Right now, there are countless soon-to-be college graduates contemplating life after graduation. Most of them think college opens the door to their futures. But what happens when that door closes and you’re stuck in the hallway for a minute wondering which way to go next?
In other words, here’s the dilemma: You graduate college (Yay!), but you don’t have a job lined up yet and you aren’t sure if grad school is the right choice.
College does open a lot of doors, but not necessarily right away. Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed if you have to take some time to figure out your next move. As a college consultant, I don’t just help students trying to get into college. I also assist students who know they want to go to grad school with the application process, and I help students in the situation I’m currently describing to navigate toward their next adventure.
The issue of what to do until you land a job or until graduate school starts is common. Of course, to most parents, this isn’t an issue at all… They just want you to get a job and get out of their house! But there are some beneficial alternatives to working. (So enjoy it while you can, kids!)
1) Volunteer. If you decide to take a reprieve from working, volunteer in the field you hope to eventually work. You’ll get invaluable hands-on experience, and it will hopefully solidify your decision to start your career in that field. It may also show you the field isn’t the right fit, in which case it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. It’s often considered easier to land a volunteer gig over an internship because some organizations and companies don’t offer internships but accept help from volunteers. Volunteers are needed in virtually every subject area, which is another advantage to volunteering over interning. Interning is still a worthwhile option (and one that I routinely encourage), but I just wanted to remind you about volunteering. Most students only consider working or interning… Remember that volunteering is an option, too.
2) Participate in professional development workshops. If you can’t commit to a strict volunteer schedule, but want to increase your knowledge in a particular subject area, consider attending a workshop. They can range in length from one day to several weeks and are designed to provide continuing education to graduates and professionals. These are also great networking opportunities for eventual employment or admission to graduate school. To get started, do a quick Internet search of local, national and international professional organizations related to your chosen career field. These organizations often host workshops and conferences. Be sure to bring several copies of your resume!
3) Speaking of your resume, polish it. Start with your most recent achievements and work your way backward. Make sure to only add positions and accomplishments relevant to the jobs or graduate programs you plan to apply to. It’s also important to have several people proof-read the resume. If you’re unsure about its quality, seeking the help of a professional resume writer can be well worth the cost. An impressive resume is essential.
4) Take a free online course. If you want to continue your formal education but in a less stressful and less costly way, consider Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). These courses are offered through online course platforms like Coursera and edX, often for no cost. They are offered in countless fields on nearly every topic imaginable.
5) Travel. Here’s some advice from a recent USA Today article about traveling: “If, after graduating, you feel you need a change of scenery, consider traveling. Traveling does not necessarily entail learning in a traditional classroom sense, but it can teach you much about what it means to be a good global citizen, which is essential in today’s highly connected world. Travel can also lead to personal growth and inspiration, perhaps helping you to decide what it is you truly wish to do with your future.”
The key to navigating through this uncertain time is to remember there’s no set path. There’s no right way to get to your goal. You have options (isn’t that liberating?!). So start exploring, experimenting and learning. You may be in the hallway, but you have many, many doors ahead of you that will lead to great things.