It has been more than a year since I transferred that tassel to the left side of my hat, and I thought that most of my “what next?” themed questions would have answers by now. Well I regret to inform you, recent college graduates, that unless you experience some freaky luck and stumble across your dream career moments after you accept that diploma, the question, “what next?” is not resolved all that quickly.
Several of my friends who just graduated this past spring have said, “I am so glad that school is over, but it’s been a month and a half and I can’t bring myself to start searching for jobs.” What makes that first application so difficult to send and that first networking call so hard to dial?
After about sixteen years of school, here is this open expanse of time that can be approached in so many different ways. A college graduate could start spewing resumes and cover letters to every employer in sight, regardless of field, could go back to school to become more “qualified.” He or she might even choose to pack up a backpack and take a trip around the world. There are so many options that I think a lot of people just feel stuck, as if any move they make will be in the wrong direction.
I never worried too much during college about what I would end up doing with my life because I always figured there would be some day that I would wake up and know. I thought that after college I would stuff myself with lots of healthy life experiences and career possibilities and then one morning just realize that I want to be, say, a teacher, or a saleswoman, or a lawyer.
It has oddly taken a long time for me to conclude that there will not be a day when I wake up and find a gavel in my hand or a stethoscope around my neck. I think Milton Bradley’s “The Game of Life” was the cause of this long-lasting delusion of mine. It would be so easy to pick a card or roll a die and have that determine your career, husband, and whether your house will be a Tudor or a mansion, wouldn’t it?
Yes, but I am learning that the search has its advantages as well. It can be challenging and exhilarating to try on different jobs, choose where to live and who to live with. The time immediately after college is all about making difficult decisions about what you can and can’t live without.
I am also learning that the college graduate needs to have patience. He or she will have to work hard, expect crazy hours of pointless collating and stapling at the beginning, know that there will always be horrible and fantastic days to come. And at the end of each of those days, there will always be a choice:
Perhaps I’ll never have a final answer to that question. Maybe that’s a good thing, although sadly it means that I won’t ever make it to Countryside Acres or Millionaire Estates.