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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Real World Reality Bites

Entering the “real world” can be scary and exciting. To ease some of the anxiety, the OPCD’s WFU alums share their advice for leaving the familiarity of college and starting this thing called life after college.

Here are their bites of reality:

Allison McWilliamsAllison McWilliams (’95, English and Spanish), Ph.D., Director, Mentoring Resource Center and Alumni Personal and Professional Development 

Don’t worry so much about where you will be in 20 years, be focused on where you will be next year. Take ownership for your life and your choices. Lots of people will have opinions on what you should or should not do, but no one else can live your life but you, and you can’t live anyone else’s life but your own. Most of all, have fun!


Lauren Beam (’07, Communication and Religion), Assistant Director, Mentoring Resource Center and Alumni Personal and Professional Development

Be intentional and take the initiative in making new friendships and meeting new people, wherever you may be living after graduation. I quickly learned that the ease of making friends at Wake Forest, due to structured activities and being around people similar to myself, was not the real world! Look for opportunities to be social, even with people that at first glance may not seem like people that you’d be close friends with. One of my best friends in graduate school was 15 years older than me, from Massachusetts (I’m a southern girl), and a former librarian. You’ll be surprised who you might connect with and make life-long friendships with outside of college.


 Patrick SullivanPatrick Sullivan (‘93, Politics), Associate Director, Career Education and Counseling

You DO NOT have to be an expert right away.  In my first real job, it felt like I was expected to have all of the information I needed at my fingertips.  What I came to appreciate is that I didn’t have to have all of the information at my fingertips.  I DID, however, have to be willing to go get that information.


Matthew Williams's profile photoMatt Williams (’09, Communication), Associate Director, Marketing and Communication 

Buy an iron. Im(press)ions are everything. The first one, the last one, and all the ones in between. For many, your external appearance often is a representation of how you approach your work. If you’re wrinkled from head to toe, one might assume you’re disorganized and disheveled. Walk in nicely pressed and confident; however, and people will immediately view you as a respected professional. Buying an iron seems like a small thing, but it has a HUGE impact on your professional reputation. 


Tiffany WaddellTiffany Waddell (’07, Theatre and Psychology), Assistant Director, Career Education and Counseling

You do belong, you deserve to be [here], and you deserve the good things that come your way.  Own your excellence and learn as much as you can, wherever you go!



Caleigh McElweeCaleigh McElwee (’02, Psychology) – Associate Director, Undergraduate Market Readiness & Employment

Jump in! You are responsible for your immediate future but don’t need to figure out the rest of your life. Consider the next two years as you make plans. 

Jump in! Talent matters but so does persistence. Many opportunities go to those who volunteer and put themselves forward, not just to those who are best prepared. 

Jump in! “It’s easier to tame a wild horse than it is to move a dead horse.” 

Then pay attention to the work you enjoy most. Figure out how to do more of it on your own time — Skills are developed with practice. Then, gradually, ultimately, make the move to make it your full-time gig and get paid to do more of what interests you most. 


Ben Magee (’13, Health & Exercise Science) – Presidential Fellow for the OPCD

Going into the workplace is a lot like that scene from the film, The Mighty Ducks, where Goldberg, the goalie, is forced to face his fears of being hit by the hockey puck. He realizes that his greatest fear actually turned out not to be so bad once he was forced to experience it. That’s how I wish I had approached more of the fears I had about the workplace – rather than stressing over them, just take steps to face whatever you are nervous about and you’ll probably see it’s not so bad. Like Goldberg, you might realize you’re actually talented in some of those areas. 


DeeDe Pinckney (’09, Communication), Assistant Director Marketing and Communication

The term”work/life balance” isn’t reserved solely for individuals with families or small children. Carving out time to pursue passions outside of your 9-5 is crucial to your overall health and happiness. Staying physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally fit requires taking a 360 degree approach to life and avoiding the pitfalls of focusing all of your energy on a singular task. 



Category: Professional Development

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