While graduating from college is exciting, it can also be daunting. Which career should you choose? Which path should you take? As you decide how to move forward, it can be helpful to hear other college graduates’ plans and advice. Everyone’s future looks different!
When you graduate from college, you expect there to be a road map detailing the next decade of your life. You’ve got your degree, and you’ve had four years to figure out your future. Life should be easy-peasy, right?
Except, it might not be. Sometimes, you’re confused and apprehensive after graduation, and you find yourself stuck in a weird in-between stage where you’re not a college student anymore, but you’re also not quite yet a full-time professional.
When I was in college, I thought my friends and I would jump into our lifelong careers right after graduation. A few of us did, but the majority of us went in alternate directions.
Maybe you’ve recently graduated from college also, and you’re wondering now what? These are four of the paths my college graduate friends have pursued and their experiences.
Katelyn: Searching for a Flexible Career
Family, traveling, and friends are important to Katelyn, so she’s centering her career around what she loves. After living over seven hours away from her family for four years, Katelyn moved back home to Arkansas. She’s working full-time over the summer at her church. Reconnecting with her family and pouring into the church she grew up in and the church that feels like home were easy decisions.
Not only did Katelyn choose this job because she wants to give back to her church and because she genuinely enjoys it and the people she works with, but she chose it because it’s temporary. Right now, it supports her financially, and it allows her to be close to home. She can also take her time to find a more permanent job.
After the summer ends, Katelyn plans to use her degree in English to get a job as a remote teacher or tutor. Over the next few years, she wants to travel and visit friends, so she knows she should look for a flexible position. Eventually, Katelyn wants to put down roots and become an English professor, but right now, she’s taking advantage of this time in her twenties!
Find things to be excited about in life after college. You’ll become excited the more you look into new possibilities!
Leaving college was a bittersweet transition for Katelyn. Like most college grads, the community Katelyn found during her time at college made it difficult to leave. She encourages recent graduates to look for things to be excited about after college. Finding a job that’ll give Katelyn the freedom and resources to travel has helped her more easily say “goodbye” to college and the life she has built over the past four years.
Abigail: Wedding and Family Mode
Abigail is another college graduate, and she has wedding planning and starting her own family at the forefront of her mind. A month and a half after graduating from college, Abigail will be married and move across the country. Instead of looking for a job immediately, Abigail wants to settle into her new community and rest after the flurry of graduating and planning a wedding. One of the most important pieces of advice she can give to new grads is to rest after graduation. You’ve just completed four years of hard work, and your body and mind need time to recover.
Since her husband is going to grad school this fall, Abigail will work part-time as a preschool or kindergarten teacher so she can stay busy and get to know the people in her new city. Eventually, she’ll stop working professionally and be a stay-at-home mom. Though she won’t be teaching in the typical school classroom anymore, she’ll be able to use her fine arts degree through homeschooling and in the community.
Abigail has a different set of responsibilities than unmarried college graduates do, so her focus is more on her personal life and what’s best for her new family. Though she may not always use her degree in a traditional setting, she can use it in her daily life. She can also take the lessons she learned in college, such as time management, social skills, and how to speak up for herself with kindness and dignity, along with her. Her family comes first, so Abigail’s job must align with her priorities.
Tracy: Embrace Change and Don’t Be Afraid of Multiple Part-Time Jobs
Tracy has worn many hats since graduating from college, and she has had the opportunity to work in various part-time jobs. So far, she has worked as a tutor, research assistant, admissions counselor, bookseller, and substitute teacher. Tracy has had several part-time jobs at once, which she enjoys more than when she had one full-time job. As long as it supports you financially, she thinks a part-time job is helpful to transition from college to the workforce. Plus, trying out a lot of different jobs will help you pinpoint your interests and what you enjoy.
Enjoy this time to do stuff that you want to do, and be diligent with your money and time.
Post-grad life can feel scary, and you might feel pressured to figure out what your dream job is or commit to a highly-acclaimed Master’s program, but you don’t have to figure it all out right now. There’s a lot of responsibility, but it can also be fun and freeing. Enjoy this time to figure things out and be diligent with your money and time to sustain yourself.
Tracy has learned to be comfortable with change and transition, and she’s enjoying these post-grad years. Working multiple part-time jobs has given her both variety and helped her narrow down what she likes and is good at.
Nikki: Hard Work for a Forever Profession
After graduating with a legal studies degree, Nikki jumped right into a full-time position at a local law firm. She loved school and happily moved into the role of being a paralegal trainee and receptionist. The opportunity to work at this firm came to her during her senior year of college, so she naturally took this next step. She’s moving up the ladder, ready to take on the professional world and support herself with a rewarding and profitable career.
Nikki plans to work at this firm for a year and then reevaluate and see if she wants to go to graduate school or continue on the path of becoming a certified paralegal. Though she’s busy and isn’t getting to rest as much as some other college graduates, Nikki still makes time to try new activities she has never done before, like signing up for a self-defense class. She encourages other college graduates to use this time to branch out and take advantage of this stage in their lives.
As a college graduate, you should decide what’s important to you and plan your post-college life around it. Have you always wanted to travel and just haven’t had the time to do it? Is there a job you want to pursue because it would be fun and enjoyable? Are you planning a wedding and need a job that doesn’t require as much time, like freelancing?
During college, your and your friends’ paths were essentially the same because you all had a common goal: to graduate. For four years, my friends’ lives and mine were intricately intertwined, but now we’ve branched off in different directions. There’s not a one-size-fits-all manual or checklist. Unlike college, no one is telling you which class to take or when your homework is due; you’re largely independent.
None of the four paths in this article are the same. Sit down and determine what’s possible for you. Be smart about it, but also realize that this phase in your life is unique and probably a once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity. So, above all, embrace and enjoy it!