Graduation is a milestone that you should be proud of, but as many as 50% of students leave college in the US with high levels of negativity. Much of that negativity is down to worries about what to do next, and the lack of support provided by many colleges only compounds that issue. Debts, worries about the future, and a potential lack of job prospects all add up to a lot of stress. It can be very challenging to leave the college environment without some practical ideas about what comes next. If you’ve recently graduated and you’re not sure how to move on, here’s what you need to know.
Stop Comparing Yourself
If you’re not sure what your next steps are after graduating, you’re not alone. Most students feel some kind of bewilderment after graduation, and it can take a while to work out exactly what your next steps should be. One of the most important things to remember is that you’re not alone in feeling directionless. It will often feel as if your classmates are in a better position than you, and scrolling through their social media feeds is only going to make you feel worse. If your classmates are heading off to entry-level jobs or internships at your dream company, you will feel a lot of pressure to do the same. Life post-graduation is not a competition, and you are allowed to go at your own pace.
Do Your Prep
Putting the employment wheels in motion before you graduate should be something that every student does, but it can be hard to make that a priority when your workload keeps piling up. If you couldn’t find the time to squeeze in some temporary work experience positions or some internships while studying, don’t panic. You will usually have a lot more free time after graduation, and you can use the summer vacation to get the work experience you need. It’s very rare that someone graduates and then walk immediately into the job of their dreams, but volunteering at your dream companies can be a lot easier to achieve than you might think. The sooner that you start the process of getting the real-world experience that employers are looking for, the easier the transition from student to the employee will be.
Be Aware of Mental Health
Life after graduation can be very lonely. Often, you will leave your college campus and head home, and you’re going to miss those housemates and study partners that have kept you going. You need to ensure that you don’t dwell on the negatives and take steps to protect your health. Your mental (and physical) health should be one of your priorities at all times, but you may be particularly vulnerable after graduation. Watch your diet, do some exercise when you can, and drink plenty of water. Upheaval always means a higher risk of falling into bad habits. Be mindful, and you’ll feel a lot more motivated to take your next steps.
Plan Your Debt Repayments
If there’s one thing that’s going to cause you to stress, it’s the amount of money that you now owe for your education. There is around $1.57 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the US, with the average student owing around $38,758. That can feel like a crushing weight and responsibility, but it doesn’t have to be. Managing debt simply means taking a more practical approach to it. The problem is that there are aggressive loan companies that can increase your stress levels unnecessarily. Loan companies like Navient are renowned for harassment, so if you’re having problems with a loan company, make sure that you know a little more about debt lawsuits protections. Having the right legal team in your corner can help you to reduce your stress so that you can focus on your next goals.
Take a Break
Not everyone will be able to afford to have some time off after graduation, but if you have the resources to do so, then do it. You don’t have to take a year off and go traveling, but having some time to yourself will make it much easier to work out what you’re going to do next. Life after graduation is not a race, and everyone goes at their own speed. Taking some time to recuperate after your final year of education can often be all that you need to improve your motivation. The more that you can prioritize rest and recuperation, the better. However, don’t make the mistake of letting that rest become all that you do. If you’re still recovering from graduation and student workloads a year later, then that rest has simply become procrastination.
Consider Every Option
Graduating from college means having more options about what to do with your life. Remember, you don’t have to stay confined to the career that you originally planned for when you first started your studies. The world changes rapidly, and some careers that exist today may not have existed even a few years ago. Have a firm idea of what your next options are, which could include:
- Finding an entry-level job/interning based on your studies
- Looking at alternative careers unrelated to your studies
- Continuing your education
- Finding a part-time job
- Starting a business/side hustle
You have plenty of options to work your way through, so don’t let graduation make you feel trapped in a career path that no longer interests you. Take time to think about what you want to accomplish next.
Use Available Resources
You might be surprised by the vast array of resources that are available to grads. Your college or university may have some options to look at, including career guidance. There are plenty of online resources available too, and whatever your concerns, you will find that there are often organizations already in place that are ready to help. Look at those resources that are targeted to your education field. From computer science graduates who can get access to specialist jobs boards to theatre students who are often left feeling abandoned by their college after graduation, finding the targeted resources you need is now simply a case of doing some online research. It’s useful to know that you’re not alone.
Keep on Learning
Just because you’re now officially out of education, that doesn’t mean that you should stop learning about your field. If you’ve graduated and still want to have a career in the same field as your education, then you need to stay up to date. The world moves quickly, and a new technology could change your sector faster than you think. As you’re looking for relevant work, make sure that you read trade journals and magazines and have a Google news alert for some of your field’s keywords and terms. The more that you can stay up to date with emerging trends and technologies in your field, the more valuable you’ll be to potential employers. Also, if you’re not planning on a career in the field that you graduated in, learning more about your new ambition is going to be critical. Look at the transferable skills you have learned that will be relevant to your new career, and keep up to date with those skills.
By managing to graduate, you have achieved something that you should be proud of. Although it can be terrifying to pack your bags and leave the campus for the final time, having a firm plan in place will make the transition to regular life much more manageable. Always remember that you’re not alone and that you do have options. Whatever your career goals, you have graduated, and nobody can ever take that away from you.