Updated February 13, 2023
So you graduated college. Now what the heck are you supposed to do?
Figuring out what to do after graduating college is easier said than done.
A lot of people think that graduating college means total clarity on where you want to go with your life.
The skies will open. A dream job with a pension, benefits, a great salary, and maybe a bean bag chair or Foosball table will open up.
And you will sail off into the sunset.
It doesn’t work like this for most of us. It may have once for our parents’ generation, but graduating college in the 2020s hardly sets you up for instant success.
So how do you figure out what to do after college?
The average skill set has a life span of five years. And the world of work is rapidly changing. Oh, and you can teach yourself high-income skills on the internet.
College courses aren’t keeping up.
What all this means for you, new graduate, is that even if you knew what you wanted to do when you started college– which a lot of people don’t by the way– you now need to stumble forward into a new world, and nobody will guide you.
So I want to give you some ideas about where to go next. About where to start when you are lost.
If you don’t know what to do after college, work this list to find your path.
This post contains links to affiliate products, which–if you choose to purchase–pay us a commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to support our work. We only promote products we’ve used and love.
1. Start figuring out who you are
I know this seems like a bit of an abstract place to start, and maybe you already know that you need to figure out who you are. After all, you Googled this, didn’t you?
I want to start this post by honoring the fact that you are on a journey of self-discovery.
College usually is the starting line, not the finish line.
And no matter what your parents say, it’s unlikely you’re going to get a job for life. You may not get a pension either. So making those things the top priority in your search for your path is likely to let you down.
Start by doing some inner work to figure out the type of person that you are and the type of things you want to bring into this world. This type of introspection is a really good place to begin a career-searching journey — not to mention the secret to finding job you love.
What is important to you? What do you care about? What are you willing to devote periods of your life to accomplishing?
It just you against the world now. Your professors aren’t here. Your fellow students aren’t here. There’s no one else to impress.
In your heart, what do you want your life to be about. You only get this once.
Here are some questions to ask yourself
- What do I believe is worth working for?
- What kind of life do I want?
- Who do I want to be like?
- What type of work gets me so engrossed I forget to pee?
- What do I know how to do?
- What skills are my most valuable?
The world works on networks. Maybe you didn’t know that, but it’s the truth.
Networking is by far the best way to get jobs. After all, 80% of jobs are not advertised. So if you’re saying, “I graduate college, now what?” networking is a really fantastic way to explore your possibilities.
It’s what I started doing when I hit the labor market with a humanities degree and ZERO FREAKING CLUES about how to use it.
Networking is also what to do if you can’t find a job after college. You’ll be surprised that it opens up possibilities.
You can sit behind your computer or phone and read job postings, but that’s not going to tell you if those jobs would be right for you, if they would bring you joy, or if they would feel like something called your purpose.
I want to challenge you to set up 10 conversations. They could be with people you know, especially if you know people who are working in industries that might be interesting to you. But they might not be. You might even have to reach out to strangers by e-mail or on LinkedIn. (I give some tips for that here).
I know this sounds scary, but conversations with people can save you years of your life. It can save you from going down the wrong path, and help you find jobs that are interesting.
We call these conversations informational interviews. And here are some questions you can ask:
- What is your job like?
- How did you get into your position?
- What are the hardest parts of your job?
- What are the best parts of your job?
- How would someone get into a position like yours?
- Where do you think your career might go next?
- What advice would you have for someone in my position?
- What are some salaries for the roles I’m looking at?
- Who should I talk to next?
- Does your company hire consultants?
If you are still in your school, an Alumni network or the career center might be a great place to get hooked up with some people who have graduated and are doing interesting things.
3. Learn to build wealth
If you are just graduating college, there’s a chance that your money situation might not be great.
Okay, let’s rephrase that. It might SUCK!
That’s totally normal.
If you are comfortable for a while, maybe even living with Mom and Dad, and you have a bit of time to figure it out, that’s great!
I moved into my parents’ basement after grad school with a spouse and three kids. That was NOT great. Actually, it was super embarrassing.
