Life After College: Create Your Own Success

Like a lot of Generation Y women out there, I can be something of a “crazy” workaholic. In the months leading up to my graduation, I was taking 21 hours’ worth of classes, conducting two independent undergraduate research projects, working two part-time jobs, driving several hours each weekend to see my fiancée, practicing my senior lecture recital, and (last, but not least) applying for jobs and going to interviews.

I don’t know how I survived it, but the upshot of it is that I had no idea what to do once I graduated. I had been so insanely busy trying to overachieve that I hadn’t thought about the basics of living in the real world. It was somewhat of a rude awakening, but I’ve managed to get by.  And now I would like to share some of the things I’ve learned.

Even though you’ll have to make some of your own mistakes, I hope you can avoid some of the ones I made by using these tips to ease your transition from college to the real world.

Don’t Be Intimidated

I know that graduating from college is both the most exciting event of your life so far and the most terrifying ordeal. As a workaholic, the worst part of it for me was finishing that last exam and short-circuiting my brain over the fact that I had no immediate work to do. I was a work addict, and I spent the days between the last exam and graduation day in a pretty miserable state. However, as I desperately tried to find productive things to do, I came up with some things you can do while you’re in graduation limbo:

  • Get online and apply for everything you might be even half-qualified for.
  • If you don’t already have a professional portfolio, make one. This depends heavily on your major, but whatever it is, find work you’ve done that represents your experience and aptitude. Make it look professional and plan to update it as you complete more pieces that can be included.
  • Pick up the local classifieds and apply for jobs if you’re open to the idea of staying in the area.
  • Practice your skills. If you’re going into work withdrawal, go through your textbooks and find assignments you haven’t done. Try to choose ones that might teach you something that could be valuable in the workplace.
  • Find sets of sample interview questions online and craft your responses.

Don’t Go Back Home – Live Near a College Campus

No matter how worried you are about your finances, don’t go back home unless you absolutely have to. Move straight into an apartment if you have enough money to pay for the security deposit and first month’s rent – you can find a way to make enough for the next month’s rent by the time you need it. By living on a college campus (it doesn’t have to be the one you just graduated from), you can enjoy inexpensive student housing and the ability to find roommates easily. This reduces your monthly bills by a lot, allowing you to get your feet under you before you move away from college life.

Use Your Human Resources

It’s almost always a long shot, but talk to family contacts and anyone else you know who might be able to stick your résumé under the right person’s nose. Do this consistently – you can increase the likelihood of being remembered simply by spending time with people, so ask extended family members out for lunch or take friends of friends to get a cup of coffee. Increasing the span of your network is important, even if you don’t see immediate benefits.

Look Everywhere for Work

You might say you’ll never work for a temp agency or accept a job that pays by the hour rather than offering you a salary – but you might be wrong. There’s nothing wrong with starting small, and there’s no law that says you can’t have more than one job at a time. Snatching up a bunch of part-time jobs can be lucrative as long as you don’t run into too much overlap. Try temp agencies and websites like Craigslist to find projects and side jobs to tide you over and give you something to do at 5 AM when you’re itching for work.

Update Your LinkedIn Profile Consistently

Even if you’ve just edited someone’s paper for a few dollars, add it to your LinkedIn profile and résumé as a professional service you can offer. It’s important to make sure you don’t sell yourself short, and the more recent your information is, the better.

Stay in Touch

Don’t let your contacts or network go cold. Keep in touch with college friends, professors, bosses, and anyone else who might be able to write you a recommendation or forward your résumé. Social networking is a great way to do this, and you can also simply communicate by email or phone. Again, getting face time is helpful, so if you’re within reasonable driving distance of any contacts, try to schedule meetings with them.

As young, successful career women, do you have any extra tips for fresh college grads? Let us know in the comments.

Maria Rainier

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and blogging about student life issues. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.