The job market is tough for college grads. There’s no doubt about it..It’s daunting. You might be wondering, “Am I ever going to get a job that isn’t folding shirts at Forever 21?” or “Will I ever do anything besides drink my boxed wine while watching Netflix?”
Trust me, I know. I’m there right now. But the truth is, wallowing in self-pity doesn’t accomplish anything. If it did, many of us would probably have trophies.
That’s why I’ve compiled (and am sharing with you) a list of things you can do in the interim while you are searching for a full-time position post graduation.
1) If you need immediate cash, try to look for part-time jobs that are remotely in your field of interest. Were you an exercise science major? Apply for an hourly position at a nutrition or sporting goods store. English major? Look at bookstores. You are much more likely to make valuable contacts that are pertinent to your field even if you are making less than $10 an hour.
2) Volunteer for a non-profit organization. Again, this is a great way to find opportunities that relate to your career interests. Health major? You can volunteer to work in a hospital. Communications majors? Many non-profits need a bit of help with their newsletter or press materials. Volunteer Match is a great place to start, and lets you narrow opportunities ranging from causes you care about to personal skills and interests.
3) Have you ever thought to yourself, “XXX class in college would have been interesting. I wish I would have taken it.” Take it now! The Open Education Database provides over 10,000 free courses you can take for no credit. Added bonus: zero pressure and no final. Although you're welcome to pretend like you do to justify ordering a ton of takeout for yourself. Online career schools, like Penn Foster, allow you to take courses with written feedback, textbooks, and exams all included for less than the cost of one semester of textbooks in college.
4) Exercise. It gets you moving and energized. And don’t forget the wise words of Elle Words. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” There are gyms nationwide that cost less than $20 a month -- like Planet Fitness. It might not have all the bells and whistles, but they do serve free pizza once a month (Yes, I know.) If you’re looking to get fit on a lower budget, there are plenty of low-costs phone apps that offer video tutorials and fitness tracking.
5) Meetup is a great website to find fun and inexpensive things to do and expand your network. Joining a Meetup Group is generally free or low-cost. Each group regularly hosts affordable events and activities. The thousands of groups nationwide range from “Miami Young Professionals” to “Science Geek Dating.” Really!
6) Took five years of Spanish but only remember “hola” and “cerveza”? Now is the perfect time to brush up on your language skills. Flüenz tends to be the top recommended software that offers several languages, but it’s nowhere near cheap. There are plenty of free websites for every language (Study Spanish has been one I frequent) that offer grammar drills, quizzes, and tutorials.
7) Almost all of us put that we know “MS Office” on our resumes, but do we really know how to use Excel? Did we just make Powerpoints for class with stupid spinning animations and the screeching car tire audio effect? Trust me, there are way more features to be discovered in Office that are useful for almost any job. Microsoft’s website offers free tutorials for all of their software.
Oh yeah. And keep applying for jobs and networking your butt off. But I didn’t include that on the official list because I know you’re tired of hearing it. But don't forget to do it. You’re welcome.
Oh, god. There is nothing more that I hate than those lists circulating around Buzzfeed or other places where I’m currently spending a significant time on instead of studying for my last final exam. Such is being a college senior.
But seriously – a lot of the advice is way warped and much too “YOLO” for my tastes. Like, “take another shot – it won’t kill you!” Umm. Yeah. Except it could.
I’m not a fun-killer and this isn’t going to be a list of advice that’s preachy from an old lady in granny panties. (I, in fact, wear lacy panties from Victoria’s Secret- thank you very much.)
What I’m hoping to do here is to provide some sort of real-world advice and insight into college life that isn’t as stupid as “You can skip class, but you can’t skip a crazy night to remember”(Trust me, college gives you plenty of those.) I remember being in your spot just three years ago today, and now I’m getting back up on that stage and doing it all over again. I know how scary and exciting it feels at the same time.
So, without further ado..I present my real advice for graduating high school seniors.
1) Everyone says that you will drift apart from your highschool friends for your college friends. This may be largely true. However, friendship don’t just simply die if you don’t want them to.They either die: a) because your interests change and you don’t have anything to talk about anymore (realistic grounds for ending a friendship) or b) because you don’t make the effort.
