So you've graduated college, or you're a senior who will be doing so in a few months. Congratulations! It's really exciting, but it's also a period of your life when you'll spend a whole lot of time thinking, "um, now what?" Everyone you know and meet asks you what your plans are to find a full-time job after graduation, because everyone assumes you have a plan. The number one question that I bet you've been asked at least 100 times in the last week is, "Where are you working?" or "What kind of job are you looking for?" In the United States, it is expected that after graduation, you will immediately get your act together and start working at a full-time job, begin your career, and do everything else society encourages you to do. But, uh, what if that's not what you want? What if you're on a different path, and you're searching for alternatives to a full-time job after graduation?
Working full-time is not for everyone. Forgoing a career after graduation might be frowned upon by some people, but I know plenty of people who have done something different and have turned out just fine. If you're not ready to work a typical 9-5 job, or aren't sure what you really want to do, picking a different option is totally fine.
So, what are your options? There's more than you think! A full-time career isn't the only path after graduation, so never let anyone make you feel like it is. Here are a few alternatives that you should definitely look into — if only so that you have a good answer the next time someone pressures you for one.
Maybe you know what kind of career you would like someday, but you're just not ready to go out there and start it. Or maybe you know the job you want, but you're having a hard time getting hired. If that position is something that also has a freelancing opportunity, grab a hold of it and don't let go. Freelancing is similar to part-time work, and while it varies for different fields and companies, it's pretty straightforward. It either involves working from home, or coming into an office part-time or only once in a while. Freelancing is a good way to make money, get experience in your field, network and make connections, learn, and add to your resume, all while being able to essentially make your own hours and do other things on the side. Many people freelance and also work a part-time job, or they hustle hard and make freelancing their entire career.
Sounds great, right? It is, but there are some downsides to freelancing. One: most companies will not offer benefits or retirement plans to a freelancer, so if you need medical coverage, you're out of luck. Two: There's no real security with freelancing, which means you could be let go at any time. But if you're willing to work with the negatives, freelancing can be really great for recent grads.
2. Get An Internship
I know you think that internships are only for college students, but you're wrong. If you know the job you want but you're not ready or can't find one, you should definitely consider an internship. Although a lot of companies require interns to get college credit, there are plenty of options for recent grads, and a lot of them are even paid. Interning is an excellent way to make connections, get your foot in the door, gain experience, and learn more. In many fields, they're even required, so if you didn't get to do it in college or you only got to do one and it wasn't great, this is your time to make that up.
3. Try A Fellowship
Are you really, really passionate about a topic, but can't find the right job that caters to that passion? Or maybe the job you want doesn't exist yet, but you think it should. Doing a fellowship program might just give you the tools you need to make it a reality. Many universities offer fellowships. Check with your university, and any other universities near you. If you're someone who wants to start up something big, this could be for you.
4. Join An Organization To Do Some Good
If you have no idea what to do with your life but you know you want to make some sort of change, join an organization that will help you do just that. The Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are only two of many organizations that put you in a position where you can help others after graduating. Doing something like this is obviously helpful for others, and it will also make you feel good. It gives you a year or so to decide what you want to do next!
5. Become A Tutor
We all have that one school subject we're weirdly good at. If a subject has already popped into your head, you should think about tutoring other kids. As a tutor, you can basically make your own hours and take on as much work as you want (or don't want). You get to help kids learn about a subject you like, and you get to make a little money.
6. Work Abroad
Ready to get out of your college town or the place you grew up in? Want to completely start over and go somewhere new? You should think about working abroad. Besides programs like the Peace Corps, you can find international jobs for the Red Cross, or something along those lines. You could go in another direction and get a job teaching English in another country, which has to be tough but also really rewarding. If you're going to work, you can try to get a "working holiday" visa that allows you to hang in another country while working there. This is a great way to go on new adventures, meet a lot of new people, explore, and learn more, all while making a little bit of money.
If you have the means to volunteer and you don't want a full-time job, then why not do it? Start small by offering your services to a local homeless or battered women's shelter, or search for opportunities in your hometown. You can reach out to non-profit organizations to ask if they need help as well. Volunteering isn't a way to make money and can be really tough, but at the end of the day, knowing you're doing some good in this world is a pretty great feeling.
8. Start Your Own Thing
Have you ever looked at an Instagram blogger with 80K followers, who gets paid a few thousand dollars just for posting a photo of a product, and wondered where you went wrong? I get it, but listen: you can do that too. If you're not going to get a full-time job and have a lot of free time on your hands, work on doing your own thing and becoming an entrepreneur. This can mean working on a blog, trying to become a social media star, starting up your own business, or even making an Etsy craft store — it can be anything! Just use your time to put all of your passion and effort into it, and be patient.
If you don't know what you want to do with the rest of your life and you have no real ties at home, why not travel? You get to explore, have adventures, meet new people, do new things, get out of your comfort zone, get inspired, and maybe even find your path in life. There are a lot of options, and while they of course include money, you don't need as much as you think to travel a little bit. Just plan wisely!
10. Make It All About You
After nearly 20 years (sometimes longer) of putting the majority of your focus and time into going to class and getting good grades, it's normal to feel like you just need a break. Once you graduate college, you're officially a "real adult," and that means you can make your own choices — so why not make this a time to be a little selfish? Don't think about what other people expect you to do or want you to do. Focus on yourself and what makes you happy. After I graduated, I gave myself three months to do anything I wanted before I started the job search. Although I didn't get to travel, I did work part-time and spent all of my free time relaxing, hanging with my friends, and doing whatever I wanted without worrying about school or class or anything else. It was amazing, and I'm so happy I did it. Sometimes you just need that!
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