From College to Career: Tips From A Soon-To-Be Senior

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As a student who will be a college senior in the Fall, I am receiving a steady stream of people asking me what my plans are post-graduation, you know… that thing happening eleven months from now? Truthfully, I’m just not sure what to tell them without sounding unsure or too vague.

The question is a major point of stress for many students. Everyone tells young adults to do what they love, so they desperately try to figure out what that is by the time they’re off to college. Once they choose a major, the stress shifts to figuring out what to do with that degree post-school and how they’ll make money with it.

I didn’t find out what I really loved until I was already in college. When I went to school, my classes coupled with internships helped me figure out that I loved writing and travel. Based on my passions you may be surprised to hear I’m pursuing a degree in Business Administration. As a high schooler, I picked it because it was practical and broad, perfect for someone who had no idea what they want to do with their life. I ended up keeping it because what I’m learning is going to be useful in any workplace and my business law and ethics class have proven quite interesting to me, besides, I didn’t take corporate finance for nothing! I will also graduate with double minors in English and Leadership Studies, which I think as a trio conveys my interests well.

A common challenge I know many of my peers have is finding out too late in their college career that they should add a major or change their current one – I went through this the beginning of my junior year. I had my Business major and Leadership Studies minor locked in, but desperately wanted to add English. My options were to take an extra year to graduate, double majoring in English and Business, or graduate on time with an added English minor if I play my cards right and sign up for the right classes. College is expensive, so option B was the winner.

A lot of students pick their degree because they believe they’ll make money in that profession or they enjoyed a subject in high school, but once they take the in-depth college courses, they find they don’t enjoy it anymore. I can say from experience that it’s a lot easier to figure out what you don’t want to pursue rather than what you would love to pursue! It can be daunting as time passes and you’re still struggling to find your passion, especially when you feel like time and money is running out. For older generations, it seems like a silly thing to worry about at ages 18 to 22, but it’s a genuine concern. If people kept asking you the same question over and over, eventually you’ll feel insecure that you don’t have and should have an answer. For college students, the question is always post-graduation plans.

Even if students have a plan after college, life as we all know, doesn’t always go according to plan. Companies typically don’t hire a year in advance, and certainly not new grads. Most graduate school applications aren’t even due until the end of the year. Even if a 2022 graduate told you their plan when you ask, more than likely things will change. Or maybe they’ll just say screw it and live life in a traveling van (not going to lie I’ve thought about it).

My biggest goal in young adulthood is to live in a place I enjoy, doing work I’m passionate about. I want to be happy and excited to go to work, simple as that. When people ask for my plan, I can’t just say “I want to be happy”.  It gives zero detail, and it’s not the answer they’re looking for.

The task of planning my young adulthood in my senior year is daunting. I truly desire a job I’m excited to go to (or maybe a graduate program) in a city I want to live in, find an affordable place to live, budget my money, and the list goes on.

Saying goodbye to undergrad will pull at the heartstrings. There’s a community built there that I’ll likely never be able to replicate, yet I’m supposed to be excited to move on. The people I’ve met in college and memories I’ve made the past three years will stick with me forever.  Living across the hall from all my friends or going on an adventure at 2pm on a Tuesday is something anyone would miss. Luckily, I have another year surrounded by friends, and I plan to savor it.

– Katie Hulce

Now it’s Mom’s turn – I am really proud of Katie and the fact that she is so focused on getting her next steps right, post-college. Like all parents, I want her to enjoy the full college experience, focus on getting good grades and then launch into something she is passionate about (and living close to Mom – ok that one is mine alone).

I told her this upon her high school graduation and I will tell her all throughout her senior year of college.  Unless you are choosing to focus your career on being a doctor, lawyer etc. most careers find you, you don’t necessarily find it.

For all parents – think about our own careers.  Most of us started by taking a “job”.  We didn’t change jobs unless we found it necessary.  We got integrated into the company and started doing good work.  Then someone took notice and moved us throughout the organization. And so, our careers developed – we didn’t know what our career destination was either or what it would ultimately look like – but through finding our passions and putting them to work, we were able to grow and learn and earn a nice living.

It will be the same with our kids.  The point of my note is this.  It’s ok for our kids not to know.  Give them room to try things that speak to something they love.  It will not be likely they will be your payroll for long, because they don’t want that any more than you do!

Give your son or daughter wings to find what they love to do, and the money will follow – I know this for sure from 25 years in the search business.

One piece of advice to help along the way.  Have your kids make two lists – one that is everything they are passionate about.  Could be playing piano or football – it doesn’t have to be just work related– it’s about seeing how they are wired.  Then have them make a second list of all the things they are naturally good at.  Not things they learned in school or received training on, but things that in their DNA comes easily to them.  It is 100% proven that if people work to their natural gifts, they will be successful, because they are a natural (thing about the gifted athlete or the really smart person who never cracks a book and gets straight A’s).  We all have natural gifts – we just have to identify them!

Ok, one last piece of advice for students (and parents). Don’t forget to enjoy the journey, this time goes by way too fast.

– Sharon Hulce

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