What Are You Doing After College?
If you’re graduating, chances are you’ve been asked this question countless times. What was your answer? Getting a job? Well, most people would expect you to say you’re getting a job at some well-known company. But if you don’t have an answer to this question yet, don’t fret. You’re not alone.
Most people would feel that they have to walk off the stage with a diploma and get a job offer as soon as they’re finished with school. But not everyone is up for full-time employment immediately, whether by choice or insufficient qualifications.
Levo spoke to a couple of successful millennial women who had different ideas about what to do after college and were quite happy with their decisions. Below are a few things they did right after college. These may inspire you and give you ideas of what you can do for yourself.
Shauna Nep, who received her master’s degree in 2010 from New York University, chose to volunteer right after graduation, instead of getting a “real job.” She contemplated her dream job. Then she looked for her dream company and volunteered. A few months later, she got a full-time position there.
“I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to volunteer,” Shauna says, “but if you can’t afford it for a few months, it is an investment worth making.”
Volunteering can help you kick off your career up a notch. As most companies hire people with work experience, it’s a challenge for fresh graduates to land their dream job.
By being a volunteer, you get to practice and enhance the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom. That includes essential habits like problem-solving and time management. You get real-world experience and learn transferable skills.
Find a community organization or nonprofit with causes that you support. Americorps, Teach for America, Up With People, Fronteering, and All Hands and Hearts are some of the organizations you check out.
Disaster relief organizations, local community centers, faith organizations, animal shelters, and homeless shelters, among others, need volunteers the most. You can make the most of your time here doing volunteer work.
Aside from volunteering, you can also find an internship or apprenticeship. It’s great if you can find paid programs, with chances of getting hired full-time. But even without pay, an internship or apprenticeship gives you access to a mentor who can guide you. You also gain hands-on experience to apply what you learn in school and develop your skills.
2. Work Part-Time or Freelance
After graduation in 2014, Claire Spears went home to Tulsa without a job offer, and that’s exactly what she wanted.
“I had one thing in place—I would go back to This Land Press (where I had interned) and continue working on books in some capacity. I also wanted to apply for some fellowships and graduate programs. Then I started following interests—I like yoga; I should see if Lululemon is hiring. I like yoga; I should teach. That kind of thing,” she says.
One year later, she continues to do book production and design for This Land, works at Lululemon, does freelance copywriting, and teaches yoga classes regularly.
“I’m so glad that I gave myself time and flexibility,” Claire says. “I’m fortunate enough to be in the position that I did not need to immediately have a full-time corporate job upon graduation. I moved home; I let college soak in for a minute. I tapped into my interests and followed my passions. I’ve met cool, interesting people that I would not have met. And now, a year out, I have some really exciting opportunities for studies and business ventures.”
If you like to take control of your career and lifestyle, freelancing might be the best option for you. It has its challenges, yes, but it can help you pursue what you’re passionate about, be your boss, and work for yourself.
Depending on the niche you’ve chosen and the skills you have, freelancing can be a viable and perhaps the ultimate career choice for you. Alternatively, it can be a temporary gig for you while you’re trying to establish your footing in the real world. A lot of freelancing gigs will allow you to earn decent money while you’re waiting for more stable employment and salary.
2014 James Madison University graduate Isabelle C. Furth watched her friends spend their senior year preparing and looking for potential employment. She stayed firm in her commitment to take the summer off to travel, even when dubious friends warned her against this.
“I went with my gut,” Isabelle says. “I found a part-time position in southern Italy for a month after graduation, then traveled around Europe for another two months.”
When she got home, she immediately began looking for jobs, finding one at a top PR firm, Edelman.
If you’re the type of person who wants to live life to the fullest because yes, you only live once, taking a break and traveling to a distant place after college might be on your bucket list. That’s okay too, as long as you have your means or you’re willing to look for one, like what Isabelle did, there should be nothing to hold you back.
Right after college makes it a good time to travel because you live for yourself. You have no other responsibilities, like a family or kids, and your priority is yourself. Later when you have your own family, your priorities will change. For most people, traveling will be difficult to fit into the schedule by then.
Before you think it’s all just about fun, don’t. Traveling after graduation can also help you get a job. By going after what you want and doing something extraordinary, you may be able to attract employers who like to work with interesting and engaging people like you.
4. Teach Abroad
Upon graduating from the University of Missouri in December 2013, Emily Giffin decided to move to Costa Rica where she got her TEFL certification (teaching English as a foreign language). Emily says she’s so glad she took the time to do this before getting a full-time job, as the month-long training program gave her a unique experience in her field and connections from around the world.
