbored some resentment toward the HNSs for a while. I hated them for bursting the bubble of my utopia with their spoiled attitudes and barbs of judgment. However, one Christmas, I had an epiphany. Sitting behind my desk at the rental car agency on Christmas Eve like some dejected Ebenezer Scrooge, there wasn’t a customer in sight. I decided to break protocol and call my mom on the company phone. I missed her so much and it was really jerking my chain that all the HNSs were probably at home right now complaining to their moms and dads about how the tofu in the cafeteria wasn’t certified fair trade. However, once I got on the phone with my mom, I couldn’t stop talking about them. The hippie who picked his toe jam with his feet on the desk in my American Literature class, the girl who slapped me on the back of the head for hurting the soul of a tree by driving a thumbtack into it, the couple who sang Lauren Hill songs in the nude on their balcony to show the ridiculousness of consumer culture . . . I couldn’t shut up about them. My mom listened as I rattled on and said, “You’re sure meeting some entertaining people.” That was the truth – staring me in the face. As chaffed as I was by them, they gave my college life flavor and a particular brand of absurd variety that really couldn’t be achieved in any other circumstance.

Additionally, for as annoying as HNSs were, they seemed to provide just the right anti-establishment backdrop for my dearly loved school to exist. They marched into self-righteousness with enough rigor and enthusiasm to allow the rest of us to become sometimes inspired. The luxury they had of spending entire semesters with loads of free time not spent doing laundry or punching a time card, allowed them to do some good works in the community themselves. The often secret promise from the parents to support – financially and emotionally – their junior Marxist should he or she run into some trouble, made the HNSs feel so comfortable taking risks that they were able to lead the marches, sing the chants, and really give it a go at sticking it to the man.

HNSs may have made some of my moments uncomfortable at points. Their misunderstandings of actual poverty often lead to pretty comical irony. I can’t imagine college without them.

Seen Through the Eyes of the College Dorm

June 30, 2009

“Nothing is sacred in the dorm. All is known. All is done. It is the established, anti-establishment of the college establishment.”
– ME! 2009

Ah the dorm. It is the home away from home, the dark hole of Calcutta, study cubicle, roommate bond-a-rama, place of slumber and the splendid romantic getaway of all your high school and college dreams, right? Maybe? Well, those days are in the rearview mirror.

Now, you’re in the first, second, third, etc. place in your real terra firma quarter life. I imagine it is a long way from the MTV Crib, the classic “Friends” New York style décor with some edginess, cute fixer upper bungalow or the downtown exposed brick loft.

And then you are probably working that “perfect” job in the human resource cubicle farm. In these horrible economic times that employment might be just Seattle’s Best coffee in your local Borders. Either way, you are putting in long hours which sort of makes it another kind of home away from home. A long way from the dream job with its cute pants suits, silk ties, caz Fridays, expense account American Express, flex time and global travel.

Hell you may have it all and I am just blowing in the wind. But, I doubt it. Let me know…am I in the ballpark here? More than likely. So let’s get on with it.

Back to the college dorm. It was not girls running around with towel wrapped hair in cotton robes sharing good times and bad. Your first place or current home is not olive trays, chardonnay parties and tea roses in the garden. And in a twist of weird irony…for guys it is still not a place of chicas scurrying draped with towel wrapped hair in cotton robes or LESS! All of these visions of habitation have one thing in common…exceeded youthful expectations. Now no one is not telling you to set your goals high and strive to attain them, but come on…

Instead of exceeded expectations of occupancy, how about putting things into healthy perspective with casual comparisons? What you had then and what you have now. And what you can do with it in your quarter life journey. Let us compare, contrast and come up with some helpful hints. We’ll start off with some easy ones to ponder and move onto some heavy hitting lying on the therapist couch types.

Twin Bed Still? They were a dorm mandatory item. Might I suggest taking that first pay stub, skip the student loan payment and splurge on a larger canvas to practice your romantic artistry, slumber upon, cry away in the old comforter, and snooze button yourself to a reprimand from your boss or sleep off the hangovers which get harder and harder as your 20’s keep getting older and older.

For the girls, in the dorm, there were the mildewed walls and Monet prints…oh you’ll have the cute comforter to tie it all in. Now? Well, the mildew is still there. The Monet frame was broken during its packing cardboard box journey in the back of the truck. But, you still have the comforter with all its stained and peculiar scents full of memories. Though it is now the designated DVD watching couch comforter.

