With graduation now come and gone, students prepare for post-college life.
College graduation is one of life’s most exciting achievements. So why do so many young adults feel stuck after finishing school? Most millennials have accepted the challenge of working, interning and volunteering while studying full-time with fierce determination. So why does the fire burn out when it’s time to move out and establish a career? Competition is tough but hope is not lost. There are ways to cope and to get ahead. Graduating students from across the country have shared the best advice they’ve ever gotten about this new and unpredictable chapter.
- Take care of yourself. First and foremost, your health is important. College is when many students learn about sustaining their physical and mental health. Everything is stressful right now. Maintaining work and school while planning the future is a lot to handle. It becomes so much that taking proper care of yourself takes a backseat. Eating properly, exercising and taking time for yourself is the only way to make sure you don’t burn out. You’re of no use to anyone if you’re miserable and exhausted. Call your friends, go out and have fun! This is also part of taking care of yourself and preserving your joy.
“While I was panicking over which major to choose, a professor told me, ‘It’s good to be confused and scared and worried because only from there can you begin to figure things out,”said Maria Stojanovic, B.A. Urban Design, New York University, Class of 2016.
- Don’t box yourself in. College graduation is the very beginning of your career journey. Now is the time to take risks and make mistakes. Anything that interests you should be pursued to some extent. Don’t box yourself into one thing. You might just be missing something that is truly meant for you.
“My father’s friend who is the CEO of his own company told me, ‘These next few years of our lives is the ideal time for us to take risks,” said Jenya Dyagilev, B.A. Business Management major, Farleigh Dickinson University, Class of 2016. “No huge success has ever come from a ‘safe’ way of doing things. I studied Business Management and I chose to take a risk with real estate. It was something I had been interested in but had no experience. To start, I had to invest thousands of dollars in myself to do something I was told only 17 percent of new real estate agents would succeed in. Long story short, I ended up selling just under 2m in sales in the first few months. Something like that is almost unheard of but it was all because I chose to take a risk and start working in a place I didn’t seem to belong.”
- Do your research. Leaving school and entering the working world is intimidating. Take the first step and use Google to learn about jobs (or people) you are actually interested in. Job descriptions and requirements are a great way to peak and see what awaits you on the other side of the office door. Spotting requirements early on will also inform you about what makes you competitive. And research does not stop at Google! There is something to be learned from everyone’s experience. Talk your professors, your advisors, your counselors, your friend’s older siblings—just talk to everybody. There is no “right” way to navigate a career. Learning from others will help you visualize your own path.
“My supervisor at my internship at Z100 said, ‘You’ve been working for this for the past four years. Once you stop worrying, you will see that what is for you will be yours,” said Yaritza Romero, B.A. Communication and Media Arts, Montclair State University, Class of 2016.
- Reach out. There are so many successful folks out there doing things you’d like to be doing. Find their names and contact them. It sounds weird but it shows initiative. This is called networking. Ask for an informational interview. Informational interviews are used to learn about a field or position you are interested in. It is not something that necessarily leads to a job but rather something that leads to a relationship. These lines of communication offer valuable advice and, potentially, future connections. The ultimate goal is to learn from the successes in your field and to secure job leads. Talking to strangers about ourselves makes many of us feel uncomfortable. If this is the case for you, practice this skill through your school’s career services.
“In the media field it’s all about who you know,” said Nakia Swinton, B.A. Communication and Media Arts, Montclair State University, Class of 2016. “Everyone I talk to has said they got a job from knowing a person (it’s how I got my job as well). People have said it before, but it’s all about networking. Having a good personality gets your foot in the door. From there, it’s all about work ethic.”
- Follow up. You meet so many people when you attend your school’s career fairs, club events and colloquiums. Any networking aficionado will tell you that the end of your encounter is not the end of your conversation. Follow up with your connections. Don’t be shy to send an email right after you’ve met someone you believe is significant. In fact, sending an email right away will ensure that they don’t forget who you are. It will also demonstrate genuine interest. If you have an interview, don’t be afraid to follow up before you meet. Email the hiring manager if you can find their information and ask if they have everything they need from you. After the interview, send a thank you letter. A thank you letter is easy and polite and you have no idea how many people won’t send them.
- Don’t be discouraged. Finding where you belong comes quick for some and not for others. Stop comparing yourself to the girl who had a job before she graduated. That’s simply not how it works for everyone. If you need help seeing the bright side of things, ask for it. Keep your friends and family close to maintain positive energy. Be in the present to enjoy life and all of the ups and downs it presents.
“I’ve learned to live by this quote from a book by Colin Powell,” said Nicole Brown, B.A. Accounting, Post University, Class of 2017. “He said, ‘Get mad, then get over it.’ For me, it represents understanding that we can’t control everything. When conditions impact us, it’s important not to let it hold us back. We can always use that anger or dissatisfaction to create change that will benefit ourselves and others.”
For the thousands of college graduates this year, congratulations on achieving something great. This next chapter in our lives will undoubtedly bring many ups and downs. All we can do is hang on and enjoy the ride.