The final notes of Pomp and Circumstance fade into the background. The last graduate cap hits the ground with an anticlimactic thud. The final whoops and hollers diminish as you shuffle from the auditorium and into the Real World.
After the celebrations and the partying (oh, the partying), you’re left with a hollow question ringing in your mind: “Now what?” This question is the bane of all recent graduates as relatives, friends, and possibly coworkers sound off all around, echoing back the same question as if it hasn’t already been running through your mind ceaselessly.
Now what? Maybe the options feel too numerous; perhaps the world is too big but feels too small. However, the possibilities for which direction you should now take are endless. After so many years of school and for the first time ever, you finally get to decide what it is you want to do on your own.
No pressure, right? So, what is it you want to do? How can you possibly decide when there are so many different criteria to consider? By looking at your options and goals and carefully considering the decisions that need to be made in advance, the choice about what to do after graduation can be a happy one.
Option 1: Go Back to School
What? But I just emphasized how free you finally are! You were stuck in school for so many years, and you just finished! Why on earth would you ever want to go back?
Going back to school is a good option if you’ve already been struggling in the job market. If you’ve found that no positions are available in your field or that you don’t have enough schooling to land your target job, then you should consider packing your backpack again. Chances are you should give another career path a try or get more schooling (like your Ph.D.).
However, you should consider your financial situation. You probably have a ton of student debt to pay off as it is, so considering your financial situation is important before you sharpen your pencils again. If you can’t afford to go back to school, it’s probably a good idea to work outside your field or even in a job you feel overqualified for so you can earn some extra cash. You could also look into getting help through loans or scholarships.
Option 2: Enter the Workforce
You don’t want to go back to school. You’ve been there and done that so you could get the job you’ve always wanted. Let’s look at another possibility.
Entering the workforce is a good option if you’re looking to take the next step in your career. To work in your field, you probably went to school to take the appropriate program and earn the necessary qualifications. Now that you have them, you can finally get to work! Plus, you’ll be making that hard-earned money, which means you’ll be able to support yourself and work toward other goals.
However, you should consider your qualifications. Are you qualified enough to work in your field, or is more schooling necessary? You might not want to go back to school, but sometimes there’s no other choice. You should also consider your mental state. Are you totally worn down from school? If you’re burnt out and need a break, you probably won’t last long in the professional world, so it’s important to consider how you’re feeling before you dive into the next big thing.
Option 3: See the World
You don’t have classes to work around anymore. You don’t have a job yet that you need to schedule time off from. You’re free—so free, you can travel the world!
Seeing the world is a good option if you’re looking to make the most of your freedom while you still have it. Because you have nobody to answer to but yourself now that you’ve graduated, you might want to travel somewhere you’ve never been, visit family or friends in another place, or revisit a spot you love. Now’s your chance to book that flight!
However, you should consider your financial situation once again. Do you have the extra money to go gallivanting around the world? Look at cheap destinations, find flight deals, and ask about staying with people you know. If you don’t have the money, you can work a temporary job before taking off for your vacation.
Option 4: Move Back Home
Maybe you’re tired. You just want to relax now that you’re finally done and take a mental break from study notes, teaching assistants, and exam questions. A familiar face is just what you need.
Moving back home is a good option if you’re looking to turn your brain off for a while and build some much-needed stamina. If you’re able to take a break and have a staycation, you’ll be able to breathe for a while and figure out exactly what direction you’ll take after your break. You can also save money by living at home.
However, you should consider your goals. Once you’ve put on the brakes, it’s easy to stay parked and not move again. Have an exit strategy for when you’re ready to leave. You’ll want to give yourself a time frame, and your parents will likely want you to have one, too. When do you want to be out on your own? You’ll have to have a game plan once you get there. Why exactly did you go to school? What’s next? Answering these questions will ensure that you stay motivated after your break.
Option 5: Help Someone Else
You didn’t pursue higher education to party in another country or to laze around at home! You went to school so you could better yourself. With a little work, you could help to better the world, too.
Volunteering is a good option if you want to give back. You can volunteer locally to give back to your community or volunteer abroad to better the world one step at a time. Helping other people is rewarding, and it’s always a good idea to volunteer if you can. You’ll also be able to add to any qualifications you need for job hunting with the appropriate volunteer work, so say hello to an improved resume.
However, you should consider your financial situation. While it’s nice to volunteer, it’s not always possible if you’re broke. You might want to consider working part-time while you volunteer so you can support yourself. If all else fails, living at home might help you to pursue your goal of volunteering, so say thank you to your accommodators and continue improving the lives of those around you!
Option 6: Pursue a Dream
You’ve got an idea in the back of your mind, a dream you’ve had for a long time but have never had the time to pursue. There’s nothing stopping you now!
Pursuing a dream is a good option if you want to cross a goal off your list. Now’s the perfect time for you to chase that dream you’ve always had. Whether you’ve always wanted to write a novel, be in a movie, get in shape, learn how to sword fight, or bowl a perfect 300, now is your chance! You have the time and the freedom to follow that dream of yours, and you’ll love yourself for using that time and freedom so wisely.
However, you should consider your financial situation. If you can’t afford to buy sword-fighting equipment or spend all your time at the bowling alley, your dream may have to wait until you can advance your professional career. The good news is that you can always pursue a dream after work hours, so don’t give up just yet!
Deciding what to do after graduation is a lot of pressure, but it should be exciting. After all, you’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and you’ve finally done it. Now that the celebrating’s over, it’s time to remember why you did it.
Image source: Juan Ramos/Unsplash.com, Steve Richey/Unsplash.com