Life after graduation: what now?

Written by Amelia McIntosh

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” You probably haven’t heard this one since you graduated high school, and if you’re a senior getting ready to graduate this spring, you’re likely to hear it again in the next few months.

Regardless of how you feel about your past four (or more) years of undergraduate study,

Semisonic was right – this isn’t the end; rather, it’s the beginning of the rest of your professional life.

What you choose to do with these next few years might not be obvious yet. You have many options. 97 percent of Drury class of 2013 graduates responding to a survey stated that they had either found employment, gone to graduate school, or taken a gap year six months after graduation; and those aren’t even the only three options.

If you haven’t already made up your mind (or even if you think you have), it doesn’t hurt to consider every opportunity. Your first years after graduation could be the foundation of the rest of your career, a chance to build your resume or have a life-changing experience. In some cases, you might have time for all three.

Job Hunting

If you’re prepared to enter the workforce in your field, it’s not too early to begin the search. You will want to start by preparing your resume if you have not already.

A website like LinkedIn can also help you build a profile that catches the attention of potential employers and helps you make connections with other professionals in and outside of your field.

Now is also an ideal time to begin cleaning up your social media accounts. If you haven’t considered this before, you should know: most employers look for you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram before your first interview.

“Red flags” include photos are statuses alluding to partying, poor spelling/grammar and even badmouthing former employers. Take some time to view your social media: would you hire you?

If you have a resume and have cleared your online party trail, but don’t know where to start applying, consider visiting a job fair like the one hosted by Missouri State University’s Career Center on February 28th from 12 to 4 p.m. Career Expo 2017 is a fair attended by hundreds of employers; picture career speed-dating recruiters.

This expo also holds preparation workshops that lend tips on how to conquer resume building, interviews and professional etiquette. You’ll also have the opportunity to have a professional photo taken for your LinkedIn profile.

Graduate School

Graduate school is an advanced version of undergrad. If there is a career into which you are looking that requires a Specialist, Master’s, or Doctoral degree then this is the path for you. You can expect a more rigorous course load, focused research and smaller class sizes.

You’ll spend a lot more time in each course; as an undergrad, it’s typical to take five or six courses per semester. During graduate school, taking three courses is typical due to the amount of reading required in each class.

Graduate school also requires its students to become totally self-reliant. Imagine the transition from high school to college done over again. In college, you’re usually still reminded of deadlines and coursework is outlined for you. In most graduate courses, you are almost completely self-directed. Often your only grade in a single class hinges on the final paper.

If you are not sure about going to graduate school, do not go to graduate school. It should not be considered a “backup plan,” and usually requires serious consideration, academically and financially, from the time you select your major in as an undergrad. Drury offers graduate programs in business, communication, education and nonprofit & civic leadership. You can expect to spend 2-3 years getting a Master’s from one of these programs as a full-time student.

Gap Year

If a route of professionalism or academia does not inspire you, then a gap year may be your best option. Students often take gap years between high school and college; however the gap year between college and your new “adult” life leds more options. For instance, the Peace Corps require most volunteers to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. The extent of the Peace Corp reaches around the world and volunteers usually commit for at least two years. Leaving the country for an extended amount of time may seem daunting for some. If you feel this way but are still interested in volunteer work, consider AmeriCorps, the National Corporation for Community Service and is seen as a “domestic Peace Corps.”

The National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a branch of AmeriCorps is meant for men and women ages 18 to 24, stations its participants in regions across the United States, but some teams will travel to areas outside their regions to respond to national crisis.

If volunteering is not part of your plan then other programs, such as those offered by the American Gap Year Association, give students and graduates the opportunity to work, study or simply travel abroad.

Gap years have been known to provide clarity to those who are unsure of their next step, or even

to provide work opportunities that are not available at home. Taking a gap year can provide a sense of maturation and education that would not otherwise be found in a classroom or office.