“Get a nine-to-five” they say.
“Start saving for the future,” they say.
“Put in the work now and it’ll pay off later,” they say.
When it comes to post-grad decisions, everyone is full of opinions. Be they parents, friends, professors or strangers, there always seem to be endless amounts of input and “friendly advice” thrown at graduates about how they should live their lives and begin their newest adventures. And while it is all well intentioned and coming from a kind place, it can be exhausting (and annoying and frustrating and overwhelming) to constantly have people trying to push you into one tiny little realm of career and life options.
If the idea of sitting in a cubicle, pushing papers and staring at a screen, doesn’t seem like the right move for you, consider these other less conventional options that could serve as the perfect introduction to the next chapter of your life.
Whether it’s the Peace Corps or your favorite local charity, volunteering is a great way to transition between being a college student and having to full on adult, in the traditional career sense. Most long term volunteer positions will require that you wear many different hats and fulfill various duties and needs that the organization has— which will help you diversify your resume, while simultaneously allowing you to learn more about what types of roles and jobs bring you that most satisfaction. Added bonus: volunteering with international organizations such as The Peace Corps or The Red Cross could mean that travel was an option (if not a necessity). Helping people and seeing the world? Sounds like a major win-win.
2. Go to Graduate School
While many people choose to complete graduate degrees once their careers or goals are fully manifested, not many get it done before really entering the workforce. While the validity of this option does depend on what field you are looking to enter and what type of graduate program you are pursuing, for some it could be a very valid alternative to graduating and moving straight into a full-time job. If you know that at some point in your professional life you are going to go back to school to increase or specialize what you know about your field, then why not take care of it right now when you are still in the collegiate lifestyle and swing of things? Since most graduate programs attract people who are years (if not decades) out of school, being younger than the average applicant could make you stand out and seem like a very desirable asset to the program.
Travel the world. Travel the country. Travel your state. It doesn’t matter where..just, travel. Ask any “adult” you know why they don’t travel as much as they would like to and there is a very good chance that their excuses will include (if not be limited to): not having enough vacation time, and/or, not having enough money. Luckily for those of us riding the post-grad unemployment wave— time off is not an issue. When else in your life will you have nothing but time to yourself, and for yourself? OK, now on to the money factor. Do you really need money to travel? Well… yeah, of course. But, you probably don’t need as much money as you’d think. Since you’re probably still in that college mindset, hostels are not out of the question. Staying at a hostel is a fantastic way to save money, meet friends, and really get a feel for the city or country you are visiting (since most of the employees will be locals or at least long term residents). Factoring in that hostels often cost less than $50 a night and that that fee includes meals, the only other things you’d need to pay for would be entertainment/sightseeing and transportation. Long story short, if you want to travel, just get out there and do it— use some of that grad money you inevitably got and make memories and gain cultural experience that will last decades longer than whatever other material things you are contemplating buying.
Internships allow you to get to know many different people on all levels of rank at a company or organization which, if you are hoping to one day be employed there, can be a major plus. Interns do it all— from getting coffee, to filing papers, to assisting with meetings, to making sure the fridge is stocked, to working directly with bosses and managers— and because of that, they learn a lot and have the opportunity to prove themselves time and time again. Interning as a graduate puts you in the unique situation of being open for employment immediately if the company is looking to hire, whereas other interns who are still in school will likely not be employable for at least a year or until they finish school. Interning looks great on a resume, helps you network and gather contacts that will inevitably be helpful in your job hunt, and added bonus, can actually be really fun.
If you’re a recent grad who is still working on the first draft of your new post-collegiate chapter, fear not. Don’t allow yourself to be boxed into taking a position that isn’t right for you or the lifestyle you want. Dare to be different (or temporarily unemployed) and gain experiences and memories that are more valuable than a 401k or a salary.