The transition from college life to ‘life after’ is an emotional period. The illusive question, “What’s next?” is thrown at you from every direction. And, unless you have a quick-catch answer, you’re likely to take a few hits.
Since we were 5 years old, everyone has wanted to know: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You probably rattled off so many answers through time. We all have. Truly – every year I had a different career aspiration, but it never seemed to matter what I said I wanted because it was years away. Now, suddenly, the answers do matter.
According to U.S. News and World Report, after surveying nearly 300 schools around the nation in 2017, 41.5 percent of graduates received a full-time job after graduation while 5.2 percent were employed part-time. The same report indicated that 13.2 percent of graduates pursued continuing education (including graduate school, medical school, law school, engineering school, PhD programs, etc.).
So, where does that leave the remaining 40 percent of students? How are they navigating through the world?
Those statistics can be pretty intimidating to the college student who is nearing graduation and is completely undecided about their future plans. Those statistics don’t include those who just want to settle down and start a family right away, or the one’s taking a gap year to travel and “find themselves” or gain more experience before pursuing a full-time job. It doesn’t take into account that many people don’t start with their dream job and may have to work at multiple outlets at once, which doesn’t equate to a full-time job, but still creates income and gets their foot in the door for bigger opportunities down the road.
My point is that there are so many paths to follow after graduation and there is not one which is right for everybody. You get to choose the best one for you.
It should also be noted that just because you choose a path doesn’t mean you’re stuck on that road for life – not even close. People rarely ‘end up’ at their first job, or their second for that matter. Careers and the majority of other plans usually don’t remain the same for too long, and people also have the freedom to change their mind. News flash: You’re also allowed to do that.
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of being a doctor and then one day you decide you don’t have the same love for medicine anymore. You can always do something else. You don’t have to limit yourself to the expectations of anyone else – or even to the expectations you gave yourself that no longer matter to you. Do what makes you happy, until it doesn’t, then do something else. Regardless of what job you end up with, if you’re doing what you love, you’re on the path to a successful life.
Relocating After College: the Anticipation, the Fun & the Scary
The transition of starting over somewhere after graduation is going to be challenging regardless of where you land. Everyone is going to take on a big move to either a new place, or return to their hometown – oftentimes transitioning to living on their own for the first time.
If you have moved to a new city, challenge yourself to explore it. In between your daytime obligations (be it work or grad school), go out of your comfort zone. See the sights and meet the people. If you decide to take a gap year (which in my opinion sounds fabulous), venture everywhere. Completely immerse yourself in the culture of wherever you end up and soak up every ounce of every place.
If you’re not moving, but are living on your own for the first time, just commit to gaining a sense of independence. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you can solve your own problems and figure out “adulting” for yourself. It’s really helpful to have a network to lean on, but do your best to gain some autonomy by taking charge of the responsibilities in your grown-up life.
Come Fall 2018, I’m going to attempt to do all of this when I move to the “Windy City” to start graduate school. It’s going to be a huge transition, not only because I’ve only been to Chicago twice (once being a visit to the American Girl Doll store when I was 4 years old), but also because I’ve never lived in a city so large that public transportation was the primary means of going to the doctor or spending an afternoon shopping. I’m used to the creature comforts of having my own car and knowing where all of my favorite restaurants are. I’m fully expecting to experience some culture shock, and I’m OK with that. I can do it, and so can you.
Times of transition are challenging, but when you challenge yourself, you build character and you grow into a stronger version of yourself. No matter what your plans are after college (or even if you don’t have any plans) just enjoy what you’re doing, and give your life 100 percent. You may not get to decide the “what” in “What’s next?” just yet, but you sure can determine how you handle it.