“I'm graduating college and I don't know what to do”
Graduation is fast approaching, and expect tens of thousands of students like you walk across the stage to receive a piece of paper. Some will be receiving their high school diplomas. Others will be receiving their college degrees, proof of freedom and a one-way ticket to your dreams. Outside your alma matter’s halls, you’ve tossed your cap with your fellow graduates, removed your gown, and are now facing your life’s biggest adventure. But then it hits you – you’re graduating college and don’t know what to do.
“What do I want to do after college? What do I want to do with my life?” Panic rises from the pit of your stomach, and the bliss you’ve been feeling vanishes. Because the truth is, you have no idea what to do after college. Not knowing what to do after college is downright terrifying, but this realization doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
I Don’t Know What To Do Next
You don’t know what you want – know and understand that this is normal. The first step towards recovering from that shock is acceptance. The path to you dream career isn’t straight, and the most important thing is to make sure that you’re travelling in the right direction. For some, the journey to getting there is the prize, so consider the many success stories of people who began to bloom much later in their lives.
Also consider your strengths. Sure, your mind may be playing one single phrase right now, which is “I don't know what I want to do after college,” but remember when that same fear had you thinking, “I don't know what to go to college for. I don't know what to do in college.”? Look at you now, you’ve conquered college. This goes the same with your life, as long as you’re always able to identify your strengths. What skills do you have to offer? What is your strongest personality trait? What do you do best?
Also consider what type of work environments excite you. Look back in college – did you work better in big lectures or small classes? Did you perform better individually, or with a group? Examining these could indicate which type of company you’ll best thrive in.
What Do I Do After College?
“What should I do after college?”
Wondering how to figure out what to do after college is understandable. You’ve been dedicating most of your life studying, and this sudden freedom and change of environment is both terrifying and exhilarating. You will naturally be overwhelmed, so if you’re still not sure what to do after college, read some the tips below:
- Learn how to manage your expectations.
A job you might want to apply for will ask for experience, and that will frustrate you. How can you get experience if everyone refuses to hire you, right? The truth is, you have to start from the bottom. From there you will acquire new skills that will lead you to better and bigger things, up that ladder. Don’t expect to be accepted for a managerial role as a fresh graduate.
This also brings us to the next point: unless you dream of becoming a doctor or a teacher, do not bind yourself to the idea that you will be spending the next 50 years of your life in the same field. You don’t know where your life is going to take you, and a linear career path is nonexistent now. Waiting for that dream job before applying to anything else will only hold you back. Look into practicality, as the brutal reality of life means survival – how will you manage without earning as much as a penny? You have dreams, of course, like art – while it may be the path you long for, it won’t guarantee survival. That doesn’t mean you should be giving it up on them, though. Learn to do them in your free time, as hobbies or passion projects.
- Learn a new skill.
Don't know what to do after college? Learn a new skill. Chances are you will have all the time in the world, so it’s your duty to use that wisely. Of course, learn skills that will be relevant to your already existing skills, as well as the initial career you want to thrive in.
- Patience is a virtue.
The going is tough and merciless. You just need that one employer to take a chance on you to be able to show them what you got. That scenario, before actually taking place, will take a lot of patience, so hang in there. It will come to you eventually.
What To Do After College
Quit looking for external answers - it’s time to ask yourself, “What do I want to do after college?” Chances are, you’ll understand better and actually know where to start. Only you know yourself better than anyone. To aid with a much needed introspection, read the advice below – some of it may apply to you.
- Take a break and go home.
You’ve experienced breaks, no doubt, but now that you have all the time in the world, don’t you want to experience a real break? No more responsibilities to do before school starts again? You’ve spent most of your life working tirelessly to obtain that education, so this is your chance relax before those the real world creeps in. Go home if you must – this is an economically intelligent decision, as staying home will, essentially, keep you bill free. You will also be surrounded by friends and family, who will help you solidify decisions on what to do now.
- Consider travelling.
The chance to travel is difficult during college, mostly because of the lack of time and resources. After graduation, you’re very much free. Travelling is one of the best things to do after graduation from college, as it will give you a chance to get to know the world better, and in turn, yourself. Exploring the world is eye-opening, and completely refreshes you before you plunge in to the next chapter of your life.
- Get another degree.
Some students think, “I have no idea what to do after college, but I want to study more.” The answer is to get another degree. Perhaps this is what you’re meant for, and the notion of “knowledge is power” is one of your life mottos. Higher education will broaden your opportunities, and help you explore more of your interests.
- Take risks.
You’ve already finished college, and that’s already a huge risk in itself. Why not risk some more? Go out there and do everything you’ve ever dreamt of doing. Thinking of moving to Los Angeles? Do it. Want to apply for a scholarship in Korea? Go for it. Time is ticking, and you’re more than capable now of making what seems to be impossible for you, possible. Risks involve sacrifices, but the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
- Start your own business.
Still thinking “I don't know what to do after college”? Then perhaps starting a business is your calling. You may be part of those people who just won’t fit in with the workforce, so entrepreneurship might be the journey you need to embark on. This is a great way to channel your creativity and monetize it. As a fresh graduate, you have nothing to lose. Bonus points for being your own boss.
- Get a job.
If you’re thinking practically, then perhaps getting a job after graduation is the best option. The sooner you become acquainted with how the system works in the corporate world, the better. This means actually earning and not having to live off of noodles and crackers. It’s also the best way to pay of your student loans, if you have any.
Yes Reneau, a Harvard graduate, shared some thoughts about college graduation blues and things nobody tells you. Check out her video below: