What to Do After College When You Have Multiple Strong Interests
Graduating college is a big deal. That’s why we decorate our caps and celebrate four years of stressful classes, growing friendships and late night
partying studying. Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, those final moments of transition to the real world are still a big deal—and after the festivities end and you frame your diploma, it’s time for your next step. For some, it’s as simple as deciding between graduate school and job searching. Others, those with many interests, must decide which passions and projects to pursue. Your decision won’t be easy, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one either. Career experts and counselors weighed in on how to take your future by storm and live your best life after college.
Stick to your values
Experts agree that self-reflection is a huge part of deciding what to do after college. All the advice in the world won’t help if you don’t sit down with your own thoughts and organize them. The best technique that Amy Smith, associate director of external relations at Hofstra University’s career center, can recommend is to keep your values in mind. You might have a passion for multiple things, but ask yourself how many of those things align with what you really want in life.
“It’s easy to feel swayed in a certain direction by classmates, professors and family,” she says. “By starting this process with a lot of self-reflection, you set the tone for each subsequent decision you make, and will be a lot more efficient (and happy!) in the process.”
Hillary Kerr, author of The Career Code, has similar advice with a practical twist. “You spend a ton of time at work, so it’s really important to find a job that you enjoy—at least most of the time,” she says. “In an ideal world, figure out what you love, and then figure out a way to get paid for it.”
Go at your own pace
After you’ve asked yourself what you really want to see happen for yourself, take a break. Figuring things out can be exhausting and stepping back from constantly refreshing job boards or journaling the pros and cons of a situation can give you a fresh perspective.
“When you’re looking at multiple job listings, or reading program description after program description, you can sometimes lose sight of what you were looking for in the first place,” says Smith. Remind yourself that there isn’t a single post-grad path that everyone should follow.
Kerr notes that you shouldn’t feel alone in your struggle to decide your next step. “Don’t stress if it seems like your roommate has her whole life figured out and you’re still trying to decide who you are and what you’re going to do,” she says.
Use internships to test different interests
On that note, Kerr highly recommends looking for an internship as soon as possible. She urges students to try new internships at different companies. “Internships are so important because you get to know different companies and their different company cultures,” she says. “You can then make an educated decision about the right workplace or career path for you.”
If you’ve already done a few internships, reach out to old bosses and coworkers, or even professionals in your field that you don’t know personally. Smith advises asking for an informational interview with them to see what their perspective or advice would be. Even if they aren’t able to give you specific advice about what path to pursue, listening to their stories and insider knowledge will be invaluable.
Another resource you should take advantage of is your career center. We know, you just graduated, but it’s never too early or too late to speak with a counselor. Counselors have your best interest in mind because when you succeed they succeed. They also have a broad knowledge base which can help you especially if you are considering different paths that are radically opposite. “Talking with a career counselor can really help you not only strategize this process, but also prioritize each task so that it’s as easy as possible for you,” Smith says.
Graduating college is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. With some self-reflection, self-care and help from industry professionals, you’ll be on your way to pursuing your passion. Although there isn’t a one-step process to achieving your dreams, it’s the journey that’s supposed to be the fun part. So take some time to dig deep and enjoy the process of pursuing your passions.