Dorm: Encrusted hair driers, crappy countertop space & shower shoes. Your place: Same, sans the shower shoes.

Your Dorm Dead Potted Plants makes you think about what kind of a parent you will be. Your ¼ life? Start off easy. Ferns are hard to kill. Then maybe a cat or puppy. Move on to a boyfriend…or girlfriend…or both. I am not here to judge.

Dorm and/or new abode bathroom etiquette or lack thereof? Damn. Still sharing the bathroom? Better reevaluate your next lease, 2 beds – 2 baths…minimum!

The Old Poster. Dorm posters that show places and things you have never been nor done. Get on a plane and fix that…SOON!
Clothes Care Center…a.k.a. dirty and ancient washateria. Take a stand against collecting quarters. D/W hook-ups can make life worth living.

Furnishing? Dorm furniture is, in the basic definition, I guess we could call it furniture. You might still have some and probably will send a few pieces off with your far in the future son or daughter’s good-byes going to their college years. Clutter equals bad. Corn colored couch from the 70’s…keeper!

Coed dorms? A place where dreams and nightmares come true!
Coed office bathrooms…nuff said! Go down a floor, across the hall, lunch at Chochkies crapper. You’ve put in your time with sharing the facilities, you deserve your own little place.

Lofts? You tell me how a living abode word can have two desperately separate meanings? One loft is a trendy home in a converted warehouse district. The other is something you built with the roomie out of discount lumber from Home Depot.

Microwave popcorn? There is no escape. The dieting office secretary pops hers at 3:30 every afternoon. Its rank pop emanates from I sear to God the same over used, never cleaned, trillion Watt, and crusty microwave in your previous college dorm kitchen.
Smell Advice. Replace the Bath and Body weapon of mass destruction smells with something clean and subtle. Hopefully there is no need to unsuccessfully disguise the previous zoo smell of your dorm room. And no more need for the incense stick. Well, maybe. Depending on your relax habits. This time use a liquid oil incense diffuser.

What’s that on the Wall? No movie posters, horribly sickly sweet romantic prints, pennant flags, sports, splayed nudity, beer induced advertisements or anything computer game related. There is a time to put away childish things and start anew as a grown, legal, libel, liberated, insurance paying individual. Exception you can keep out that Madden 10…that is a pretty sweet game. Oh, and stacking beer cans has now become recycling. I think Mother Earth can take another one for the team. Go ahead and start another.

“Back After Class!” Grease pencil message board on the door. Maybe one of these plastic wonders can still reside in your world, but keep it on the cubicle wall.

The Right to be Wrong

February 25, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about right answers recently. In high school the world revolves around the right answers. We are trained, even before that, that right answers get you ahead. The best perks are saved for those of us who can figure out how to translate their right answers into tenths and hundredths of points of a GPA. Those people are the ones who are going to succeed in life. Or at least that is what we are told.

I chose to go to a college that didn’t have grades. New College of Florida was my absolute utopia for four years and I scoff at the day that I thought I wanted to go to “big state university far from home.” I can’t speak for other people’s college experience, but at least at mine, I started to develop the concept that right answers get you somewhere, but your wrong answers are valuable too. Instead of grades, we had evaluations that told us what we did well and what we could work on. So while I was learning from my wrong answers, the right answers still prevailed as a goal- something to achieve. [Read more]

Is The Bro Still Alive?

February 20, 2008

I truly value my college years, especially during my undergrad in Orlando. My time at the University of Central Florida was one of the most enlightening experiences in my life. Within those four years, I became fully aware of how much I didn’t know about anything, let alone what I THOUGHT I knew about my passions, film and literature. I was so eager to soak in all the knowledge my ripe brain could absorb. I remember vividly driving to school and being excited about going to class; I actually LOOKED FORWARD to school, a sensation I never possessed before. Every semester I made sure that I had one or two film theory classes, a lit class, a writing class, and a philosophy class to keep me invigorated.

On top of going to class full time every semester (including summer: I was, after all, double majoring), I worked part-time as a manager at a video store (an awful chain that rhymes with “Lackluster”). With that kind of heavy workload, I was very particular about how I spent my free time when I wasn’t at school, at work, or doing homework.

My extracurricular activities consisted of: playing trivial pursuit; partaking in Mario Kart tournaments; going to [Read more]