Families across America are getting ready to celebrate college graduations! Its a wonderful time to see a loved one adorned in a cap and gown. The day ends years of sacrifice and hard work. Everyone beams with pride as graduates walk across stages to receive diplomas. Graduation also brings a sense of relief from the obligation of paying for college. Whether graduating from a public or private institution, the cost of getting that degree is staggering.
After all the dinners and celebrations, these young adults are faced with a heavy dose of reality. The days of hanging out in the student union are in the rearview mirror. Some graduates immediately enter the work force. Others will start post-graduate studies. But these days many more students are graduating without employment prospects or immediate plans to advance their education. So what’s that graduate to do?
1 – Get out of your feelings. Don’t allow yourself to fall into a sunken place. Winston Churchill said, “I am an optimist. It does not seem to be much use being anything else”. Young adults do not want to leave college with the uncertainty of not knowing the next step but it happens. Accept the uncertainty but resolve to make this period temporary.
2 – Reduce cost of living. If you have the opportunity to move back home, take it. Have an honest conversation with your parents about expectations. Student loans have an automatic 6 month grace period after graduation. If you do not think you will be able to start repayment after the 6 months, consider additional deferment.
3 – Network. Speak to relatives, friends and neighbors. Sign up with your alumni association. Join professional organizations. Attend conferences or lectures. Keep in mind many professional organizations offer discounts for recent graduates. Work on an iron-clad elevator speech so you are prepared for any networking opportunities.
4 – Volunteer/Intern/Temp. I already know what you are thinking. You can’t afford to work for free or low pay. And I suggest, you can’t afford not to. In an increasingly competitive world, it’s invaluable to have some experience in your field. The degree may not be enough. Look for opportunities to learn more about your interests.
5 – Social Media. Work on your resume and post it on career sites like LinkedIn. Use social media to make connections with companies. Today’s economy is no longer limited to face to face connections. Follow organizations and people in your field. If there is an opportunity to engage with a post, take it. While you are at it, make sure your social media profile will not leave a negative impression.
6 – Work on your soft skills. College students graduate with academic skills but many lack communication, writing or interpersonal skills. Create opportunities to develop those skills. Get involved in social, community or religious organizations to help develop those skills.
7 – Think outside the box. YouTube has a wealth of videos you can use to learn all sort of things. If you are interested in computers, learn to code. If you enjoy hair and make-up, you can refine your makeover skills. Do you play an instrument? Do you enjoy exercising, cooking, baking or mixing drinks? Are you tech savvy – create an app. Any of these things can keep you from being idle. Any number of them can create opportunities to earn some money.
8 – Leverage New Communication. Do you enjoy taking pictures – post them on Instagram. Start a podcast. Start a blog. Start a video blog. We’ve all heard of people who used social media as a platform to launch them into a number of things. Can your hashtag become a movement? Can your video go viral? Are you a social media influencer waiting to bloom?