I graduate in May and I have no idea what to do
Does the thought that you will have to make the decision to decide which jobs to apply for, whether or not to apply for grad school, or to finally apply that startup idea you always had scare the lights out of you?
First things, rest assured you are not the only one who has experienced this in the course of their lifetime. There have been millions before you and there will be millions more after you. Look at anybody in your life who you think has life figured out. Chances are, more likely than not, they were once just as clueless as you are. But that did not stop them from taking the next step, from exploring the next option to turn their lives around. The key is to understand the short vs long term; all the mix of feelings you have in the short term will cease to exist in the long term, and the uncertainty will be replaced by a sense of certainty.
You have several possible paths to pursue now and the requirements to succeed in each of them vary greatly. In the employment option, you will ideally have a job offer at the time of graduation. It is very likely that your university will have employment drives and competitions organized by major companies as part of their talent hunt program, which you should be on the lookout for. If you have a strong network, then you are incredibly fortunate as this opens up various opportunities and paths to you that are otherwise inaccessible to other people. You can also start looking for a mentor who is willing to guide you through the job search process—this can be the instructor of a course that you aced, or a close family member as well.
If however, you do not get a job offer when graduating, don’t panic for this too is not a rare situation. There are numerous stories of people who were initially unemployed but then landed a job offer way better than what they could have gotten in the first place. An advice for you in this stage would be to treat the job search process like a job in itself.
Next up is the choice of applying to grad school. Efforts for this should also begin while you are in university, in your third or fourth year. This, of course, is only suggested if you have a firm idea of what you like because of the huge financial commitment that you will have to make. However if chosen wisely, the postgraduate program can give you a large salary bump if you plan to pursue a job later on, or set up the base for you if you want to pursue academia.
There is another option available to those fresh graduates who may have no idea what to do, but still have a strong passion for something that involves creativity. Entrepreneurship is increasingly becoming a trend nowadays. Your passion can be anything from fitness to makeup to baking to web development and there would be a thousand ways to capitalize on it. However, this is the most option that requires the most patience and would only increase your uncertainty about the future. But its also the option that has the most upside for reward and freedom. Trying and failing is a lot better than regretting later on about what would have happened if you had decided to “follow your dream”.
Lastly, it is important to remind yourself that this concept of timelines or beliefs like you are “supposed” to get a job at 23 or you are “supposed” to get married before 30 or have children before 30 are only imposed by society to limit your potential. If you ever want to do something different from what anyone else has done, you have got to let go of ideas about what people do at different points in their lives.
To conclude, it might seem like things won’t ever get better but they will. Don’t forget to remember how far you have come and how privileged you are to even have an education. If you battled all the odds that were stacked against you to come this far, we don’t have the slightest doubt that you will continue to do the same for the future.