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The Ultimate Guide To What To Do Once You Graduate College

The Ultimate Guide To What To Do Once You Graduate College

You graduated college? This is it. Congratulations! Now what?

Graduating college is a major milestone for many young adults because it represents the final leap into adulthood, but what’s next after college?

This is a question that many recent graduates ask themselves and struggle to find the answer. Should you start work or do more school? Should you get a job or travel the world for a bit? Should you stay in your local city or move away? Should you start a business?

Society has a prescription for young adults when it comes to figuring out what they want to do in life:  Go to college, get a high-paying job with competitive salary and benefits, climb the ladder, buy a house, retire at 65.

The only problem with this is that it doesn’t guarantee true happiness and fulfillment.

Your early 20s are a time to experiment, to get to know more about yourself, and to figure out the kind of person you want to become.

It’s ok if you don’t know what the next step is. What’s not ok is choosing a path that you feel pressed into because of what society expects of you. If you are not sure of what to do next, then this is a perfect time to develop an intentional experimentation mindset where every experiment takes you closer to your true purpose and interests. Intentional experimentation is all about experimenting with a variety of opportunities. These experiments help you know more about yourself and find the right fit.

If you are struggling with figuring out your next step after college, here are a few options that you might want to consider:

Graduate School

This is a very personal decision and there’s no definitive right or wrong answer.

Graduate school is for you if:

  • You are clear on the field of study you want to pursue and have the time to commit to it.

  • Your employer pays for it.

  • You have joint undergrad and graduate school programs.

  • You have at least 2 years of work experience in your chosen field.

Graduate school is not for you if:

  • You are not clear on your field of study.

  • You don’t have the time to commit to a graduate program.

  • You want to get more experience under your curriculum to increase your admission chances and have a better learning experience.

  • You have other financial priorities.

  • You are exhausted and need a break from academic settings.

  • You just want to avoid the real world and prolong your “student” status.

  • You are being pressured by family, friends, or society.

What to do if you decide you want to apply to graduate school?

  • Before you apply, decide your professional goals and determine what you should study.

  • Research institutions and programs of study. Talk to experts in your chosen field of study and those who are attending the school and programs that interest you. Find out about admission requirements, tests, deadlines, financial aid, etc.

  • Visit potential schools, if possible.

  • Register and prepare for admission tests.

  • Look into scholarships, fellowships, or loan programs that can help finance graduate school.

  • If you are studying abroad, you might need to have your transcripts translated.

  • Draft your statement of purpose and application essays.

  • Request letters of recommendation.

  • Don’t submit your application unless you have prepared in advanced, done proper research, and have compiled all required documentation.

Searching for Jobs or Internship

It’s important to keep in mind that while getting a job or internship helps in building your resume and acquiring new skills, it can also have negative consequences if not done properly. It’s not about getting just any job or internship but about matching your skills, interests, and passions to meaningful opportunities.

Searching for jobs or internships is for you if:

  • You want to get work experience in your chosen field.

  • You are clear on the career path you want to pursue and want to experiment with different job opportunities.

  • You are not comfortable with going on your own and starting your own business.

  • You want to be independent and start earning your own money.

  • You want to improve your curriculum for graduate school.

Searching for jobs or internships is not for you if:

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  • You want to take time off to explore and get to know more about yourself.

  • You want to start a business.

  • You are not interested in joining the workforce anytime soon.

  • You don’t know what work ethic means.

What to do if you decide to search for jobs or internships?

  • Use your school’s career services office.

  • Join a professional development or industry specific group.

  • Create and optimize a LinkedIn profile.

  • Showcase your skills with an online portfolio.

  • Check out career fairs.

Traveling

Traveling is one of those things that if done right, it can completely change your life exposing you to new opportunities that might have not been in your perspective before. A lot of adults wish they had traveled when they were younger before entering the workforce. That’s because once work starts, in most places you only get 2-weeks out of the year to travel and that’s not enough time if you really want to travel and explore different cultures.

Traveling could be for you if:

  • You are not sure of the path you want to take in your personal and professional life and want to take some time off to travel and get to know more about yourself.

  • You want to take some time to volunteer and help others less privileged than you.

