Graduation is a big bundle of emotions. Good and bad. Bittersweet.
And no matter how much you’ve prepared for what comes next, you’ll have surprises ahead of you.
The aim is for as many of those surprises to be positive ones. Find a framework of future fulfilment. [Try that as a tongue-twister…]
You don’t need to focus on lamenting the past, feeling insecure and fearing a fruitless job search. [I’m using a lot of F-words today. Yeah, not *that* one though!]
Avoid the negatives as much as you can with preparation and anticipation.
That’s why I’m posting this today. Graduation may be months away for you. But now is a great time to start in your transition to becoming a graduate.
The tips below will help you tackle the issues before they cause a drama. Let’s handle that graduation aftermath with ease:
1. Don’t wait until you graduate
This is a big one.
A growing number of students are checking out career options before they leave, but how many are taking an active role prior to graduation? If you do nothing else, at least start connecting with relevant people over social networks and offer something of value. Start showing up and engaging.
And what about living arrangements, staying in touch with friends, and all the creature comforts you’ll no longer have around you?
You may not be able to make a cast-iron plan, but it helps to have an idea in advance. The fewer surprises and annoyances, the better.
2. Plan for the coming months
When you’re looking for a job, you look forward to clinching that role.
But what do you do while you’re looking?
If it takes months to be offered an opening, you risk wasting a lot of time when you don’t plan for all the other things you could be doing. Get organised and don’t let the time creep away with pointless activities that don’t help you in one way or another.
Start by maintaining your weekly schedules. One academic win, one social woo, one personal upgrade, one career boost, and one wonderful wildcard. I explained all in an episode of TUB-Thump last week. Even if you do nothing else in the week other than apply for jobs and potter around watching Netflix all day, you’ll still have a list of achievements each week.
3. Find out what others are doing
You’re going to miss your friends. That’s a given.
But like I said above, it can be tough staying in regular contact with them. Even with all the social apps at your disposal, it’s not so easy. And it’s definitely not the same.
I used a lot of time in my first year as a graduate visiting friends who were still at university or in accessible places.
If you’ve got a railcard, you can still make good use of that. If you’ve got a car, you may find it even easier to visit people far and wide.
So get out and about while you still can. And do it while it’s relatively cheap.
Trust me, those visits get tougher to sort out as time goes by!
4. Underwhelm happens
It’s not just you. Meh happens.
5. Expect a sense of loss
Think about the difficulties you had way back when you started uni. Freshers often feel a bit lost, especially in the early days.
But when you graduate, you’re probably going back to your home town or revisiting somewhere you’re familiar with. You may even stay close to the university.
Instead of feeling physically lost, you feel a mental sense of loss.
You’ve finished studying, your friends have left, and all the things you took for granted are at an end.
As with the underwhelm, a sense of loss is felt by many graduates. It’s to be expected, so focus on these things instead of dwelling:
- Find ways to revisit your student years positively. Capture the joy for having experienced it, rather than getting wistful now you miss it;
- Seek out alternatives to the biggest gaps in your new graduate situation;
- Don’t keep looking at Facebook to see what everyone else is up to now. It’ll likely just frustrate you further. And we’re our own worst enemy at wallowing more when we’re already wallowing!
6. Work beyond what you currently expect of yourself
You’re setting yourself up to be accomplished, just as everyone else is setting themselves up to be accomplished.
That means you need to go further than the basics that have been set out to you.
The older we get, the more experience we gain. Every time you realise something new, you think you’ve finally got it.
Until you realise another new thing, and you think you’ve finally got it.
Until you realise another new thing…
And it carries on. You never stop having those moments of seeing beyond what you once thought was the big point.
Don’t just work with what’s expected of you as a graduate. In fact, don’t limit yourself to your own current expectations. Continue to challenge yourself as you go.
Peter Thiel says that if you have a 10-year plan, you should ask why you can’t do it in 6 months instead.
In the book, Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris rewords Thiel’s question to: “What might you do to accomplish your 10-year goals in the next 6 months, if you had a gun against your head?”
Ferris expands upon this theme nicely:
“Do I expect you to take 10 seconds to ponder this and then magically accomplish 10 years’ worth of dreams in the next few months? No, I don’t. But I do expect that the question will productively break your mind, like a butterfly shattering a chrysalis to emerge with new capabilities. The “normal” systems you have in place, the social rules you’ve forced upon yourself, the standard frameworks—they don’t work when answering a question like this. You are forced to shed artificial constraints, like shedding a skin, to realize that you had the ability to renegotiate your reality all along.”
You’ll keep having moments where you finally think you’ve got it, only to be surprised again later. But with this method, you may find more pleasant surprises, sooner.
7. Focus beyond the grades
I understand how hard it is to move away from the push to get a First. As wonderful as that would feel, it’s not the big deal it’s all cracked up to be.
Standing out isn’t about getting the top grade. Standing out is about, well…standing out!
All a First really does is put you in a group of people who graduated with a First Class pass. How do you further separate yourself from everyone in that group?
Does that First genuinely help you stand out compared to the graduate with a 2:1 and a raft of extra-curricular experiences, work placements, and volunteering spots to boast about on their CV?
8. Learn a second language
Learning a language isn’t a walk in the park. But some employers are crying out for bilingual applicants. You don’t always have to be masterfully fluent either. Something beyond the basics may be enough to sway the decision.
Remember above. Your task is to stand out.
Only 9% of English 15 year olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level.
If you can grasp an intermediate level of another language, you’re already standing out further than the majority.
Here are a few links to get you started:
- Learn 48 Languages Online for Free (Open Culture)
- Fluent in 3 Months
- Top 10 podcasts to help you learn a language (Guardian)
9. Be professionally visible
I don’t know what social networks you use, but how much of those networks are about chatting with friends, having a laugh, and being entertained?
Time to build your networks up on a professional level too:
- Follow people in the line of work you’re interested in.
- Visit forums and groups in the field and get involved.
- Start a blog to share your personal experiences and advice about your chosen subject.
That’s just three ideas to get you thinking.
So what if you’re only just starting out? Give the world your train of thought and an insight into why you’re serious about the topic. The more you show up, the more you listen, the more you learn, the more you’ll be treated as a serious player.
10. Do your homework
Whether it’s career-planning, moving home, or staying in contact with your friends, you’re better off doing the initial legwork.
Remember point 1…Don’t wait until you graduate.
You may be surprised how little preparation is undertaken around the things you’ll be getting up to as a graduate.
When you’re ready for what’s to come, you’ll have fewer surprises.
For example, doing career research doesn’t come naturally. Up front checks can be woefully lacking when researching a company, a person, or a particular subject.
Yet graduates are expected to know how to research well. A degree requires it a fair amount, after all.
That doesn’t mean all graduates make the effort, even when it makes all the difference. So get to work and research where it counts.
In other words, do your homework!
The move from being a student to being a graduate can’t be perfect. But with a bit of preparation, you can make the transition much easier. Wherever you are in your journey, here’s to your future plans!