Congratulations! You got your degree and you’re done with your undergraduate education.
I’m sure you’ve already had lots of pressure from your family, friends, and teachers about what’s next with multiple iterations of the following questions:
“So when are you applying to graduate school?”
“Have you started applying for a job?”
“What are you going to do with your degree?”
“When are you getting married?”
Although they have good intentions, it’s no doubt annoying when we constantly hear this, seemingly 24/7. Here are a few things I, and many, many others, have learned after crossing the stage in that (expensive) cap and gown.
1) Unemployment is not the end of the world.
It’s widely expected that you should know EXACTLY what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. After all, you spent four years pursuing a major you really liked, so that should have been enough time to figure your life out. You know the next steps, right?
Reality: You don’t and probably never will.
Even if you think you do, many of us change our minds often when various factors arise. So it’s okay to take some time to figure out your next move instead of rushing into something blindly. Think things through before pursuing that master’s degree, or accepting that job offer. Is it what you REALLY want? If it is, great! If it’s not, assess what you want and go after it.
2) Don’t be ashamed of moving back into your parents’ house.
Let’s face it: The economy isn’t that great. Joblessness is high and the cost of living is ridiculously expensive. However, most grads want to move onto adulthood and out of their parents’ basement. But moving back home shouldn’t be seen as punishment, or as weak – it’s okay to take some time to plan your next move at home. In the interim, if you can’t contribute financially, find ways to give back to your family. Clean the dishes, mow the lawn, cook, do laundry, walk the dog, take out the trash, and overall be polite.
3) There will be times when you feel that you haven’t accomplished anything.
Undoubtedly, there are going to be some dark days ahead. These feelings of having accomplished nothing might come when you’re unemployed, at a job, married, single, in graduate school, at lunch with friends, or when scrolling through your Facebook feed. And it’s okay to feel like this – just don’t let it overtake you. You graduated from college – that in itself is a huge accomplishment, and you still have a lot left ahead of you. Focus on what’s gotten you to this point. Don’t like what you’re doing? Find ways to change it. Life is short, so spend it doing what you want to do.
4) Comparing yourself to your peers isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Most likely, we know someone who’s already making six-figure salaries, is married and has 2.5 kids, or bought their house – all before age 30! It can be a little disheartening; however, this is THEIR life, not yours. You cannot compare to what you have (or don’t) to what they have. It’s fine to feel a little jealous, but again, don’t let that green totally consume you. Work on your life and stop putting negative energy into comparisons.
5) Venting is healthy!
Keeping those pent-up thoughts and feelings to yourself can only keep you sane for so long. Eventually it will start to hurt you – in psychology this is known as suppression and rebound. Find someone you trust to vent to, whether it’s your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, mentors, or your pet. Another outlet is to keep a journal or diary – writing out your thoughts and feelings is healthier than internalizing them and letting them manifest into something worse.