  • You have minimum financial obligations.

Traveling is not for you if:

What to do if you decide you want to travel?

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  • Talk to your family and explain that you want to take some time off to travel and explore the world. Even if they don’t agree with the idea, at least they will know what’s going on and not freak out because you’re not following the traditional path.

  • Decide where you want to go and for how long.

  • Determine your budget.

  • If you don’t have a budget, figure out ways you can generate some cash. Working abroad, freelancing, crowdfunding, volunteering, family, etc.

  • Book your transportation months in advance for cheaper tickets.

  • Find a place to crash. It could be a friend’s couch, hostels, and if your budget allows, hotels.

Immersing yourself in another place and culture is a learning experience that will totally change your perspective about life and it will last longer than any car or any piece of furniture you may purchase in your lifetime. It’s an investment in the life experience that your future self can only benefit from. Make the most of it and let it change you.

Starting a Business

If you are 100% sure you want to start a business and become an entrepreneur, this is the time to do it. There are many businesses you can start, particularly with the internet. It will be a very bumpy ride with ups and downs but you will learn a lot about sales, marketing, leadership, operations, branding, and most importantly, you will learn how to fail and get back up again (many times).

Starting a business is for you if:

  • You don’t want to get a job and work for someone else being told what to do.

  • You understand it’s a learning experience and you will fail many times.

  • You prefer to invest your time and money into real world experiences developing your ideas rather than traveling or graduate school.

  • You are ok with taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Starting a business is not for you if:

  • You can’t handle the stress of starting and running a business.

  • You feel more comfortable getting a job and working for someone else.

  • You cannot commit to it 100% of your time.

  • You are not comfortable with validating your ideas and asking for money.

What to do if you decide you want to start a business:

  • Validate your idea(s) as quickly as possible with friends, family, and immediate network. If you can get at least three paying customers, you are on to something.

  • Come up with a catchy company name and concentrate your efforts on sales, marketing, leadership, and personal development.

  • Take care of your health no matter what.

  • Assemble your team.

  • Seek advice from mentors, develop a business plan, and seek funding.

  • Enjoy the ride!

Moving Back With Your Parents

While moving back with your parents might not be a right fit for everyone, it definitely has its advantages considering the steep costs of living on your own. Living at home can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about yourself and build a stronger relationship with your parents.

Moving back with your parents is for you if:

  • You are not sure of the career path you want to follow and need some time to explore and get to know yourself better.

  • You are not ready to live on your own and pay expensive rent. The last thing you want to do is being stuck in a city and job you dislike just to afford rent.

  • You have no internships, job, or travel plans lined up.

  • Your parents are ok with you moving back home.

Moving back with your parents is not for you if:

  • You are absolutely sure about the place you want to live in and the type of career you want to pursue.

  • You don’t want to play by your parents’ rules.

  • You have a bad relationship with your parents.

  • You have job opportunities lined up and are too independent to move back home.

What to do if you decide you want to move back with your parents?

  • Set a time frame for how long you are planning on living there and the main purpose of moving back home. Do you just need a place to stay before you start graduate school? Do you need somewhere to live at until you can save enough money and move out on your own? Be very clear on this and check back with your parents once this timeframe is up.

  • Set expectations about money and things to do around the house. Talking about money and house chores might feel awkward but it’s important to remember that being clear on how things are going to work while you live at home makes the experience much more symbiotic. Are you going to pay for rent, food, and living expenses? Are your parents going to cover you 100%? How can you help around the house with some yard work or fix-it projects?

  • Don’t forget to build your own life. Just because you are at your parents’ waiting until you can move out on your own, doesn’t mean your life is on pause. Volunteer, date, explore new things, and do your best to continue learning and growing instead of just waiting for your first opportunity to move on to somewhere else.

Whether you decide you want to travel, start a business, get a job, do more school, learn new skills, or just take some time off, the most important thing you can do is to have a clear why. Ask yourself: “Why am i doing this?” The answer to this question will not only allow you to get to know yourself better but it will also give purpose to whatever it is you decide to do.

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Published on March 25, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up. You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out.

But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

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Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

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Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

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Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

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Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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