Making it my business: 8 things every graduate should know

Forget Plato and Calculus. We’ve got what you need to know right here.

‘Tis the season to don caps and gowns and get stinkin’ drunk to celebrate the culmination of 4 years of work-avoidance, mean nicknames for people you see in the dining hall, and stalking people via away messages. Over the next few weeks, the majority of college seniors will be entering The Real World. And unto them I now bestow 8 simple tasks that any adult should master…or at least do well enough to not look like a total tool.

1. How to make a bed properly.

Hear me out on this one. Your apartment might suck. You might have no clue how to put together your coffee table from Ikea. But making a bed is an easy way to feel like a competent, contributing member of your household, if not society. It’s about your self esteem, really.

You’d be surprised how many people (*cough*my husband *cough*) enter adulthood without knowing how to *really* make a bed. I’m not talking about basic training bed-making here; just your garden-variety “Wow, that bed looks really nice” bed-making.

I tried to find a nice instructional video on YouTube about this, but everything was either pervie or involved drunk people *trying* to make beds. So instead, I give you this. Use it in good health.

2. How to write a thank you note.

If you’re a lucky little graduate, you’ve recently been showered with all kinds of gifts in the form of lots and lot of “bones.” And you bet your sweet bippy that you’ll be writing thank you notes to all those who hooked you up.

Before we get to specific wording, remember that just as important as the “how?” here is the “when.” The answer to “when?” is “Right freaking away.” Got it? No excuses. You are a grown up now.

As far as what to say in your thank you note, keep it simple. Go with something like:

Dear [insert name of generate friend/relative/relative stranger that your parents know],

Thank you so much for the generous graduation gift. It will be well-used for [xyz if you don’t know, make it up!].

It was so thoughtful of you to think of me. Thanks again!

[Your name]

3. How to interact with customer service reps.

The first thing you need to remember is that these reps are people who sometimes have bad days, too. The second thing you need to remember is that regardless of how bad their day is, it’s still their job to provide a service. Think of it as a balance of sympathy and high expectations.

Hopefully, you won’t have frequent run-ins with poor customer service. But, let’s be honest, it’s going to happen. Perhaps the hardest situations to deal with are those involving lots of money and you having to make lots of phone calls. So basically anything involving the City of Richmond. The best thing to do in these situations? Write everything down. I mean everything – dates, times, employee names, employee numbers, whatever you can get. Getting the employee name is easy, particularly if after getting it, you say “Thank you, so-and-so, you’ve been so helpful.” If possible, ask to speak with a manager to see how you can follow up later. And then, you know, actually do it. I know all of this can sound intimidating, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets.

4. How to keep an eye on your credit score.

You might have heard that we’re in The Information Age. No one can claim ignorance any longer, particularly when it comes to personal information. And credit is perhaps the most helpful or potentially damaging pieces of personal information in your newly-adult life. Luckily, you can keep track of your credit score without even having to talk to anyone – we all know how those millenials hate that. pulls from all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax), giving you a run-down of your credit history for free, as well as your actual credit score for a small fee.

Remember: every American is entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. Take advantage of it.

5. How to make at least one entree, side dish, and dessert.

I do not cook. At all. But, if pressed, I thankfully have a couple dishes that I could whip together without much thought or trepidation. This is especially helpful if you ever get invited to a pot luck or get asked to bring something to a family get together – which, let’s face it, now that you are a grown up, the freeloading at Grandma’s should really be coming to an end.

6. How to shake hands.

A weak handshake can make you look like a pansy. A crushing handshake makes it look like you’re overcompensating. Keep it firm and limit it to about 2 seconds. And gentleman, when shaking a woman’s hand, please don’t give her the palm up, just-grab-her-fingertips shake. It’s insulting.

7. How to be on time.

Being late sends two signs: 1) you’re irresponsible and 2) the previously scheduled engagement isn’t important to you. If you’re one of those people who is always rushing into the meeting at the last minute or whose family has to lie about the start time of events in the hopes you’ll be there on time, it’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself. You are an adult. Buy a watch and leave a few minutes early. And be prepared to use tip number 8 if you can’t get it together…

8. How to apologize.

While this is amazingly hard for some people, the process is surprisingly simple: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. It won’t happen again.” That’s it. No blame. No argument. Move on.

Thus concludes my wisdom, Dear Graduates.

Class dismissed!

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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