You did it! You graduated college. What a relief, right? Time to take a load off. After all, you’ve been in school for most of your life and you made it to the end. What’s this? Everyone you know has a job waiting for them? Oh shoot! Were you supposed to ALSO be doing that while you were making sure you didn’t flop out of school? First thing you need to do is not panic. Actually, allow yourself one moment of sheer absolute insane panic, just to own the feeling. Now let’s figure out where to go from here.
You spent so much time worrying about getting through school that you may have lost sight of the fact that there is a life to live once the education part is all over. The hardest part of it all for me was the fact that so many of my friends had figured that part out. It left me feeling like I missed a meeting and now was left out in the cold. But what I didn’t realize was that you can still maintain some control over your future by having no plan and being so young.
When you graduate college you are somewhere in the 21-23 age range. You will feel VERY old and mature now, but in reality, you are but a young pup nipping at the heels of life. You of course have obligations (very likely including some debt), but you also have a freedom that begins to go away as you get older: the freedom to try some things out. Use your degree or don’t use your degree. Is there a field that interests you? Give it a whirl. Is there a class you want to take that you think will make you a fuller, better person? Go for it. It is going to be better for you to know you gave something a try than to regret it for the rest of your life. Maybe you just want to pack a bag and travel the world. This is the time to do it, because that becomes harder when you have a job, house, kids, and significant other.
If you can, try to bring in some income. There are plenty of flexible jobs out there—waiter, barista, dog walker, or a combination of many different jobs that let you fund yourself fluidly as you find your way in the world. Don’t be afraid of taking a job that isn’t a “career choice” right after college.
Be open to the new experiences that can guide you onto a path you might not have previously thought you wanted to be on. Ask questions about jobs, plans, and events that interest you. Most professionals are willing to answer basic questions and give you some beginner’s advice. Tap out an email and ask someone all about an industry you are interested in—the worst that happens is they say “no thanks” or don’t respond. Don’t be discouraged! You put a line in the water then you keep on moving down the river. If that line catches something, GREAT! If not, then no biggie; just grab that line and throw it somewhere else. It’s all about moving forward smartly.
There are people in your life whose advice you should trust, but don’t let just anyone tell you what you SHOULD be doing now that college is over. That choice is yours, so make sure you sample from plenty of small plates before you sit down for the entree. Have fun and try not to make yourself crazy. If you’re open, inquisitive, and resilient, you will go very far in whatever field calls your name!