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:
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:
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 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:
You think traveling is about partying and getting drunk in different places. If this is your mentality, then you are not ready to travel and it will only become a waste of time if you do.
You have short-term financial obligations.
You know exactly the career and type of job you want to pursue. If you are clear on this don’t waste time and go ahead. Do it now!
What to do if you decide you want to travel?
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.