Okay, I Have a Degree? Now What?

Photo:  HERstock

Photo: HERstock

So here it is. The day you’ve been waiting for. You sit in a crowd amongst your peers and begin to reminisce about the four (maybe more) years it took to get to this moment right here. The usher comes over and tells your row to stand. The Dean is getting closer and closer to announcing your name. As you get closer to the stage you feel their eyes on you. Mom, dad, aunties, uncles, cousins, sister friends, step-parents, homeboys, adopted family, and so. They are so proud of you. Your name is called. You step up on to the stage. Walk with the confidence of the kings and queens that came before you and sacrificed to get you to this very moment. You have your degree in one hand. You shake the Dean’s hand with the other. You stop, smile, and pose for a picture. You are ushered off the stage and back in line with your peers. That’s it. You’ve graduated. Congrats!


*record scratch* but now what? You empty out your dorm room/apartment over the next few days, move back home, and now you’re in the real world. Here come the questions… 


“what’s next?”

“what are you going to do with your life now?”

“do you have a job lined up?”


These infuriating (read: well-intended) questions can put a ton of pressure on a new grad who is still figuring out who they want to be and what they want to do. While you have a lifetime to figure that out, use the adrenaline of earning that degree to put yourself out there and find a job you love (or like a lot). Want to proudly answer “YES!” to that last question? Here’s how!


1. Tidy. Up. Your. Resume.

Your resume is a potential employer’s first impression of you. At this point in your newly degreed life you’ve either a) been active in on-campus student organizations, b) have an internship or two under your belt, c) took courses relevant to your potential career path, or d) all of the above. All of this is experience and can help beef up your resume and make it look professional. None of the following steps matter if your resume isn’t up to par. Need help pulling your resume together (here’s a template) or need a second set of (non-judgmental) eyes? Send your resume here


2. Use your professors to your advantage.

Your professors are there for a reason (to help you succeed) and they know you pursued formal education to land a job that is going to kick start the career of your choosing. It is a-okay to ask them for job leads. Heck, some of them may still work in the industry you’re trying to break into in addition to teaching. Use them!


3. Milk your college’s career center.

Similar to your professor, the professionals who work in the campus career center are employed solely to help you find employment post-graduation. These are the folks who can review your resumes and cover letters hundreds of times. Also, many successful alumni and local companies reach out to college career centers to recruit new grads. There are people looking to hire YOU. Find them through your college’s career center.


4. Diversify your application pool.

Did you earn a B.A. in journalism and your dream job is to be an editor of a high fashion magazine? That’s great! But if you’re just starting out do NOT put all your eggs (read: job applications) in one basket. Apply for copy writer positions with local newspapers. Apply for junior editor positions at advertising agencies. Apply for technical writer positions at tech companies or start-ups. Life is long. You will eventually find your way to your dream job. But for now? Apply to positions that are generally relevant to your degree/dream job.


5. Join professional organizations. 

For every major/degree there is typically a professional organization committed to furthering the trade and providing networking opportunities for those in the field. In fact, many professional organizations are national and have chapters in almost every state. Even better, the larger the organization the more likely that student/recent alumni memberships are FREE. You could be paying ZERO dollars and ZERO cents to network with professionals in your field of study and have access to job boards and industry forums.


Using even one of these tips can put you in the right position to land a post-grad job.

Use all five and you’ll be working in the field of your choice in no time!


About the Author

Kristen provides mentorship and advice about living out your passion, work-life balance, time-management, career advancement, and other related topics on her blog: The Mod Mentor. She is earning her Master’s in Public Administration at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs with the goal of furthering her career as a healthcare executive.

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