I am almost a college graduate. After four years of kicking butt, studying, hanging out with friends, going to bed too late, and several late nights in the computer lab, my time in higher education has come to a close. Whew.
I guess because it’s the first week of May, there have been a lot of articles out “How to be Successful After College,” “10 Ways to Find a Job,” etc. etc. They are stressing me the freak out. What if I do everything on the list and still don’t find my path?! What if I did everything wrong these past four years?
Stop. Breathe. Drink a Diet Coke. Ok, now we’re going to put it all on the table – the four, sad lies they tell you about post-grad life have been debunked.
1. You do not HAVE to go to graduate school
All of your friends have decided to get their Masters and you are not. It’s May 6th and you’re suddenly panicking: “Oh god! I should start applying! What if I’ve made a huge mistake?” You didn’t. If you know grad school isn’t for you, then don’t do it. I am not saying that it isn’t a valuable, worthwhile opportunity, because of course it is! But if the only reason you’re going is because you’re friends are, it may not be the right path. Grad school is a lot of money and takes a lot of time & dedication, if you’re not into it, don’t panic.
2. If you’re not going to grad school, you don't need a job by graduation
Job searching is rough. I can tell you from very personal experience that I send out a ton of resumes every week and have gotten few actual rejection letters. You know it’s bad that you at least are waiting for a rejection email! But it’s rough out there (hence the grad school panic).
Apply for jobs that you yourself are interested in, but don’t give in to the ticking time bomb that is your convocation! There is a misconception that you need to either a) get your dream job right as your graduate (yeah, okay!) or b) you take the first job offered to you. While the latter may be more about circumstances out of your control, don’t feel like you need to be tied down to that first offer. Go with your gut.
3. Your resume may need some TLC
Updating one’s resume has become a daily task for me. Whether this includes adding, getting rid of stuff (do you really need marching band leadership activities from high school on there?), or just checking it for grammar mistakes, become invested in your resume. If you feel like the formatting is getting stale, research online for a new kind! Just a small change can make a big difference – and create a boost in your self-esteem! Use websites like Pinterest as inspiration -- I'm serious! Also, be sure to have a friend, a trusted professor or colleague, or even your mom look it over and give their honest opinions. This doesn’t mean you have to take them, but something may stick out to them that wouldn’t have occurred to you.
Also, develop a format for a cover letter. My family has a super awesome cover letter format we’ve used for decades and that I have passed along to family and friends alike. Don’t be afraid to share tips and tricks with your fellow graduates (even if they’re going for similar jobs). Your generosity may help you out in the long run!
4. Saying goodbye is really, really hard
In movies and TV shows, college friends are either friends for the rest of their lives (ahem ahem, How I Met Your Mother) or they tend to disappear into obscurity.
No one ever really can tell you how hard it’ll be to say goodbye to your friends, professor, significant others, etc. Use these last few weeks to see the people you love, spend time with one another, and don’t waste your time. Let go of the anger you have for that girl who was your Freshman year friend and almost roommate, and then screwed you over and you ended up with a rando, or the deep-seeded hatred you have for your stupid ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever who messed up Sophomore year for you. Embrace this weird, transitional time in your life. Cry when you need to, laugh when you want to, and embrace the suck that is saying goodbye to the last four years.
Not to get all nostalgic and sappy, but the journey has already begun. You have gotten this far into real adulthood, and now it’s time for the big first step. It’s scary, it’s sucky, it’s a big, dark wormhole of the unknown. It’s ok if you don’t have everything figured out. That’s what Friends is for.
P.S. Go watch some Friends (whose series finale premiered ten years ago today)! It'll distract you from the stress AND make you feel old.