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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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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

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