When you were getting ready to graduate from high school, you probably heard a lot about how different college was going to be and how to get yourself prepared for college life. But for many people, the jump from college to life after college is an even more challenging transition.
And while in college you may have had advisors, professors, and other authority figures and mentors to help guide you through the high school to college transition, it’s a lot harder to find that type of support as you move from college to whatever comes next for you after college.
The idea of leaving academia can be very overwhelming and scary for many students. But it’s not an impossible task.
If you’re getting ready to graduate from college or you’ve recently graduated, take a look at some tips that can help you get ready to take the next steps.
Your First Job in Life After College Won’t Your Last
You may be excited to get to work and get started in your new career. And that’s a good thing!
But whether you already have a job lined up or you’re getting ready to go out and start handing out your resume, it’s important to keep in mind that the first job you land probably won’t be the last one. Your first job out of college doesn’t have to define your career or put you on a particular path that you’ll follow through to retirement.
There was a time when college grads in at least some fields could expect to take a job with a company and stay with that company, working their way up over time. You may have parents or grandparents who have that kind of background, and they may have expectations that you’ll do something similar.
But for the most part, that’s not how the modern workplace works. By and large, the days of climbing the ladder at one company are over.
You may move from one job to another in the same field, you may start in one place and then find a way to apply your degree in a totally different field and type of work environment, or you may even spend some time working for yourself as a freelancer, consultant, or small business owner.
You could make drastic changes more than once over the course of your working life. And that’s OK.
So try not to feel pressured to find the perfect job that will lead you to your ultimate career goal right out of the gate. Chances are that’s not going to happen.
Instead, focus on finding a job that meets your financial needs and suits your interests and goals for now, and be open to exploring other opportunities and paths in the future.
Think About Different Ways to Apply Your Major
It’s important not to limit yourself to one type of job just because you happen to have a major that works for that job.
Sure, there are some majors that seem to come with the expectation that you’ll have a particular type of job once you have a degree, but not everyone follows the mainstream path, and there are usually multiple ways you can apply the knowledge that you’ve acquired in any degree program, even if some of them are less obvious.
For example, if you have a degree in architecture, you may have pictured yourself designing houses or buildings.
But you might also make a good video game designer – just like in the real world, virtual worlds need the skills of people who intimately understand things like space and dimension to help build them.
If you’re more interested in the study of old buildings than in constructing new ones, you might have a career in research or restorative architecture, discovering the secrets of old structures or helping to bring them back to life.
Want to save the world? The fight against climate change requires the skills of landscape architects who can help design better water management systems, wildlife preserves, and other spaces that help with conservation efforts.
Use your imagination and consider your hobbies, passions, and issues that you care about outside of your major.
Look for ways to apply the knowledge that you’ve gained during your college career in ways that feel productive and meaningful to you, even if they’re outside of the mainstream job options for your degree.
Build Your Network in Life After College
The old adage that it’s who you know, not what you know, has never been truer than it is today in the age of social media and online networking.
Opportunities don’t just appear because you earned a degree – they come from other people. And you never know who might be in a position to offer the next great opportunity. That means that building your network now is incredibly important.
If you’re still in college, make sure that you’re making connections there:
- Join professional organizations that are related to your field of study and your career aspirations.
- Attend seminars, conferences, and conventions.
- Introduce yourself, ask questions, and participate as much as possible.
- Seek out leadership positions.
- Look for chances to connect to other students both within and without your own program of study.
- Take a sincere interest in the people that you meet in all aspects of life.
- Look for opportunities to help others when you can – they’ll remember it later if they’re ever in a position to return the favor.
It’s not about just collecting LinkedIn contacts or possible references for your resume, it’s about connecting with people on a human level and being open to what other people have to offer you and what you have to offer them.
This can be beneficial for more than just your career – on a personal level, it’s always good to have more friends and acquaintances who wish you well. And if you get started in college, you’ll have plenty of practice for making those same kinds of connections with coworkers, colleagues, and clients in your professional life.
Leaving college for the professional world can be daunting, but your future really is in your hands.
All you have to do is look for ways to make the most of it as you prepare for your life after college.