College Graduates – Now What?

Lindsay loved Spanish and speaking foreign languages in high school. She went to college and majored in Spanish. After college, she went to Central America for two years. Upon her return to the U.S. at the age of 24, she is confused. She doesn’t know what she wants to do next.

Michael knew from his sophomore year in high school he wanted to be an attorney. He was a pre-law major in college. He stayed in Colorado and also went to law school here. Upon graduation, he got a job within six months with a prosecuting attorney’s office.

Two scenarios. The first a lot more common than the second. There are a lot of young graduates who have a bachelor’s degree but are clueless about their future. Our sagging job market and economy do not help the situation. Recent college graduates can easily get caught up in externals: Get into the work world; start being a productive adult.

The universal feeling among many college students is that when they leave college and enter into adult life, they will have to give up most of what they really enjoy about being who they are. They will have to settle down and work hard at a job that is essentially meaningless so they can earn money to buy things, pay rent or to repay loans.

Suggestions for the new college graduate:

1. It’s OK to not know what you want to be when you “grow up.” Rather than be hard on yourself about this, accept you are in a period of transition, and go forward. As time progresses, your path will become clearer. As people are in more pain, it becomes easier to take action.

2. Be aware that the first two years following college graduation are the hardest – especially for those not going on to graduate school. The loss of your peer group, withdrawal from college world, dispersal of friends, stress of entering the world of work – are all reasons.

3. Use the first year of graduation from college as a year of exploration. Even though most graduates will be working, there is still time in the evenings to take classes, volunteer, or do an internship. I worked with a 24- year-old woman who participated in a triathalon for the leukemia society and it spurred event-planning as a career.

4. Take assessments to give you more insight into yourself. The most important places to pay attention to are natural aptitudes, skills, interests and values. Assessments are available in all these areas. People cannot assume they simply know these areas about themselves – are like a CAT assessments SCAN – they will reveal information at a deeper level.

5. It is difficult to go forward in today’s economy without further education. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a higher academic career (masters, Ph.D., law). Many people are getting a certificate or another bachelor’s degree from an art or technical school. Some popular certificate programs: Xray or ultra-sound technology, paralegal, interior design, English as a second language.

6. It is better to continue working than to go back to school unless you are fully committed and certain what you want to study. Don’t spend time or money on programs you are uncertain about.

The years following college are ones of opportunity, challenge.