Hi, I'm a senior in college, and, like a lot of my peers, I don't know what I'm doing with my life.
This summer, I interned in D.C. and tried my hardest to gather advice from anyone I could.
"What advice do you have for a graduating senior?"
I talked to my supervisors and coworkers, alumni, Uber drivers even — anyone with whom I could strike up a conversation. This resulted in a patchwork of pieces of advice that I can look to as I begin to make decisions about my life post-graduation. In case you, too, are at a loss for what to do or in need a bit of guidance, I thought I'd share what I've found with you.
Disclaimer: I have no means of knowing of this is good advice or bad advice. In fact, some of the advice on this list might contradict others. But hey, in the off-chance that something that I've heard helps you out, it's worth it!
1. You should never pay for graduate school.
I've heard from multiple people that if at all possible, you should receive scholarships/fellowships/GA positions to fund graduate school, or you should wait to get a second degree until you have a job that will pay for it.
2. Most people who love what they do discovered it by accident.
I rarely if ever met anyone who was currently doing and loving the first job they got post-college. Most people got to the place they are today by a series of happy accidents or important failures.
3. Don't buy a house until you're exactly where you want to be doing what you want to do.
A house is a huge investment. And even though buying a house seems like a pretty important checkmark on the adult checklist, you'll regret it if you buy one too soon. If you decide you want to switch jobs and that requires moving, you're in a bit of a pickle.
4. Travel while you're young.
Life only gets crazier. The younger you are, the fewer responsibilities you have. If you want to travel, it's best to go before you have a full-fledged career or a family to take care of.
5. If you like school, you can take time to work before going back to grad school. If you don't like school, go to grad school right away or you never will.
If you need/want that second degree, know yourself! If you don't do it right away, will you ever?
6. Don't get a job just to get a job.
If you need money, of course, get a job. Do what you need to do. But don't start a career because you just need a job. Don't commit yourself to a certain path because it's a way to make money. Rather, apply and accept jobs with a mindset to find your passion. Start a career because you love it.
7. Your passion can be your hobby.
This may be in direct contrast to the previous point. However, sometimes, you do need to get a job just to get a job. You need to pay the bills. You can still do what you love without earning money from it. Sometimes, you can't find a job doing what you love. Other times, what you love doesn't have a way to make money. Either way, it's perfectly okay to do your passion on the side. Volunteer, freelance, start an Etsy page, whatever your passion is, make sure you're doing it, in some form.
8. Your writing skills are so important.
Almost every single person with whom I spoke that was involved in the hiring process told me that one of the biggest things that they look for in job candidates is writing skills.
9. Reach out to alumni.
More often than not, alumni from your school are willing to help you. Even if the only connection you have is your alma mater, alumni want to help you because someone before helped them. They're a fantastic resource if you have career questions, need help finding a place to live in a new city, or want to bond over your school's sports team!
10. Nowadays, 5 years is a long time to be in one job.
You have time to try different things. The first job you get doesn't have to be the field you stay in forever.
11. Make sure you're not overqualified.
This sounds a bit like a Catch-22 to me, but hey. The advice I received was to be wary or racking up degrees without getting any work experience. A PhD. applying for an entry level position is confusing, and oftentimes, you won't be hired because manager assumes you'll be bored in the job or will expect too high a pay.
12. Sometimes, an unpaid internship is the best way to get your foot in the door.
Are you really a college graduate about to take an unpaid position? Maybe. Sometimes, that really is your best option.
13. Follow your fears.
If the idea of reaching for a new opportunity makes you scared or uncomfortable, it's probably a good idea.
14. Geography is important.
If you don't know what job you want, pick a city that you like and look for work there. However, if you know what field you want to get into, make sure that you research the hot spots for that field.
15. For God's sake, make sure your resumé looks good.
If you're on a college campus, there are countless opportunities to have your resumé review. Take them! A badly formatted resumé can disqualify you from a job before the hiring manager even look its content.
16. Learn how to manage your money.
When you're on your own, there's no time for messing around. Your loan payments kick in. You need an emergency fund for when your refrigerator inevitable stops working. At some point, you'll probably have to buy your own car. The time to start saving for retirement was yesterday.
17. You're never going to know exactly what you're doing.
And that's OK.