Jen Schefft has some advice for all the other bachelorettes out there: be patient, don’t settle and you will find the man of your dreams.

Schefft is living proof. After becoming engaged to Andrew Firestone on The Bachelor in 2003, then breaking up, and going on The Bachelorette, Schefft, 32, recently tied the knot with Joe Waterman, 35, an options traders at the Chicago Board of Trade.

“It’s great knowing that I have a partner,” she tells PEOPLE of married life. “It doesn’t feel different. It just feels better.”

Just back from her Hawaiian honeymoon, Schefft is settling into life as a new wife in the one-bedroom Chicago condo the couple share with Cooper, a 2-year-old Maltese mix, and where Waterman does the cooking and Schefft takes on the cleaning.

Before everything worked out, “I went on a million blind dates that didn’t work out,” she said of her dating life. “I did get discouraged, but you just have to keep getting out there.”

In fact, she met her husband on a blind date and says she knew he was the one right away.

“It was so easy. We got along so well from the beginning,” she said. “I knew what I was looking for. Someone I could totally be myself with, someone funny, fun, down to earth and my best friend. And that’s what I found.”

Within eight months, the two were engaged. “Joe and I tried to make it as low-stress as possible,” she said of her wedding at Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago in front of 113 guests. “There was nothing out of the ordinary.”

Is there a new addition to their clan on the way? “We definitely want kids, sooner rather than later,” she said. “It’s definitely not going to be one of those things where I wait five years.”

Not that she’s opposed to waiting — for the right guy. “They will always come along,” she says. “For all those who are discouraged, you can meet the right person. Just don’t settle.”

Shefft, meanwhile, has a new job as an account manager for Henson Consulting, a Chicago-area public relations firm. She will lead some accounts including Little Black Dress Wines, which bills itself as the “official wine of award season,” and hosts celebrity auctions, and Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, a local hotspot for celebs and bands visiting the city.

“Jen’s previous life on reality TV truly wasn’t a factor in hiring her,” said agency owner Kathleen Henson. “It actually never even came up in the interview process. I just liked her and her vibe fit ours.” — Hilary Shenfeld