Congratulations! You've made it to the crowning achievement of graduating from college. The long nights of studying while stuffing your mouth with skittles are complete. The last few years have left you with an extensive education in the many ways to cook chicken and how to remove those bags from beneath your eyes.
The special day is now here and none of these things matter anymore. As the saying goes, "The tassel is worth the hassle." You walk across the stage, shake a few hands, and receive your diploma cover (because we all know you won't see your tangible evidence of your hard work until 2 months from now).
While you're celebrating, someone finally asks the question you've been dreading for months.
It's the thing that's given you anxiety as you laid in bed at night. You bravely smile and respond with the answer you've been preparing for these last few weeks. Unfortunately, the response is one you truly don't believe. It's the answer that saves face with most of your family and friends, including your parents.
It lends the question of what to do if you don't know your next steps after college. It's the same question I've even asked myself these last few weeks. The simplest answer I've found: Do what's best for you.
A lot of your post-graduation anxiety can be contributed to those around you. You have a willingness to please everyone, from your parents to your professors. It's especially hard if you've always set a high standard in terms of your success. These people will constantly have suggestions for the next steps in your life after college. You can admit all the advice they're giving you is worthwhile and appreciated. After-all, they are older with more experience and wisdom than you have in your short life. You're even tempted to take some of the advice in hopes of making someone happy, because it can't be that bad. Here's the thing, the most important thing you seem to be forgetting is yourself. You're going to succeed even if it's not what they want. The one thing we constantly forget is our own happiness. You must remember this life is about you and no one else.
Your starting point may be a job that's not in your field of study. As far as you know, it may become the spark of a new interest that leads to a career. According to the Washington Post, only 27% of college graduates end up in their field of study.It's also been shown that nearly 2/3 of college graduates don't jump directly into their career. I hope that made you feel better even if just for the moment.
The path you are currently on is the one for you. For your entire life, you're going to experience comparisons about others. Yes, mom, I know the neighbor has a wonderful job at an office while starting her master's degree. The thing is: it's not the right thing for me right now. Trust me, I know, this isn't the easiest thing to say, and you don't have to say it. The confidence you continue to show is all that matters. Eventually, people may come around to accepting your current plan and some may not. The most important thing is that you're happy. We're young and have plenty of time to figure things out. It's a hard thing to accept as we've been conditioned to choose our entire career at an early age. We were sent to college expecting to know exactly what we wanted to achieve in life.
If you're like me, you may have had a solid decision, but didn't account for all the wondrous things you would discover while in college. You now find yourself trying to decide between career choices. Here's a bit of advice that helped me a lot: you can have more than one career. Wow, is your mind blown yet? You don't have to pick one thing. It may make things harder, or seem impossible, but as Walt Disney said "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." You may be the person who went in undecided and are still undecided. Conversely, you may have declared an area of study, but are still on the fence. The most important thing is that you have obtained your degree. From here on out, your options are endless; which is obviously apart of your problem. The best thing you can do is not allow yourself to be pressured. Remember to retain your confidence whether it's in pursuing higher education or a job, stick to it till you find your path.
Even those who may have everything figured out, may find themselves stuck every now and again.
It doesn't matter in which scenario you find yourself in, we all deserve time to figure it out. In the meantime, here are some things that may guide you down your path.
1. Lay out information about the careers that interest you.
Map out a list of all the interests you have. It's often helpful to get out all your ideas on paper and in front of you. It allows you to clear your mind and make better decisions. Take the time to research the career options matching those interests. Make a list of pros/cons that will help to guide your decision-making.
2. Find a job or internship in an area that interests you.
It may not be ideal, but it's a start. On the bright side, you're making money, even if it's not a lot.
3. Take advantage of alumni resources.
Reach out to fellow alumni to find out about job/career events, mingling opportunities, and activities. If your campus has a career or professional center, you more than likely to still have access to it. Even after school ends, it can be your greatest resource. Schools want you to succeed, you're a reflection of them. If you succeed, they look good and so do you.
4. Use those career/personality quizzes.
No, I'm not talking about the Buzzfeed quizzes, but you never know, you just may learn you'll be a teacher with two kids at age 40. Some informative quizzes can be found at sites like MyPlan.com and MyNextMove.org.
5. Create a dream/vision board.
The board will be the thing that motivates you when you feel like giving up. It serves as your reminder of the future you are working towards. Pinterest is a great tool for this, especially if you're looking to build a virtual one.
You may have to work a job that you don't favor while you figure this all out, but it'll be well worth in the end. The responsibilities of the real world are here, just don't forget to enjoy your life too.
I won't do the cliché thing and tell you to follow your dreams blindly. We all need money to eat and live. Unless, you plan on pulling a Mark and Roger and not paying rent. It's here where I'll remind you that it's okay to ask for support. You're not going to achieve those dreams without a little help. You needed help to get to achieve your degree and you'll continue to need it throughout your life. If those same people were willing to give advice, they'll still be there later.
If you remember only one thing it's this: Only you know what's right for you. Trust your instinct. It's brought you this far and will continue to guide you in the future.
Once again, congratulations to my fellow graduates. The road to here wasn't easy, but we made it. Keep dreaming, keep going. We got this.