It’s graduation season, and all across the country, students are walking across stages when their name is called, cringing at the sound of whooping parents, throwing their hats in the air, and proudly grasping the most expensive bit of paper they will probably ever own – their degree certificate.
But once grad week is over, and you’ve packed up your things and said a teary goodbye to your beloved uni flatmates, once the champagne is finished, and the reality of the fact that you are now finished with one of the most significant stages of your life so far sinks in, you might find yourself asking… What do I do now??
Give yourself a pat on the back
Okay so the majority of the graduation ceremonies and celebrations are essentially back-patting exercises. But you just did something really amazing! You completed a degree/course/qualification! You studied, wrote, discussed, practiced and most importantly learned a lot. Give yourself a break and some time to relax, get moved out of your accommodation if you haven’t already, and get settled back at home or in your new place. Do some fun things with your friends and just RELAX. Enjoy knowing you don’t have any more essays or classes hanging over you for the next wee while. Maybe plan a last minute cheeky holiday or staycation.
Remember that not everyone makes it through
Getting a degree is hard. Life is hard. Not everyone gets to where you’ve got to. Not everyone finishes their degree and gets to walk proudly across that stage. The people who don’t also then have the added kick in the teeth of seeing hundreds of photos of friends and acquaintances wearing robes, smiling and celebrating popping up all over their social media feeds. So while you’re giving yourself some well deserved back-pats, maybe also take some time to reach out to people you know didn’t get there for whatever reason. Send them a message to ask how they’re doing, maybe use some of your new found free time to go for a coffee or a cocktail and catch-up about what they’re up to. You never know how much that could mean to someone in a period of time when everyone else they know is unintentionally throwing their own success in their faces.
Now comes the hard part – decide what you want to do next
The great big world of your future can seem daunting when it’s staring you in the face. For the past few years, the thing that you ‘do’ has been going to university or college, being a student, studying during term time and working or travelling (and maybe studying some more) during the holidays.
But the truth is the thing that scares you the most, the uncertainty and decision making, is what gives you the biggest advantage – choice. You have more choices now than you will ever probably have in your life. You can do whatever you want. So what do you want to do?
While you might have just finished one degree, this is prime time to go on to do a higher qualification, or take a side step into a different area now that you’ve got this degree under your belt. You could try a new university or college in a new city, or even a new country! Maybe you might even want to stay in academia long term, in which case the more qualifications the better. Some careers also require a higher level of education than just a graduate degree, for example teaching.
Get a job?
Getting a job after university doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Have a read of my Top tips for job hunting mini-series for some hints and tips for finding and applying for jobs. You’re now qualified for lots of different kinds of job and opportunities with your degree, so make sure you update your CV and apply for lots of graduate level positions.
Unless you’re very lucky, once you start a full time job, buy a house, maybe start a family, it’s unlikely there will be another opportunity for you to go abroad for longer than a few weeks at a time (until you retire, when all the rules go out the window!). So why not do it now? Post-graduation is a great time to plan some time for travelling, exploring and discovering. Go it alone, or team up with a friend, and see the world before you settle down.
Start a business?
Just like with travelling, the freedom and opportunities of that time just after graduation probably makes it one of the best times to consider starting a business. If you have a dream company, retail business, service or website that you think could be a success, make use of a) your free time, b) your lack of fixed commitments and responsibilities, and c) your knowledge, experience and inspiration from your recently completed degree, to make it a reality!
Take some time to figure it all out?
There is no shame in spending a month, six months, a year or even longer after graduation just figuring out what you want to next. As a graduate you should have no problem getting a part time job if you need some cash to tide you over, and you might find yourself in an industry you really enjoy and want to stay in along the way. You could do some short term volunteering with different organisations, and give something back to your community while gaining valuable skills and experience.
Think about what you want to achieve in the next couple of years, and where you want to be in ten years time. What will help you get there? Is it more study? Work experience and career development? Travel and exploration? Or something completely different?
The world is your oyster as they say, and armed with your degree level knowledge and an extra few years of life experience, you can do anything you set your mind to.