Graduating from college is an achievement worthy of celebration. It’s also an exciting time for graduates. Perhaps that’s why commencement speeches tend to be full of reflection and inspiration. Maybe as a graduate or an educator, you recently sat through one of the coolest commencement speeches ever. As a graduate and educator, I’ve had the privilege of enjoying at least two dozen such events.
However, I’ve also experienced and witnessed what happens in the weeks following graduation as reality slowly settles into a new beginning. Graduates must enter the workforce or perhaps reinvent themselves professionally by pursuing a new career based on the new degree. Maybe you are looking at moving out on your own for the first time or a change in your family’s lifestyle and standard of living. The difficulty is that no one really provides guidance after graduation.
Therefore, here are four tips for getting on with your life after graduation.
In the weeks following my own graduations, I remember feeling a bit lost. It was great being done and suddenly feeling like I had a lot of extra time, but I missed the structure my classes provided. There was also that awful question I was asked repeatedly: “What are you going to do now?” I know others express similar sentiments.
So my first piece of advice is to take charge of your own life. The habit of looking to others for that next step has to be set aside, and new graduates must spend time deciding what they want to do next. Typically this involves some of the following:
• Finding a job.
• Deciding where to live.
• Re-establishing a social network.
• Learning to manage time, money, and independence in new ways.
• Adjusting emotionally to the changes.
None of this is easy, and even with a strong support system of friends and family, graduates must make a lot of these decisions on their own. A process or template may be helpful in establishing a more concrete plan. The good news is that you do have some knowledge and skills to help you.
Apply Your Knowledge
As you move forward after graduation, it’s important to be active. It may help to take some time to consider what skills, knowledge, and experiences you gained while going to school. Then consider how they may be applied to helping you through this current transition. For example, look at the bulleted list above and consider the following questions:
• Did you work while you went to school? Could this employer be a starting point for your job search? Would your former supervisor be willing to serve as a reference for you? Would there be a position within the company related to your new degree you could apply for? Did your experience with online vs. face-to-face classes give you any insights into whether or not you’d like to work online or F2F?
• Can you compare/contrast your home town with your college town to see what you liked/disliked about each and use that as a guide for deciding where to live?
• Where are most of your friends and family located? Do you want to be near them? Away from them? Can they help you make some job or social connections to help you relocate or find a job?
• What did you learn about managing time and improving your own self-discipline while in school? Could you apply these skills to your job search and some of the decisions you are facing?
• How did you handle emotions during school? Certainly there were times you were stressed, afraid, concerned, or otherwise preoccupied. How did you deal with these situations? Can you use those experiences to help you through the current time?
Maureen Nelson offers some excellent tips on how to move forward with your career and your life (2011-2012). The main tip here is to take what you’ve learned as a student and apply it proactively to better your life.
Pay Your Dues
As you move forward making the above decisions, it’s important to remember that everything will probably not fall into place overnight. Discussions about gainful employment and the degree/job link, for example, often give us the impression that a wonderful, well-paying career is awaiting each of us after graduation. Rarely is that the case. Instead, most of us must pay our dues by working part-time jobs to gain experience, accepting entry level positions, working our way up an organization, and taking other such steps that are the realities of following a career path. Brett and Kate McKay provide an informative discussion on what this means (31 August, 2009).
For example, when I graduated, I did not have a full-time teaching job lined up. I taught part-time at a couple of colleges while working full-time as a trainer with a hospitality company that owned several hotels in the area. This allowed me to prove myself, that I could apply what I had learned as a faculty member, and I did find a full-time job within a year. Additionally, I spent this time networking and applying for positions of interest.
Rather than get discouraged, remember that these are steps forward and that you should enjoy the journey. Continue to learn and accept new opportunities, and that great career opportunity or maybe even a few of them will come along.
As you move forward after graduation, cast as wide a net as possible in your search for a job both geographically and in possible career options. As you progress from this point on, so will technology, businesses, and other advances. There may be career options and opportunities you weren’t aware of or couldn’t have anticipated at the time of your graduation. Be open to these opportunities.
For example, although I had always wanted to be a writer and decided in graduate school to also pursue teaching, I never could have anticipated that my writing career would take me to remote areas of Pakistan or that I would be working entirely online. I never anticipated that the two interests would intersect into my being an education blogger. By staying open to various options and opportunities, however, I’ve been able to achieve that rewarding career and life I wanted. You can do the same in your own career and life if you stay open to change.
Hopefully, these comments have been helpful to new graduates. Though these tips may not be the coolest ever, they’ve worked for me and many others. They should work for you, too.
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