Most of us have high expectations for life after college – and that’s a good thing. A great thing, even. We picture ourselves landing an amazing job, making good money, buying our first home, and even marrying our college sweetheart. We’ll finally have time for traveling, attending festivals, and hitting up the gym. The life we always dreamed of is right around the bend…
But the truth is, while many college graduates do create this happy ending for themselves, few achieve this right after graduating. The lost obligations of school should free up your schedule for focusing on the things you want to do, but often work and family obligations move in to replace them.
While we’re happy you made it this far and can’t wait to share in all your journeys, we also want to prepare you for the real world. That being said, here are five possible situations you might find yourself in after graduation – and what you can do about it.
Going Back to School
A bachelor’s or even an associate’s degree is usually enough to give college grads a competitive edge over other job candidates. However, the longer you work in a field, and the further up the ranks you expect to climb, the more you might see the need for higher levels of education. As a result, many people return to complete master’s and doctorate level programs.
In addition to this, few of us really know what we want to do with the rest of our lives career-wise, until we actually start working. As a result, many people return to school to attain degrees or professional certifications in different areas, or to specialize in an area. In fact, most certifications require some level of job experience before you qualify to take the classes and sit the exam.
Be open to this opportunity. Don’t assume school is done forever once you get that degree in your hand.
Moving in with Mom
After living on your own for four years or so, moving back in with the parents can seem like a blow to your independence. However, until you find a job, this is the best financial decision you can make for yourself. It gives you the opportunity to save a few bucks, and to spend some time with your family before you go off to start your new life on your own.
Moving back home may feel like an admission of failure to some graduates, but it’s just a transitional period, and you should treat it as such. Many people get comfy once they move back home and start saving money they used to blow on rent. Save what you can, pay off your student loans, search for better opportunities, and then get out to make something of yourself, for yourself.
Searching for a Job… for A WHILE
Finding a job after college can be a difficult task and a lengthy process. It usually takes college graduates anywhere from 3 to 9 months to find a job. If you’ve been doing internships, volunteering, networking, and building up your resume in other ways, this significantly shortens the amount of time you’ll have to spend looking.
However, even the most promising opportunities and potential offers can disappear once you’ve graduated. Keep in mind also that you’re graduating with thousands of other students in your area. So if you haven’t distinguished yourself with any awards, work experience, or great connections… you’re not putting yourself in the best position to be picked.
However, not finding a job initially doesn’t need to be a bad thing. While you keep up an active search, take the time to work on things you would otherwise not have time for.
It took me 9 months to land my first corporate job after college, and I spent that time writing and editing four novels. Once I started working, my progress with my fiction-writing hit a snail’s pace and has yet to recover. So use this opportunity wisely.
Getting into Boring Routines
When you land that job, it’s easy to think your life has finally begun – and in a way it has. You can move out of mom’s basement, upgrade from a bicycle, and start saving towards bigger goals. No more budgeting your coffee expense, or being too broke to travel. However, there is one thing that happens once you find a job: your life becomes terribly routine.
In college, you likely had different days off every semester. You also probably had classes at 9AM some days, and as late as 6PM on others. No two days were alike, and every day you learned and worked on something new. In comparison, work life can be incredibly boring. You will likely have the same 9-to-5 schedule for five days a week, and before long will settle into a boring routine.
Be aware of this and schedule time for other things in life that allow you to have fun. Make time to date, to hang out with friends, to go hiking, to hit the gym, and to travel.
Because the funny thing about getting sucked into a boring routine is that you suddenly won’t want to make time for anything else, but work and sleep. And if you think the freshman fifteen were bad, wait ’til you pack on the working 30.
Starting a Family
For many college graduates, the long-term goal is to find a partner and settle down. Some lucky few already found their partners in college, and are likely already shopping for a ring, or an apartment together. While this is a rewarding part of our lives, starting a family together can take a toll on you, your career, and your personal life.
While there is no need to delay dating or looking for the one, it’s definitely a good idea to delay starting a family for as long as possible – if you haven’t already. Go ahead and move in together. Get married. Get that cute puppy in the store. But hang on to your birth control, and hold off on the kids for a while.
Studies show that women who wait until later on to have kids earn significantly more money than women of the same age and with the same level of education, but who had a child (or children) earlier in life.
Older parents usually also have more clout at work, which allows them to make use of more vacation time, and to schedule time off without it impacting their career. Greater financial stability at this time of your life is also a great reason to wait, if you can.
Obtaining tertiary-level education is a great achievement and one every adult should work towards – whether it’s earning a certification in a specialized area or getting a college degree. However, the false assumption that life magically gets better once you do, often sets a lot of adults up for disappointment, confusion, and a sense of failure.
Hopefully this article shows you that though life does get a whole lot better after college, there are still concerns to keep in mind, and that you should prepare for. It’s not the end of the world – just a bump along your path to success.
About the Author
Alexis Chateau is the Founder of College Mate and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. She is an activist, writer, and explorer. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at www.alexischateau.com.