Graduating Seniors: What to Do if You Don’t Know What to Do

How could it be senior year already? If you’re not sure what you want to do after you graduate, then you’re not alone. A lot of seniors have doubts and questions, and we’re going over some of them right now… 

“I don’t know what to do after college!”

Ah! That’s okay. Whether you know it or not, you’ve been in this place before. Remember graduating from high school? You had a choice then to continue schooling or go to work, and now you’re sort of facing the same decision. 

If you’re most people, your next step will probably be looking for a job. The question, then, is what job do you want?

You might have done some kind of work in the past, like babysitting, volunteering, or summer jobs. How did you like those experiences? Any career you want to rule out? 

The career center has some great info on exploring career options and deciding on a career. But for starters, think about what you’re good at (you’re good at something—you’re good at reading the admissions blog, for starters!) and think about what you like. When you picture yourself working somewhere, where is it? Why? 

Choosing your first job (because, really, it is only your first job—you can get others) is sort of like choosing your major. You might find some solace, then, by reading our blog about how to choose a college major. But just think—this time, you’ll be getting paid for what you pick, not the other way around!

“There’s no time to apply for jobs when I’m trying to pass all my classes so that I can even graduate!”

No question, your life is busy. And you’re right; graduating is your priority right now, but you can find time somehow to apply for stuff. I’m not saying it’s the most fun study break, but it’s important (I mean, obviously, but still).

Set goals for yourself. Can you apply to one job a week? I know I can’t! I find it annoying and dispiriting and boring. But maybe you can do it! It’s overwhelming, but you can power through it. I believe in you!

I’m in a rut—no one is getting back to me.

You know you’re in a tough spot if you get excited when you get a rejection letter, just because it’s some kind of response. The thing is, it’ll probably take a lot of applications before you get the answer you want from a company. All the more reason to keep applying.   

If you haven’t already, think about swinging by the career center and getting your resume and cover letters looked over. They can help bring your applications to the next level.

Unfortunately, though, you can have a perfect resume and cover letter and still not be contacted; that’s just the way applying for things pans out sometimes. It’s a bummer. But searching for jobs is valuable exercise in perseverance and introspection, so your time isn’t really being wasted.

Everything will work out in the end. You’ve gotten through years of college already, and you can get through this. Reach out to friends, family members, classmates, teachers, and counselors whenever you feel low. They probably know what it’s like. 

The important thing now is that you keep going; there are really a ton of opportunities around, and you’ll find something at some point. 

And if you ever forget that, just remember, “There’s a million things to do, you know that there are, you know that there are, you know that there are, you know that there are! You know that there are!” and keep playing that on repeat for the next five hours. You’ll get back on track. 

“Everyone else already has a job, even that jerk in my geology class.”

False! It probably just sounds like everyone does because the only people talking about post-college plans are the ones that already have jobs. Trust me, I have older siblings, and I’ve heard this straight from the horse’s mouth (I also have a talking horse. No, not Mr. Ed!). 

There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re still looking for work—almost everyone who has a job had to look for it in some way. People get it.

And remember, if that jerk in your geology class can get a job, then you can too!

“What if I get to graduation, and I still don’t have a job?”

Whatever! As long as you’re actively searching, you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. 

Don’t get super down on yourself; not having a job right away doesn’t take away from the fact that you graduated from college, which is an incredible accomplishment. 

More people than you think graduate without something on their plate, and absolutely no one graduates knowing exactly how their life will pan out. While not having a job might not be the ideal situation for you, you’ll get through it. You can start an internship somewhere or even volunteer at a local animal shelter while you search, just so that you’re gaining experience to put on your resume.

You will find a job if you keep at it. Maybe it won’t be your dream job right off the bat, but that’s okay; you can gain valuable experience no matter where you are. And once you start working, you’ll get a better sense of what you want (or don’t want) to do in your career, and you can go from there. A start is a start. 

“What can I do now?”

Here’s what! 

  1. Start (or continue) the job hunt, whether you know what you want or not. Keep applying to places and keep reaching out to people who might know about some opportunities. As you look, you’ll find yourself drawn to some titles and disenchanted by others. Keep these things in mind—they may help you find your track.
  2. Visit the career center website and see what resources you can take advantage of while you can. You can get your resume and cover letter reviewed, meet with a career advisor, and even go through a mock interview. You have these resources now, so you might as well use them. 
  3. Stay on top of your classes
  4. Go to career fairs on campus, if you can. They’re great practice for talking to recruiters.

Oh, and there’s also a number 5, too—enjoy your last semester at school! It’s been a long road for some to get here, and an even longer road for others. You deserve to feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. I’m proud of you, and I don’t even know you! Great job on everything!

Kate

Kate

Class of 2020
I’m a senior here at the university, majoring in English and Math and minoring in Spanish. I’ve lived in Illinois all my life, sharing a room with my sister and many crickets. As the youngest in my family, I’m lucky enough to have my older siblings’ advice and perspective as I make my way through college!

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