If it’s important for you to retain those friends, then pick up the phone. Ask them how college is doing. If you haven’t heard from them in awhile, shoot them a text. A friendship takes work. Just ask me – one of my childhood friends and I became even closer than when we were in highschool because we’ve made an effort.
2) College isn’t going to be everything that you expected. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, or a bad thing, but it is a thing. Don’t ever feel down that your college experience isn’t living up to your pre-conceived notions. Be willing to let go of your expectations of what you’re supposed to do, and when. Just let the chips fall where they may. I transferred after my freshman year. It’s not at all what I expected, but it was the absolute best decision for me.
3) Your roommate probably won’t be your best friend. Maybe he/she will. But likely you won’t. While most colleges require you to fill out some kind of roommate contract or agreement, most people will do it half-hazardly. DON’T. Even know you barely know the person yet and you don’t think they’ll be any problems, there likely will be. Just ask me what happened freshman year when one of my roommates forgot to clean the dishes… and another one of my roommates got her Dad involved and they were planning to sue if she didn’t move out. So yeah. Expect the unexpected and take the roommate contract seriously.
4) Go to class. Seriously. Even if it’s something as dumb as “University 101 – College Tips.” Trust me, your professors will think much higher of you. (and ahem, might be more likely to help you if your grade is on the border) Also, you’re paying so much for your education, you might as well get what you can out of it.
5) If you’re struggling, do something about it right away. If you’re struggling with a class, start going to office hours and see if your school offers any kind of free tutoring (many do). If you’re struggling personally, go seek out counseling. Don’t wait until the problem gets worse. It’ll be a Hell of a lot easier on yourself if you deal with it, now.
6) Sorry, I’m going to offer up another piece of advice that you’re gonna hear from everybody, but please take it. College is what you make out of it. While your college town might suck, take advantage of what your campus can offer you. Free or steeply discounted activities and events? Go for it. Once you’ve graduated, you’ll be whining about how you never went to that thing or whatever because now you have to pay full price for it.
7) On that note, join more activities – get involved with your school. With busy schedules, it can be easy to just crawl in your bed and watch Netflix and then go out on the weekends. While that’s cool, you will eventually get bored. Trust me. Go and seek out any club that seems mildly interesting, and go to their respective first meetings. You’re not making a lifelong commitment here. Just go and see if you like it. I went to one meeting of some club and got hit on by a creepy dude, and then abandoned my plan of seeking out other clubs (besides my sorority).
8) Go out and have fun, but also be on your guard. I’m not out here being a fun-sucker, but just be careful when you’re drinking to excess. Alcohol posioning is a real thing. Have a non-alcoholic drink every once in awhile to break it up, and make sure you’ve eaten before. Also, have some sort of pre-designated plan. Do you have a friend that can come with you that doesn’t tend to drink as much that could watch over you? How will you get back to your dorm? These are all questions you should ask before you get wasted, and not after.
9) We’re all told about “stranger danger” as little kids. Especially for you females out there. We’re always told to guard our drinks, make sure we see the bartender making it, etc. At campus or house parties though, we tend not to worry as much. After all, we’re all students, right? Or, the Tri Omega’s are my favorite fraternity so nothing will happen. The truth of the matter is that you never know who will show up to those parties. It’s actually way more likely that you will be sexually assulated on-campus than you would at a bar. There are assholes everywhere looking to take advantage of you. Don’t leave your drink attended anywhere. Make sure it’s made by someone you trust. Be wary of any kind of “jungle juice” unless you know who made it. Or better yet, just bring your own tumbler. A lot of girls do this.
10) For the love of God, use protection. Just…yeah. Condoms = way less expensive than a baby. Aaaand please, don’t just forgoe the condoms because you’re on the pill or have an IUD or whatever. It’s really not a good idea to ditch the rubbers until you’ve been in a monoagamous relationship for quite some time, and know..ahem, the other’s disease status. But otherwise go have fun.
11) Don't let anyone else define WHO YOU ARE. You are you, you are fabulous, you are wonderful. Even though high school is over, unfortunately, there are still several college students who think they're still in high school. Avoid the drama. Don't take crap from anybody anymore. You have the power to walk away. Also - don't let any guy/girl define who you are. There's nothing wrong with being in a serious relationship, but don't let that take away from developing your true self.
College is a time of growth. Embrace it and be you.