“Now, with my TEFL certification,” Emily says, “I have a permanent ‘ticket’ for future world travels and can continue creating opportunities for others by teaching English.” Additionally, it was a friend she met in Costa Rica who connected her with her current job at Scholastic.
“Networking happens all the time,” she says, “so I figure, why not on the beach?“ Amen to that.
Sharing your skills with other people eager to learn is also a way to boost your skills and expertise. It can also bump your resume with experience and exposure to a new environment and culture.
Now, you don’t have to move as Emily did. You can join international programs for recent graduates and find a teaching job abroad for a period.
5. Pursue Higher Education
If you want to pivot to a new career path, going back to school may be your best option. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 2012 with a BA in economics and psychology, Kelly Roberts made the bold decision to pursue a Master’s in International Fashion Business in the United Kingdom. She had always wanted to live in England and was interested in a career in fashion, so she went for it. She completed her master’s degree and now still lives in England. Kelly now owns Bitter Lollipop, her clothing business.
“It has been incredibly challenging,” she says. “But I’ve learned so much more in the last year from running a business than I have from my undergraduate and Masters degrees combined.”
Most people aren’t certain about the career they want to pursue before they start college. Sometimes they just follow the trend, listen to what their parents wanted them to take, or simply wing it. So even if you’re already graduating, it’s not too late to take a detour once you realize that you wanted to pursue a different path. It’s never too late to start something new if that’s what will make life and career fulfilling for you.
6. Start a Company
It’s certainly not easy, but so many college graduates are doing it successfully. It was the peak of the recession when Avonda Turner graduated from Old Dominion University in 2010. “Following no after no after no,” she says, “I decided to turn my passion into profit.”
A self-taught graphic designer, Avonda founded TurnerHill, a brand identity firm she ran successfully for four years. Then she also founded ERIN/ANDERSON, a “desk to dinner” jewelry company.
“CEO and Lead Publicist” right out of college suited 2012 Jackson State University graduate Lindsey Walker just fine. Finding that her hometown had limited opportunities in her field, Lindsey decided to create her own by founding PR Mentality.
“Starting my own business at 21 years old has been the greatest experience of my life,” Lindsey says. “I am grateful and so blessed to be a full-time entrepreneur. Working for myself has shown me that I can create my own opportunities and finances. I don’t have to wait on anyone.”
Kayley Reed, the founder of Wear Your Label, a clothing line designed to create conversations about mental health, echoed that sentiment.
“Starting a business is the most rewarding and most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” Kayley says. “It’s not stable. It’s scary. It’s risky. But it’s also completely freeing, and seeing the direct impact you can make (and the success you can build for yourself) is worth it.”
If you have a business idea after college is one of the best times to make it happen. For one, you have no kids and family yet and no mortgage to pay, so you can dedicate what you have to bring your seed of an idea to fruition.
Starting a business right after college also allows you to take advantage of your burning passion. When you get a job first, earn money, and establish stability, you may find that fire flickering, and it might be difficult for you to walk out of the security your job provides. So if you have that entrepreneurial spirit right now, starting a business after you graduate may be the best path for you to take.
7. Do Something That’s Straight-Up Crazy
Many people probably looked at UC Berkeley graduate Melissa Mesku like she was crazy when she told them her post-grad plans. After graduation, she bought a fixer-upper house with 17 other people, built it into a housing co-operative, and started a nonprofit to run it. Many years and many jobs later for Melissa, that co-op is still going strong.
“I called it a ‘reverse retirement,’” she says. “Having fun and doing random things while I was still young, expecting to pay it off later. It worked well and I wouldn’t change it for a thing.”
Melissa became a national speaker on social justice, a language student in Guatemala, a high school teacher, a developer and content strategist, an entrepreneur, and a magazine editor.
Don’t be afraid to break from the norm and create the path that you want, even when you think it’s crazy. Crazy thinking can lead to creative ideas that could open doors for you.
Sometimes you need to take the risk, think outside the box, and follow your instincts. Having fun the way you want to can lead to opportunities, which you can benefit from for many years to come.
Don’t Feel Trapped
The takeaway from all this is that you shouldn’t feel trapped when people ask, “What are you doing after college?” The possibilities are limitless. You don’t always have to find full-time employment once you get your diploma. Do what you think is best for you (of course, after careful planning and consideration of various factors). You can be spontaneous with your life, not worrying about other people’s expectations of you based on the status quo.