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Exploring Your Options

There are students that have a solid idea as to what they want to do or be after graduation. Others have a little more trouble deciding what to do once walking across the graduation state, and may need some guidance or more time to decide. Most often, students pursue a career in their field of study. We have compiled some suggestions on the things you should consider when planning what to do in post-graduation life as well as some options you may not have considered already.

Alternatives to Employment

Once you start a full-time job after college, it may be a while before you’re able to do those things you had dreamed about, like traveling the world or leading a community service project near home or abroad. If you’re having a particularly tough time on the job market, it may not be a bad idea to explore those alternatives to employment that will not be as easily available once you are working full-time. If you have a penchant for public service, the period right after college may be a perfect time for volunteering. Many programs like the Peace Corps or Teach for America will require some foresight and you should expect a thorough application and interview process if you are interested in that avenue. There are plenty of opportunities closer to home that could allow you to give back to your community while boosting your resume before entering the job market.

Long-Term Goals

Even if you are good with last-minute decisions, we recommend having a set plan, the one you created in high school), of future prospects. That kind of thinking may be difficult and tedious post-college, but the more you think about your future now, the less time you’ll spend floundering in jobs. If you’ve moved in with your parents, think about coming up with a makeshift contract that will set a move-out date, then work to make it happen. If you’re working while living at home, even part-time, start saving. You never know when that perfect job will fall into your lap — or onto the job market — and it’ll make it that much easier to move into a place of your own if you’re on solid financial footing.

If you have a dream job in mind but lack the experience to get there, think about the kinds of jobs and experiences you’d need to pursue to make that dream job a reality. If that means applying for an internship or fellowship opportunity that don’t pay as much, you may want to consider whether you should sacrifice moving out on your own for a chance to get the experience you’ll need later in life. If that means an entry-level position at the company you aspire to work at that may not take advantage of all the skills you boast, it may be worth a year or two of frugal living to get your foot in that door. Commit yourself to whatever you decide to do, and your employers will notice this as well.

If graduate school has been in the back of your mind and you feel that a master’s or other professional degree would help you find a job in your dream field, consider graduate school when determining your long-term goals. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just go to graduate school right after college because you’re worried about the “real world” and have no other plan. This decision would most likely involve adding to your student loan debt, and shouldn’t be taken as lightly as it often is.

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Last Reviewed: September 2019