8 Steps to Find Out What to Do After Graduating College

Updated September 3, 2021

So you graduated college. Now what?

A lot of people just assume 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, 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. It may have once for our parents’ generation, but graduating college in 2020 hardly sets you up for lifelong success. 

So what to do after graduating college?

The average skill set has a life span of five years. And the world of work is rapidly changing. 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.

1. Start working to figure 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. 

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.

I have some posts that will get you started on doing some of this self-exploration. If you can get a sense of what’s important to you and where you would like to go, it will help with what comes next.

2. Network

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.

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 the 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.

If you are still in your school, an Alumni network or the career centre might be a great place to get hooked up with some people who have graduated and are doing interesting things.

3. Look at your financial situation

If you are just graduating college, there’s a chance that your money situation might not be good. That’s totally normal. And I need to include it on this list, because it might dictate how you can move forward.

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!

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.

One way to do this can be to cut back on expenses, and work part-time so that you have extra time and energy to devote to finding your purpose.

Either way, figure out how to sustain your search for a career you love.

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 type of skills are in high demand in the marketplace, and even through searching for these you will see people who are using them in interesting jobs.

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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 even a few big companies in town might.

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 companies 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 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, thisis a great way to get your foot in the door and try some stuff.

7. Travel

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.

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, 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. Go build a life you actually want.

Don’t forget to check out the related post- 11 of the Best Skillshare Classes to UpSkill and Unlock Your Potential

Join us in our Career Advance Program and Community!

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Don’t forget to check out the related post- 11 of the Best Skillshare Classes to UpSkill and Unlock Your Potential

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