So You Graduated...Now What?
There was once a girl who dreamed of moving to New York City after she had finished college. Not only for the glitz and glam, but for the city’s reputation for success in her field. Imagining herself as the Black version of Carrie Bradshaw, she would fantasize about running off to the Big Apple the moment she received her diploma. Yes, she would only be able to afford to live in a shoe-box apartment, but there is beauty in the struggle, right? As you may have already guessed, the girl in this story was me. Let’s just say, things didn’t go exactly as planned.
When I first graduated, my expectations were high, but my reality wasn’t quite matching up. There was no dream job waiting for me when I finished school, and I wasn’t feeling great about it. But I wasn’t alone in my post-grad funk, many other recent grads have also experienced roadblocks following graduation.
According to the University of Washington, “it takes an average of three to six months” for recent graduates to find secure employment. It doesn’t help that after being a student for over twelve years, many people feel completely lost after getting their degree.
But I’m here to tell you, it will get better. Whether you’re waiting to launch your career or applying for Grad school, here are some tips and tough love to help you combat the post-grad blues.
1) Even though it hurts, try to think of rejection as a blessing
During my job search, I found it difficult not to take things personally. I would have multiple interviews with hiring managers who would tell me how much they loved me, only to end up “ghosting” me after the interview. My journey to employment was starting to look like a tragic love story. Not to mention the hours I would put into filling out applications, only to receive no response. I started to become very frustrated with the process, until I gave myself a harsh reality check.
Unfortunately, rejection is just a part of life and I had to get used to it. The more interviews I had, the more confident I felt for the next one. I started to realize that maybe that job I applied for just wasn’t meant to be. What’s meant for you will always find its way to you.
2) Beware of LinkedIn scams
Another huge part of my job search: LinkedIn scams. There was always a sign that something wasn’t right, but I would ignore my instinct and tell myself to just be grateful that I scored an interview. Next thing I know, I’m being asked to join some type of Pyramid Scheme. No thank you, (unless that’s what you’re into, no judgement). These scammers try to take advantage of the fact that most recent grads are desperately looking for work. They try to manipulate you into thinking you’re applying for a completely different position, please don’t fall for it.
After a few bad experiences, I started relying on Glassdoor reviews and looking up the address of the company building (a lot of scammers share the same building, birds of a feather really do flock together). Always do your research before accepting an interview with a company.
3) Ignore the haters (including your family)
After graduating, a lot of people will try to tell you what THEY think you should be doing with your life. Try your best to ignore them. This is especially common with first-gen graduates. It starts off with a relative or a friend suggesting a place to apply for work, and the next thing you know they are passive aggressively offering you advice that you did not ask for. If I had a dollar for every time someone suggested that I “just apply for The Philadelphia Inquirer”, I would be rich. Just brush it off with a smile and keep on doing you, you got this.
4) Maintain a routine
Of the best pieces of advice I ever received from an alum was, “No matter what, always maintain a routine.” My routine consisted of waking up at a reasonable hour (having an internal alarm clock comes in handy) and eating breakfast. This allowed me to start my day early and increase productivity. One of my podcasts also recommended dedicating a set number of hours for filling out applications so it doesn’t take up your entire day. I was fortunate enough to return to my part-time job until I found something permanent, so I was able to get out of the house for a few days a week. There’s nothing wrong with taking a temporary job until you figure things out, I really recommend it.
5) Money Matters
I hate to be the one to bring this up, but you are going to have to start paying off your student loans. Most student loan servicers will grant you a six-month grace period. Take this time after graduation to try and save as much money as you can. If you haven’t already, establish your monthly payment plan and work it into your budget. I know this can be difficult to think about, especially if you are having a hard time finding a job. Remember, everyone’s student loan situation is different, you should contact your servicer directly if you have any concerns.
6) Take advantage of your free time
This is the perfect time to catch up on things you missed during the school year (especially since you won’t have to go back). Go spend time with your family, binge that show, go out with your friends, the opportunities are endless. Once you start your full-time job or grad school, you might not get this time back, so take advantage of it while you can.
For me, I started reading for fun again (Elaine Welteroth’s memoir lowkey inspired me to write this article). You can also use your free time to learn skills that you can bring into the workforce. Embellished your Excel abilities on your resume? Just because school is over doesn't mean you should stop learning new things. Look up some helpful YouTube videos, there is literally a tutorial for everything. Use this time to network and meet new people, or volunteer for a cause that is close to your heart.
7) It’s okay to cry in the shower
Let’s be honest, no one can have positive thoughts all the time. There will be moments where you feel overwhelmed or stressed, and that’s completely okay. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. We spend so much of our lives making the “perfect” plans for ourselves and it’s normal to feel disappointed when things don’t work out. Just remember that all of this is apart of your journey to greatness. You can’t have a rainbow without a storm, even if the storm has been going on for a little longer than you anticipated.
8) Plans A,B,C & D
My final piece of advice is to be adaptable, if one thing doesn’t work always have a backup plan. Always remember, all of your hard work and dedication will pay off. Once[V4] I realized that moving to New York wasn’t going to happen, I had to readjust my plans. It’s important to be flexible and open to different prospects. Turning your lemons into lemonade is a crucial aspect of post-grad life.
I wasn’t going to let my geographic location impact my ability to chase my dreams. I finally found a position that I’m really excited for, doing what I love. I can still have my Black Carrie Bradshaw experience, even if I stay in Philly.
Remember, even though you might be stressed out, take this time to celebrate yourself! You made a huge accomplishment and you are on your way to greatness.