Exploring Your Options
There are those students who know exactly where they’d like to be after graduation, or at least have a plan mapped out that will allow them to get to where they’d like to be down the road. Many others have trouble deciding what to do after they’ve walked across that graduation stage, and may need some guidance or, more simply, time to figure it all out. It’s fine to put a career in your field of study on hold if you do things that may be useful to you later on or beneficial to your move into adulthood. We’ve come up with ideas below on exploring your options, with suggestions on the things you should consider when planning what to do with your post-graduation life and tips on the options you may not have considered.
Alternatives to Employment
Once you start a full-time job after college, it may be a while before you’re able to do those things you had always daydreamed about, like traveling the world or leading a community service project near home or abroad. If you’re having a particularly tough time on the job market, it may not be a bad idea to explore those alternatives to employment that you won’t be able to pursue once you’re locked down in your intended career. If you have a penchant for public service, the period right after college might be a good time to spend some time volunteering. Many programs like the Peace Corps or Teach for America will have required some foresight on your part, though, and you should expect a thorough application and interview process if you’re interested in that kind of experience. But there are plenty of opportunities closer to home that could allow you to give back to your community while boosting your resume for when you’re ready to get back out on the job market.
Even if you’ve done well deciding things on the fly up to this point, it’s always a good idea to have a plan (think of the one you created in high school) of what you’d like to be doing down the line. It may be hard to think that way right out of college, but the more you think about your future now, the less time you’ll spend floundering in jobs or other situations that aren’t helping you get to where you’d like to be. If you’ve moved in with your parents, think about coming up with a makeshift contract that will set a move-out date you’d like to aspire to, then work to make it happen. If you’re working while living at home, even part-time, start saving. You never know when that perfect job will fall into your lap — or onto the job market — and it’ll make it that much easier to move into a place of your own if you’re on solid financial footing.
If you have a dream job in mind but lack the experience to get there, think about the kinds of jobs and experiences you’d need to pursue to make that dream job a reality. If that means applying for an internship or fellowship opportunity that may not pay much, if anything at all, you may want to consider whether you should sacrifice moving out on your own for a chance to get the experience you need that could help you down the line. If that means an entry-level position at the company you aspire to work at that may not take advantage of all the skills you boast, it may be worth a year or two of frugal living to get your foot in that door. Commit yourself to whatever you decide to do, and your employers will take notice.
If graduate school has been in the back of your mind and you feel that a master’s or other professional degree would help you find a job in your chosen field of study, it may not be a bad idea to consider graduate school when you’re determining your long-term goals. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just go to graduate school right after college because you’re worried about the “real world” and have no other plan. As this decision would most likely involve adding to your student loan debt, the decision shouldn’t be taken as lightly as it often is.