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Your orientation guide to the ‘real world’

Got a job? Apartment? Andrea Syrtash and recent graduates share advice on how to survive the post-college life. Read an excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY

College graduates spend more than 40 billion dollars a year getting equipped for adult life. This includes spending money on everything from finding a job, renting an apartment, buying new clothes and furniture, and much more.“How To Survive The Real World: Life After College Graduation” by life coach Andrea Syrtash offers advice on everything from: finding a job (keeping a job!); renting an apartment (sharing a sublet!); managing your money (instead of dad’s); taking care of your belongings; to looking for love. Syrtash was invited on “Today” to discuss her expertise and findings from the book. Here's an excerpt:

While the U.S. Department of Labor reports approximately five per cent of people acquire jobs in a “traditional” way — through an ad or notice — Syrtash notes that most jobs are obtained through networking and referrals.

According to Syrtash, networking was the single most effective tactic new adults have used when looking for everything from a job, relationship, or an apartment. Additionally, she says, making decisions and visualizing what you want are also key points new adults need to consider when trying to “survive” the real world. Putting these elements into action, Syrtash says, are crucial to getting what you want. This doesn’t mean you have to be insincere or schmooze in a way that makes you uncomfortable; but she urges grads to take risks to go for what you want and to get out there.   

Here are some of Syrtash’s networking pointers:  

1. Put your feelers out. You can do this effectively by mentioning what you are looking for into every conversation. In many cases, the people you know the least will help you the most and have connections to opportunities your friends and family may not know about.

2. Tell people what you’re interested in doing, but don’t spend a lot of time talking about yourself. Make sure to ask other people questions about how they ended up where they are or if they have advice to share with you.

3.  When someone has made the time to help you in your job search and/or meet with you to discuss an opportunity, always follow up with a thank you card or e-mail. If you would like to keep the relationship going, you may want to send holiday cards periodically.

Finding a job in the real world
Syrtash offers these tips, also included in the book:

1. It’s important to find a job you might like and then set up an informational interview. Syrtash says this is valuable advice because the person you meet with may not have an opportunity for you, but he or she may put you in touch with somebody who does or even remember you later when a new position opens up.2. Find a connection rather than cold calling — even if it's a friend’s aunt — any personal connection helps you stand out from the other applicants. If you have to apply “cold,” print your resume on non-white paper. You have to do whatever you can to stand out from the rest.

3. During the interview, stay enthusiastic, but don't mention you want to run the company one day or you see this job as your launching pad to something bigger.4. Always follow up with a thank you note — a card is better than e-mail. Either way, make sure to send something to acknowledge the time put aside to meet with you.5. Be open-minded. Your first job may not be your dream job, but with the right attitude and commitment it may lead to another fantastic opportunity in the company or somewhere else.

Dating and meeting new friends in the real worldIt’s not as easy after college to meet new people. Networking is also a valuable way to meet friends and dates. Syrtash offers these tips on dating and friendship:

1. Write out your “must have”/ “can't stand” list. It can be as silly as wanting a partner to sing in tune to something as serious as feeling you need to be with someone of the same faith. Whatever is important to you, make a list of ten “must-haves” and “can't-stands” in a potential mate.

2. “Pick up” singles for friendship. One issue that singles face is that they feel like the minority amongst their good friends who may have coupled off. By meeting other singles at parties, book clubs, the gym or other social outings, you're more likely to enjoy your singlehood.

3. Network to create your own possibilities. It’s all about attitude — if you act like you're ready to have fun and would love to meet someone great, people will be compelled to help. Ask five people if they know a few people you may be interested in. Once you've done your “must have”/“can't stand” list, you can highlight a few things when asked what you're looking for. 

4. Believe in quantity to find quality. Sign up for a few months of online dating. For many adults it may be hard to get over the fact that it's not as romantic to meet a person this way. There's a good chance you'll make a connection with somebody; but even if you don't, you're practicing your dating muscle and think of all the funny stories to share with others!

5. Be too busy to notice you're single. Many meet the loves of their lives when they are too excited about their own endeavors and hardly have time to schedule a date. Re-connect with all the fabulous dreams and talents you haven't tapped into in recent years. Make a list of a few things you want to do and pick one that you can complete this year. It'll be great for you — and great for the person you meet who will be drawn to your exciting life.  

Dealing with new finances
Earning new money is exciting, but it can be challenging for many new adults who are learning to cope without being bankrolled by mom and dad.

“How to Survive the Real World” offers these tips:

1. Don’t spend what you don’t have, especially when it comes to credit cards.

2. Don’t be seduced by 10% off when you sign up for a new department store credit card. You’ll save a lot more in the end by passing on it. The fewer the credit cards, the better.

3. Pack some lunches for work or grab coffee in the office — eating out every day can add up; it costs a lot more than you realize.

4. Set a monthly budget and stick to it. Save a certain number of dollars each month, and use the rest as “mad money” for fun. Just know the amount of fun money you have to spend before you enjoy it. 

Basic survival skills necessary for the real world 
Last, but not least, being an adult means you now have to act like one. Etiquette is important in both business and life. The book offers these tips to take with you in your future endeavors:

1. Being an adult means you should dress like one. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It’s important to dress professionally in a way where others will take you seriously as an adult, not a recent graduate.

2. Send handwritten thank-you cards for gifts promptly and always bring a gift to the host of a party you attend.

3. When dining out, keep your language and your behavior in check.

4. When sending any kind of correspondence, make sure you’ve spelled the recipient’s name correctly.

5. Keep money matters private — once you’re out of college it’s no longer appropriate to talk about how broke you are.

Excerpted from “How to Survive the Real World: Life After College Graduation,”edited by Andrea Syrtash. Copyright © 2006 by Andrea Syrtash. Excerpted by permission of . All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.