Goals after graduating from college — expectation v. reality of how long it would take

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Do you feel like you are falling behind on the goals you’ve set for yourself after your college graduation? Keep reading to see the time-based goals I set for myself and how long it took me to actually achieve these goals.

Have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals? It’s an acronym that explains how to set goals. And it stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. As someone who is goal-driven and a procrastinator, I’ve found setting SMART goals extremely useful…until I graduated from college.

You see, by the time I was a senior in college, I had a pretty good idea of how to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals for schoolwork. By that point, I had been in school for almost 18 years so I could easily set SMART goals. But the thing about graduating from college and moving into the working world, it’s hard to know how to set SMART goals. This is because:

  • My measuring system (grades) became irrelevant
  • I didn’t understand what was actually achievable
  • And I didn’t have any experience to tell me about how long it might take me to reach a certain goal.

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So when I set a goal and didn’t achieve it within the time-period I expected to, I felt like I failed. It’s only now that I look back at things that I realize that I achieved my goals it just took me a little bit longer than expected. Here’s what I mean…

The 4 goals I set for myself for life after graduating from college and how long it took me to achieve them.

Goal 1: Find a full, time salary, M-F, 9-5 office job

Why I set this goal:

Because my entire life, my expectation was to find a steady, office job. My dad started his own yard service business and while it’s extremely successful, he always told me to aim for a job where I could mainly use my brain rather than my physical strength. My mom worked a steady office job and it seemed like THE life — she got to work at 7, went to lunch for an hour, and left work every day at 4.

My expectation:

6 months. Based on what people were telling me, this seemed like the average amount of time.

How long it took me:

Graduated in May 2016 and didn’t accept my first, full-time salary, M-F office job until July 2017

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Goal 2: Pay off my student loans

Why I set this goal:

Owing money to others gives me anxiety so it’s hard for me to feel relaxed when I had debt looming over me. And I knew I couldn’t truly enjoy living in the city while knowing I was in debt.

My expectation:

5 years.

How long it took me:

Less than 5 months. In full disclaimer, I am lucky to have some economic privilege. I invested in my family’s business and that year, I received enough to pay off half of my student loans. I held onto that money for some time and it took me reading Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover (affiliate link) to change my money mindset. Reading Dave Ramsey’s book helped me figure out what I needed to do to pay off the rest of my student loans as quickly as possible. You can read what I learned here.

Goal 3: Move into the city

Why I set this goal:

I always wanted to live in a place where I could walk everywhere

My expectation:

1 year

How long it took me:

So I moved into the city about 1.5 years after I graduated from college. But I didn’t start truly enjoying the perks of living in the city until 5 months later. So really, it took me almost 2 years.

Goal 4: Live a short walking distance away from work

Why I set this goal:

Growing up my commute to school was at least an hour. I knew I could save so much time if I could live and work in the city

My expectation:

1 year after graduation

How long it took me to get there:

1.5 years

What all of this means for you

The point of this is just to show you that it’s great to set time-based goals for yourself because it gives you something to aim for and prevents you from procrastinating. But don’t be too discouraged if it takes you longer than you expected.

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