I can still vividly remember the day I graduated from college. The whole world was available to me, and yet, I was terrified. I was moving to a brand new city — without a job, I should mention — and starting a whole new chapter. But what did I want that chapter to look like?
Would life after college be different or similar? Would it be easier or harder? Would my friendships stand the test of moving all over the country? Would I finally have time to date and find Mr. Right? Could I still party it up and get away with it?
You're getting ready to graduate from college, and there is probably a flood of questions running through your mind. Everything is about to look different. This is what we are told pretty much from the time we suck on our pacifiers to think and plan for college.
But what about after college? How often are we planning for the in-between stage, when we have just graduated, are about to start our first professional jobs, aren't married yet and don't have an advisor telling us how to plan our schedules? It is up to you now to figure the map out.
Hopefully, these nine tips can help you:
1. Your major is intended to open doors, not close them.
So, you have chosen your major and finished all your requirements. Now, it's time to find a job. The only problem is, you aren't exactly sure you want to do the same thing you studied.
Well, congrats to you. This can actually be a really great thing because your degree doesn't limit you to one job or field. Figure out what your transferable skills are, and look for jobs that want those very things.
You truly can pursue a job you love, even if you didn't major in exactly the same thing. Expand your reach, get curious and don't limit yourself.
2. You don't have to have it all figured out yet.
It is completely normal to not have all the answers for your next step yet. You might not know exactly where you want to live, what you want to do or how it's going to look. I promise you are not alone. Unlike as was the case with our parents, who probably jumped right into family life, we are entering emerging adulthood.
This is actually the time for you to figure life out. Breathe, remember it will all work itself out and just take it one step at a time.
3. Your parents don't always know best.
You might not want to share this one with your parents, but it has to be said. When our parents graduated from college, times were a bit different. Job security and loyalty were guarantees.
Marriage and kids were often already part of the picture, or at the very least, they were soon to be. Moving across the country for a job seemed kind of crazy because there weren't many resources to do so.
Fast-forward to graduating now, and the landscape is quite different. Finding a job anywhere is a click away. Marriage is a far-off thought for most of us.
Your parents' advice is often going to be filtered through the lense of their experiences, so remember that you might need to listen. But then, respectfully choose something different.
This is when you need to fully start thinking for yourself. Make sure you follow your own path, and not that of your parents.
4. This is not a time for arrogance or greed.
You have done what you need to do for your degree. Now, you want the salary that matches it, right? Good luck with that.
This is not to say you should work for nothing or take any job that comes your way, but expecting to land your dream job right out of college might lead to disappointment. You are still an entry-level employee, and you need to earn your respect in the working world.
Your degree doesn't make you better than anyone else. So remember: You still have to put in the hard work and go through the steps.
5. Your friendships can truly last (with some effort).
Graduating is such an exciting time, but it can also be sad. You are often saying goodbye to some of your closest friends. It's more than likely that you are moving to different cities across the country and starting new chapters without one another.
Don't worry, though. With all the social media apps and technology these days, staying in touch has never been easier. Those friendships don't have to end, but they might have to change slightly. If they are important enough, and if you continue to put in some effort, your friends will be perfectly fine.
6. Don't be afraid to move home for a little bit.
I know moving back in with one's parents is no one's idea of fun, but sometimes, it really is the best option. I promise that your student loans are going to catch up with you sooner than you realize. Not having a way to pay for them isn't exactly fun.
If you do need to move home, just use it as an opportunity to save up as much as possible. Consistently look for a great job, and let yourself breathe for a second. It is OK to admit you need a little bit of help.
But also, don't waste this opportunity. Make the most of it, and no one will ever fault you for doing it.
7. Maybe it can be all about me for a little while.
I am not telling you to go out and treat everyone else like crap, but if there is ever a time in life to be a little selfish, it is now. Travel, try new things and live on your own. Do the things that you won't be able to do once you have a family and a ton more responsibilities.
This is the time to figure out who you are. Do what matters to you, and figure out what kind of life you want to live. Leave no stone unturned, and go out and live life for yourself.
8. Fun is not going on the endangered species list.
While college often comes with never-ending access to parties, events and meeting new people, life after college doesn't have to look totally different. There are so many ways to meet great new friends and still have a jam-packed social life. Give Meetup a try, and find friends with similar interests.
Join a professional networking group and learn from a mentor. Try out new happy hours, and introduce yourself to new people. Just think: Now you'll have no more tests to study for and hopefully a bit more money in your wallet. This can add up to some pretty great chances for fun.
9. It's OK to be scared.
If you are sad to see college end and afraid of what the future holds, you are feeling exactly the way you should. Think about it: You spent the past four years of your life focused on one goal. Now you've reached it.
You've had four years of the same place, the same people and the same goals. The fact that it's over can be sad and scary.
It's OK to have those feelings, and it's OK to be confused or unsure. It doesn't mean you will never get over them. You will figure it out.
Life will go on, and you will find a new, happy normal. Just give yourself time to grieve the end of one chapter, and get excited about the beginning of a new one.