Soon enough, many of us will graduate. Feeling anxiety about the future is completely normal, and that experience puts you in the same boat as many seniors. Some of us have jobs or internships, along with a boatload of student loans that our salaries might not cover. Some of us are heading to graduate school, preparing to spend another few years without income while our debt gets even deeper. And some of us are vigorously searching for jobs, maybe fruitlessly, or preparing ourselves for unemployment.
There are things you can do to reduce your expenses and calm your anxiety. While finally having free time might be something we are all looking forward to, there is such a thing as more than enough free time. If you’ve caught yourself wondering, “how much Netflix is too much Netflix?” you might know what I’m talking about.
Use your newfound free time to fuel your career search. If you don’t know what you want to do and a lot of us don’t at this point, it’s easy to continue doing nothing and wait for a spark of inspiration. But that spark of inspiration won’t hit you if you are not actively looking for it. You might still be finding out what interests you. Pursue those interests to the best of your ability, and you may end up finding one that could lead to a career that makes you happy.
When you’re unsure of what to do, diving headfirst into a full-time job might seem daunting. Keep in mind that the average college graduate stays at their first job for 11 months. You are definitely not signing your life away by taking a job offer that you might be apprehensive about. Obviously, don’t go into something looking for an exit strategy, but it is okay to test the waters.
For those of us who don’t have job offers being thrown at us, where do we start? Instead of looking for something to do long-term, look for something to do for the next year. Short-term goals are much easier to wrap your head around and seem to cause a lot less stress. Many people change career paths at least once after they graduate, so it’s okay to be a little bit indecisive right now. There are tons of opportunities that can help you figure out your path.
If it’s within your budget and you are able to take a gap year, do it. Spending time abroad and out of your comfort zone can really help you decide what you’re passionate about. Even if you return just as indecisive as before, the experience will give you confidence and make the real world seem less threatening. Traditional gap year programs such as Projects Abroad, Planet Gap Year, iGapYear and Cross Cultural Solutions can offer you the tools you’ll need to plan your travels.
Peace Corps, Americorps, CityYear and Teach For America are all examples of volunteer programs that offer you a living stipend and a grant that can be applied toward your student loans once your one- or two-year commitment is up. The application deadline is different for each program, some as early as one year in advance, but these can also be pursued after a gap year.
Pursue your hobbies. Your first job out of college doesn’t even need to require a college degree. If you can pay your rent, buy food and make that monthly loan payment, you are doing fine. In the meantime, keep doing things that you love. Keep trying new things and putting yourself out there. Continuing with activities that make you happy will decrease the stress and anxiety surrounding your job hunt and aid you in a calmer search for your career.
Keep in mind that you are still young and do not need to have it all figured out right away. Focus on the next year instead of the next decade. Pursue what you love and remember that you are not the only one experiencing graduation-related anxiety, and you will get there!