I recently did a panel session for college students who had questions about how to prepare for life after college. I then thought how great it would be to share these insights with other college students who might have similar questions. Below, I share some of the information that I shared with students who asked: what's next after college?
1. START TO ESTABLISH A CAREER: As you prepare to graduate from college, hopes are that you have already found a job or embarked upon an entrepreneurial journey. If not, you will likely be on the market for a job. An important question to ask yourself is whether you know the future career you aspire to have? A Career and job are different. A job meets the need for you take care of living expenses, and is not often connected to your passion or skill-set. A Career fulfills your passion and lets you display your unique skills in a field you plan to be in for most of your working days. If you just have a job lined out and have not thought about a career, some things you might try ASAP are: meeting with a career counselor, taking a career assessment, an internship in your academic major, or reviewing common jobs for your academic major. If you know the career you aspire to have, you likely already have a job. In this case, begin reviewing future jobs that will be ideal for you. For example, if you currently have a job lined up in an entry-level position, look into what is required to move to the next level at your company. That way, as you are working in you entry level position, you are also cognizant of the new experiences you need to move to the next level. Take note of the experience and qualifications required for the jobs at the next level. This way you can prepare yourself for the job/career of your dreams. Know that you might not get your ideal job straight out of the gate, but knowing how to ultimately get there will be important. When searching for a job and establishing a career, remember that your Resume/CV and Cover Letter are critical. While this will be a lot of work, your best results for job interviews come from tailoring your interview documents for a particular job or organization. It is helpful to have someone review your Resume/CV or Cover Letter before you submit the final document.
2. PREPARE FOR A CHANGE IN LIFESTYLE: As a college student, you have an incredible amount of flexibility (especially full-time students). As you move into life after college, it might take some adjusting to get used to working 8 hours or more each day. Keep in mind that you might now have to wake up at 6am when you have been used to getting out of bed at 11am. When looking at a lifestyle change, also think about whether your wardrobe needs an update. You might land a job where jeans and a T-shirt are appropriate, but if that does not happen, how will you update your wardrobe? For example, think about shopping during off-seasons (i.e. shop for winter clothes during spring/summer months). Purchasing clothing during off-seasons will be much cheaper and better on your budget.
3. ASSESS YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION: One of the first things you should do straight out of college is establish a budget. There are several resources online and potential resources at your institution that you can use for advice on financial planning and savings. Establishing a budget helps you know what you can afford and helps with long-term saving for the things you really want to do. One of the largest mistakes I have seen students make in terms of their funds is making large or unnecessary purchases as soon as they get their first job out of college (i.e. car). It will help you long-term if you use your first job as a time to be financially responsible, to pay down any debt, and to establish savings.
4. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN: Planning will be essential as you begin life outside of college. As you get older, you will likely become more busy with work, family, and other life responsibilities. Therefore, things like spending time with friends and staying out late will not come as easily. For the relationships that you value, make sure you make plans to stay in touch.
5. LEARN NEW THINGS: Yes, you are about to have a degree that you have worked hard to obtain; however, you do not know everything and there is always room to learn new things. Is there a country you want to visit? is there a topic you want to learn more about? Is there a person with whom you could talk about critical world issues? Learning new things helps you to expand your knowledge and better understand others.
6. REFLECT OFTEN: If something good happens, reflect. If something bad happens, reflect. Know that you will change and/or grow as a person and reflecting helps you to understand the things you do well vs. things you want to improve. Reflecting can also help you set a plan for personal and professional development. For example, if there are things you want to improve upon, reflect on what that means for you, and take the necessary steps.
7. SET GOALS FOR MAJOR AREAS IN YOUR LIFE: Ask yourself, what are your goals for critical areas of your life? Areas might include: career and professional development, health, family, money, dating and relationships, living expenses, leisure activities, and personal development. For example, when it comes to personal development for myself, I like to read 1-2 motivational books each month. Additionally, I had a goal to obtain my PhD before I was 30. Setting goals at an early age helped me to establish a plan to accomplish those goals. Know what you want and start planning now to have the future you want. If you need assistance brainstorming some goals, feel free to contact ELA Education Services, LLC for a FREE one-on-one session.