Life after university

Posted on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A student at convocation

After so many years of school, you may find that entering the professional workforce for the first time to be quite jarring. Compared to university, you’ll probably notice that quite a few things will change, for better and worse, once you start working full time. While on one hand you might find yourself in one location for longer every day and thinking more about finances, but on the other hand, you’ll also have a lot more freedom to live your life the way you want to. In this article, we’ll help you prepare for what comes next and give you a few ideas on how to get organized once you land that full time job.

1.         Sitting is your new normal

The first thing you’ll notice is that you’ll be stuck in the same workplace for a really long time. While university lectures are three hours at the longest, office jobs usually require eight-hour stretches of work, with only a 30-minute-to-one-hour lunch break in between. If that’s a bit too much for you, it’s probably a good idea to take advantage of lunch break to get some exercise, whether that’s going for a walk or taking an exercise class (if you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that offers them.) If you also have shorter breaks before and after lunch, you can go for a short walk to relieve the stress of a new job. Even a short trip to the washroom or to the watercooler can do you a lot of good.

2.         Making time for what’s important

Speaking of sitting in one place, you’ll probably notice that it will become a bit harder to get enough exercise. While there are simple ways to get more exercise, such as biking or walking to work, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, it’s probably a good idea to get into the habit of finding set times to enjoy more physical activity. This will add some structure to your schedule while improving your physical and mental health. One way to make time for the gym is to exercise early in the morning before work: not only are you wide awake by the time you get to the office, but also you don’t have to worry about being unable to exercise after work when you may feel exhausted or when some unexpected work or social activity pops up. This kind of routine will also help you settle into a more regular sleep schedule, making the days go by much smoother than they would otherwise.

As time goes by, you may be tempted to eat out more to avoid taking the time to cook your meals, but those one-offs can quickly add up. One easy way to avoid falling into the eat-out trap is to start small: cook an extra-large dinner Sunday night so that you can set aside leftovers as a few extra meals to last you through until the middle of the following week. It also helps to keep a few simple meal on hand, whether it’s canned soup or a (healthy!) frozen meal for when you’re really pressed for time. As you get more comfortable with your new schedule and finances, you can branch out to try new recipes and longer-term meal planning.

3.         Enjoying more financial freedom

On the financial end of things, you’ll have a lot more freedom. While this financial independence may seem like a bit much to handle at first, you will quickly find that your finances become easier to handle, which gives you more room to set financial goals for the future. For some, sitting down and writing a detailed budget is pretty easy, but for others, it can be a tiring addition to an already long work week. Instead, note how much you make per month (after taxes, EI, and QPP/CPP), and subtract your expenses, estimating your income on the low end and expenses on the high end. At the end of every month, take a quick look to see if you’re on track. If so, great! But if not, you may need to track your spending more closely to find out where you are spending your money. For those who want an even simpler way of keeping track of their money, apps such as Mint and TD MySpend do most of the math for you, reducing the amount of time you need for budgeting. For those looking to save towards a goal, rounding apps such as Moka can put small amounts of change in a savings account for every purchase you make, so that the process becomes completely effortless.

4.         Adjusting to a more regular schedule

One big positive of joining the full-time work force is that you’ll finally have a consistent schedule. Gone are the days of three-hour lectures ending at 10 p.m. and late-night study sessions! With a steady schedule, you may find that you end up doing the same thing every day, but you don’t have to. Use your predictable schedule to plan events with friends, take up a new hobby, or plan your next vacation. While you’re studying in university, long study sessions and tight exam schedules may deplete your love of learning new things. With that out of the way, don’t be afraid to revisit your favourite pastimes and anything you put off during your studies.

While there’s plenty more that will change once you complete your university degree, if you keep these four points in the back of your mind, you should enjoy a much smoother transition and more time to focus on new-found passions.

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