You Graduated! Now What?
Congratulations to the class of 2019! Graduation is a time for big celebrations, but it’s also a time for big uncertainty. Whether you’re starting your dream job, continuing your studies, or finding a way to stay afloat while you figure out what’s next, new graduates are entering a period of adjustment and exploration.
As a new graduate, you leave behind one set of expectations and create another – and there is a space in-between where success is uncertain. As a psychology professor, a college president, and a parent, I can tell you that this experience is typical. And even though uncertainty feels uncomfortable, it signals that you are ready for change and that you have an opportunity for growth.
While you may not have taken a class on “Finding Your Bearings in Times of Change,” what you have learned in school will help you to do just that. Here are a few things new graduates know that will help when facing and navigating uncertainty.
1. You Know How to Learn – If you have learned anything at all, you have learned to learn. You know how to listen to others and understand what their goals are, analyze a problem, consider possible solutions, find collaborators and align your goals with theirs, and create arguments that persuade others. Knowing how to learn will serve you in all professions and pursuits. A recent graduate I know majored in Growth and Structure of Cities – but, after some unrewarding stints in real estate, she got involved in digital communication. Another recent graduate, who studied French, became a marketing specialist. In addition to what you have learned in your course of study, your ability to think analytically and logically, consider multiple contexts and perspectives, ask good questions, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with others to identify common goals and create progress toward those goals will support your success in new and unfamiliar endeavors.
2. You Know How to Connect – If you have graduated, you are now connected to a network of other graduates – many of them organized into clubs, LinkedIn contact circles and Facebook groups. Those networks offer you the opportunity to share your questions and learn from a wide range of life choices. If you share your story and listen to others’, you can learn from many lives. Make it a point to hear how others found their way through times of uncertainty – and be sure to thank them and stay in touch.
3. You Know Who You Are – Or, at least, who you have been. Since “who you are” changes throughout your life, you are always on the verge of not knowing who you are – but you know when you’ve been happy and fulfilled. You know when you’ve felt belonging and joy, the experience of contributing to something larger than yourself. What were you doing then? What was the day-to-day experience of your life – and what was the larger story you believed about what you were doing in the world? Be open to the possibility of options you may not have considered before and use your self-knowledge to steer yourself to the days and the stories that are most meaningful to you.
4. You Know How to Give Things Some Time – Try to be curious rather than judgmental and try to be generous in your interpretation of your early experiences and of the new people you are meeting. We prefer things that are familiar, so your early experiences may not feel as good as you had hoped. Be patient with yourself and be patient with what is new.
Finally, I hope new graduates have learned – or will learn right now – how to celebrate accomplishments. No matter where you went to school or what you studied, from pre-school to Ph.D., as a new graduate you have completed a set of challenges, and you have earned the right to celebrate. Saying a proper goodbye to the past is a step toward embracing your future. And although you feel unsure, you know enough to find the next step.
What you may not know yet is that the most uncertain times in your life are also the times when you grow the most. So treasure your uncertainty. And hold on to what you’ve learned. You’re about to learn a whole lot more.
The mission of Next Steps Navigation is helping college graduates navigate the ups and downs of finding their place in the world, by finding their right next step. Recognizing the huge gap between getting a college degree and the realities of entering the workforce, we developed our coaching program to help families navigate this critical transition. We’ll meet you where you are and get you pointed in the right direction to choose a job – and a life – that you love.