After spending, what felt like, endless nights reading chapters, working problems, writing papers, and studying for exams, you have finally earned your degree! You now have the chance to steer your life in the direction of your choosing.

Everyone’s path after college is different. Your friends may be setting up job interviews or applying for graduate school. Some may choose to travel the world while others choose to return home. What you do with your life after college is entirely up to you – not your best friend, your parents, or anyone else. Whatever you choose to pursue, make sure it is the best fit for YOU.

If you’re still unsure what the right next step for you is, read on for 6 suggestions to help you fearlessly dive into your post-graduate life.

1. Travel

Been itching to travel but unable to do so because of your restrictive schedule the past few years? Now is the perfect time to explore the world and the opportunities available to you. Traveling can allow you to learn about different environments and cultures and can even help you determine where you would like to live permanently post-graduation.

2. Build Your Network

Be intentional about building relationships and connecting with people who have successful careers that you would like to emulate and people who have similar career goals as you. LinkedIn is a good resource for virtual networking as well as job searching. Think of LinkedIn as your professional Facebook page. You profile displays what employers or peers might need to know about you such as your educational and employment history, skills, and accomplishments. Once you’ve set up your profile, you can begin connecting with others. Make sure you check out the feature that allows you to connect with other alumni from your institution.

3. Find an Internship

Not every degree provides a clear path to a certain career and applying to jobs can be scary if you are unsure of what exactly you would like to do. Internships give you the opportunity to discover what jobs most interest you. If there are many careers you would like to observe, try job shadowing for a day or a week at a time as opposed to or in addition to an internship. Both internships and job shadowing provide a glimpse at what that career looks like in action and can settle any concerns you might have about whether or not it is the right path for you.

If you have found someone to reach out to about an internship or job shadow request, but aren’t quite sure what to say, we’ve got you covered. Feel free to use this message as a template:

Hi [their name]! Hope all is well with you. My name is [your name] and I recently graduated from [school name] with a degree in [degree]. I am reaching out because I see that you work as a [job title] and I am interested in a career like yours. I am interested in learning more about your job and I am wondering if you have any advice to offer or if you’d be willing to chat with me about your experience. Thanks for your time!

Once you have reached out and received a response, then you may take that opportunity to ask about the possibility of an internship or job shadowing.

4. Pursue Graduate School

Perhaps the next right step for you is continuing your education in a graduate program. Start by doing some research to determine what the next right degree for you is, where the best place is to obtain that degree, and what the process for getting admitted at your ideal institution looks like. You can learn more about applying to graduate school here.

5. Apply to Jobs

Begin applying for jobs. Make sure to utilize resources provided by your institution as you begin this search as well as connections you made during your undergraduate career with professors and peers. LinkedIn and Indeed are good resources as well. Here are a few things you want to think about as you begin applying:

  • Ensure your resume is up to date and in great shape. It should broadcast the best features about you.
  • Customize your cover letter. It’s okay to have a template but make sure you customize your cover letter to include the correct date, name of the company you are applying to, and some details about that company or job description that make you the right fit!
  • Follow up after an interview. Make a habit of sending a follow-up email after an interview. Thank those who interviewed you for their time and consideration of you as a candidate and include something personal that you discussed in your interview.
  • Get comfortable with rejection. You might have to apply to many jobs before you find the right fit. Not getting hired for a position doesn’t mean you aren’t a great candidate. Take a deep breath and keep looking.

6. Spend some time at home

Not knowing exactly what you want to do after college is okay. If your plans don’t begin right after graduation, enjoy spending some time at home with family. Pick up a hobby you have been wanting to try. Join the spin cycle group that you never got the chance to join before. Moving back home allows you to save money while you determine what will be the next chapter of your life. Taking a few months or years to save up money and live on your own is common among young adults. You may even enjoy being back in your hometown so much that you decide to stay.

Regardless of what the next step for you is, the knowledge, experiences, and relationships you have formed during your time as a student will continue to benefit you no matter what your future holds.

By: Mackenzie Eford and Carly Ashlock

Mackenzie is a Spring 2021 graduate of Arkansas Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Psychology. Her next step after graduation is pursuing a Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.

Carly Ashlock is the Digital Media Coordinator for the University Marketing and Communication department at Arkansas Tech University.