If your money is running out and you are going to need to go work at Starbucks to pay your rent, that’s fine too, but it’s going to change what your next year will look like.
Be honest with yourself about how much time you have, and maybe find yourself a part-time job to pay the bills while you figure it out.
But here’s a weird tip. Work enough to get the bills covered, but beyond that, try to save yourself some time and energy at the end of every day to spend developing yourself and looking for a job you love AND that pays well.
THEN, once you’ve got some good money coming in, start obsessively building wealth. Whether you’re looking for side hustles or passive income, or you’re just going to earn bank and be smart with the money, start growing your nest egg.
Either way, figure out how to sustain your search for a career you love. Then build wealth. And never stop educating yourself about how to earn more.
Here are my favorite wealth books that helped me!
1. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki (Get it!)
2. The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss (Get it!)
3. Broke Millenial – Erin Lowry (Get it!)
4. Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (Get it!)
5. I Will Teach You to Be Rich – Ramit Sethi (Get it!)
6. The Millionaire Fastlane – MJ Demarco (Get it!)
7. You Are A Badass At Making Money – Jen Sincero (Get it!)
4. Search for your skill-set on LinkedIn
If you are trying to figure out how what to do after college, LinkedIn is a powerhouse for exploration.
LinkedIn is a fantastic resource, and there is too much to say about it here. I will link to some relevant posts below. But one of my favorite tips for using LinkedIn is to search for skills that you have in the Search bar, then click people.
This will help you to find people working in industries with skills that you have, and we’ll give you an idea of where to start looking I jobs.
Make sure that you pick skills that you love. If you hate Excel spreadsheets with all your heart, but you know how to make them, don’t let that dictate your career path.
By the way, you can search for soft skills too. Search for things like leadership, problem solving, negotiation, and so on. These skills are in high demand in the marketplace. Even by searching for them you will see people who are using them in interesting jobs.
5. Go to career fairs
Career fairs are a great way to get instant access to people who are hiring. It is literally a place with people waiting you learn about you and to see if you would be a good fit with them. And they’re a gift that not enough students used.
So find a career fair to go to. Your school might put them on. Your local employment office, or maybe even a few big companies in town.
Take the opportunity to drop in and chat with some potential employers.
But don’t approach it as if you are begging for a job. See if the employers are a good fit for you. Ask the recruiters about their company values and what the workplace is like.
If a company is hiring for roles that you are not interested in, ask about other roles that they look for.
Use this opportunity not just for job searching, but for career exploration. And after the event, make sure to connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn or email and send them a thank-you note.
Tell them you would like to be kept in mind for other openings as they come up, and attach your resume.
If you play your cards right, you won’t just come out of the career fair with a boring entry-level job, you will come out of the career fair with valuable network contact who knows that you are a great catch for future roles they might have.
6. Look for recruitment programs
A lot of companies have recruitment programs for new grads. These are great because they are literally built with the understanding that you don’t have 10 years of experience, but that you do have a lot of potential.
For new grads who feel like they don’t have a lot of marketable skills, this is a great way to get your foot in the door and try some stuff.
Take it from me, life goes fast. So if you have always wanted to travel the US in a van or backpack Europe, hit up Coachella, this might be the time.
Heck, maybe you’re just going to burn through your savings. You do you.
I’m not saying to be irresponsible, it’s on you to figure out if you can afford it and how to do it.
But once you get into a career, life gets more complicated. If you are struggling with direction, maybe it’s the time to take some time to find yourself. Travel is an amazing way to do this. (P.S. If you’re still in school, you could study abroad!)
8. Don’t get trapped by your degree
A college degree is an amazing thing. It can open up the world to you. But it can also limit you.
If you did a degree in English, but you’ve always wanted to be a musician, take some time to explore that possibility.
My spouse did a degree in social work and work as a social worker for a few years, eventually discovering graphic design in her 30s.
Nothing is off the table. You can make money at YouTube, or hobbies like scrap-booking, or singing if you’re strategic and creative about it. (And possibly work on the side while you build it.)
College isn’t a death sentence, it’s a foundation.
So here’s what to do after graduating college. Go build a life you actually want.