There is a lot of pressure for college seniors to have secured a job by the time graduation approaches. For some students, ones with specific majors and those who are lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do with their careers, that can be a great thing — a fast and steady gateway into what people like to call “the real world.”
But if you ask me, a college alumna with a liberal arts degree, far too many interests and way too much going on in her head to even think about taking one route this early on post-grad, I find diving head first into the real world to be tremendously scary and even more challenging. So, where to start?
At this point in my life, having only graduated a year ago and just leaving my first full-time position, I’m still not entirely sure what I hope to achieve in the future. I know what I love and what I’m passionate about, and this blog is an obvious manifestation of those interests being shared in my very own space, but I still don’t have everything mapped out.
The truth is, when thinking about careers and my future, I want to do everything. See it all, be it all. But a lot of the time, the pressures that our society, especially in my native country and native city, has placed on us to have a stable life and career in the real world tells us that we can’t do everything all at once. And that the only practical next step to begin the next chapter of our lives is to have a full-time job, an apartment in a big city, a perfect group of friends, etc.
I completely disagree. Nowadays, there are so many more post-graduate opportunities young adults can pursue that don’t necessarily involve professional, financial obligations and settling into responsible adulthood at 22. Since graduating, these options have crossed my mind more times than I can count. A few of them I am currently pursuing right now. So if you’re stuck in a rut, bored, complacent, jaded in a job or position or state of mind that isn’t right for you, remember: there are options.
1. You Can Travel.
My favorite (and the most obvious for this blog’s purposes) choice. Anyone who knows me always asks “Why I’m always leaving?” By that question, they’re referring to the fact that despite not always having the funds to have fun, I do my best to never let my feet touch the ground, even for a weekend. Traveling is truly the only thing you buy that makes you richer. What better way to celebrate not having to return to school after almost two decades of formal education than saving up every last penny to explore somewhere unexpected and new? I visited Canada for the first time, have been back to Europe several times, visited new places in New York, and rediscovered parts already close to me. But your destination doesn’t have to be an Atlantic Ocean away. Any opportunity to get away and immerse yourself, not only with the beauty around you, but also to new ideas, is worth it. Traveling changes you. It opens you up and broadens your mind to parts of the world you never considered or knew could exist. There is no limit to where you can go, what you can do and who you can meet. Besides, what first full-time job do you know that is generous about time off just to explore? Especially in America where most first-year employees get two weeks at most. (More on my opinion on that another time). Travel while you can and take advantage of your youth and free time. What better way to challenge yourself and figure things out than getting out of your comfort zone and enjoying a nice view while you’re at it?
2. You Can Volunteer.
Peace Corps. AmeriCorps. Teach for America. These are only a few of the many options recent graduates have that focus on serving communities, people in need of assistance and giving others that extra push to achieve something greater. A lot of these programs partner with renowned organizations that focus on a variety of social justice issues, whether it be educating the youth, aiding homeless populations in rural areas, or promoting environmental stewardship. Service isn’t limited either. Volunteers have the opportunity to work either short or long term and even cross domestic barriers by going international to make their own difference abroad. It’s something to be mindful of though that volunteering involves deep commitment and signing on to unexpected circumstances in certain places. Despite that, having completed a ten-day service project two days after graduation myself, there is something so impactful and life-changing about helping others by facing challenges that do not directly affect us, but ones that we can tap into and tackle for the sake of others in need.
3. You Can Pursue Internships/Odd Jobs/Temp Work.
One of the best ways to build yourself and add a little something extra to your CV before applying to full-time jobs (whenever that may be) is to work. Part-time jobs come in a plethora of ways. Thought your days as an intern during undergrad were over? Think again. Many companies and organizations offer internship programs to recent graduates, sometimes over students still in college. Those employers see you as an advantage because you have a.) a bit more experience (and age) on your side and b.) more time now that you’ve already received your diploma. With that extra experience, who knows? In a matter of a few months, that part-time internship can potentially turn into something further.
And if you want to go the extra mile, there are also programs that allow you to work/intern abroad. One of the programs I’ve come across is called BUNAC, which allows Americans, from ages 18-30, to intern in places like Britain, Fiji and Shanghai among a ton of other countries and fields of work. Working holiday packages have also become popular within the United States, though not as extensive as Europe’s, offering reciprocal agreements with countries around the world, like Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and Australia, to issue visas that allow work for up to a year. Talk about work hard, play hard.
4. You Can Start Freelancing.
Another current job of mine. Picking up freelance projects is one of the best ways to make money while still being able to do things you love with no commitment and while on your own schedule/terms. What’s enticing about freelancing is that you’re not limited to one job. Say you have a few different interests, one being photography, the other writing. You can easily freelance for a magazine and write them an article, while you take photos for another. You have flexibility when it comes to autonomous work and you can negotiate your content and control your income. Plus, freelancing offers great connections and partnerships with people who hold similar interests and ideals. It can also help you hone in on what environment and fields of work you would definitely like to pursue and which ones you’ve since realized aren’t a concrete part of your plan. Your job may not be consistent but it’ll always be something new.
5. You Can Become An Entrepreneur.
This is my end goal and it should be yours too! Starting your own business is a lot more difficult than I’m making it out to be. But what better way to start your career than to expand your passions and become the CEO of your own company? Amazingly at 22, a friend of mine realized that she did not want to wait for the right moment to help educate people on their health. So she created a blog with her boyfriend to showcase what they was learning and researching as a means to help others heal themselves naturally. Her following grew outside of our college walls and now people all over the world look to her for advice. It’s all about taking what you love, starting off small and getting anyone you know to take a chance on what you’re doing. And that is exactly what Michelle and I hope to do and accomplish with Native Vagabonds. If there isn’t a position, company, or platform out there for you, take the initiative and start it yourself. It’ll feel so good when you do, TRUST US.