In David Sedaris’ humorous memoir, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he describes his tenure in the hallowed halls of the prestigious Princeton University. As opposed to most ambitious Princeton students, Sedaris flitted from course to course, not entirely sure what he wanted to major in. (He did briefly consider majoring in Patricide, but scrapped it after his mother grew jealous. ”Why aren’t you majoring in murdering me?” she demanded.) After graduating, Sedaris headed back home, just as lost as he had been when he left several years ago. “What are you going to do with your life now?” his parents asked him. “Well,” Sedaris replied drolly, “I do have some dirty laundry I need to do.” And he did do laundry, for the next six months.
Don’t let yourself end up like David Sedaris! (I mean, the Sedaris who just graduated from college, not the present Sedaris, who is a best-selling author and world traveler.) After completing four years of education, Sedaris wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his degree. In this way, he is like thousands of seniors who will be tossed from the sanctuary of their university and into the real world this May. These students wander aimlessly through the summer months, taking up waitressing positions, collecting unemployment, and living with their parents. These students also suffer from a general sense of dissatisfaction. They wonder exactly what they went to college for, and whether it was really worth it.
Thankfully, I was not one of these students when I graduated from college nearly two years ago. I knew exactly (or pretty exactly) what I wanted to do after graduation. First, it had always been a kooky dream of mine to work on a dude ranch. So I got a position at Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming for the next 8 months. After my employment on the ranch was over, I knew what I wanted to do next–get an editorial internship in NYC, preferably with a publishing house. And, as an intern at the Campus Clipper, now I’ve accomplished this as well! Although my path after graduation has been a somewhat meandering one, I’ve always had a goal in mind–to become a freelance writer and copy-editor.
From both examples, David Sedaris’ and my own, you can see that having a goal in mind when graduating from college is necessary to your happiness. Even if that goal does not lead to that 90k dream job you envisioned while a dew-eyed freshman, it at least gives you something to strive for. So my advice to you is this–have “Develop a Post-graduation Plan” be one of your New Year’s Resolutions. Whether you’re a senior trembling in the face of impending graduation this May, or a freshman who’s stuck on deciding a major, it’s necessary to have to a plan in mind! I’ve provided a few tips to help you below.
GO WITH YOUR INTERESTS
This seems like a no-brainer, but so many students sideline their interests to pursue a major that they feel will “make them successful” or “bring them money,” even if they dislike it. For example, one of my old boyfriends pursued marketing major in college because he felt it would help him land a job. But after 3 years of struggling through lectures he didn’t enjoy, he quit. He is now enrolled in music school and loving it! The moral of the story is this–don’t waste your time majoring in something you know you’ll hate, just to make yourself marketable. This may help you land a more lucrative job, but the problem is you won’t enjoy your job any more than you enjoyed your major. And jobs don’t last 4 years–they last decades.
But what if my passions are banjo-playing and 2D cartooning, you may ask. Sure, I can have a good time and major in art and music now, but how will I be able to find a job at all with this degree? Believe me, if you really want to be a banjo-player, you’ll find a way to pay the bills. My friend who is in music school teaches kids guitar to make ends meet. He’s much happier in his classroom surrounded by eager-eyed students than he would be if he was working 9-5 in the financial district. And if you’ve got an art or music major to back you, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding in your dream than if you only sat through finance lectures in college.
CONSIDER A DOUBLE MAJOR
Maybe you do want to be a banjo-player, but you also want to enjoy the finer things in life. Consider majoring in both music and a more “practical” major, such as business. This way, after graduation, you’ll be able to score a salaried desk job while at the same time playing gigs on the weekend. This, however, will only work if you’re willing to let that salaried job take precedence. You can’t be a banjo-player and wear a white collar at the same time. Plus, if you do decide you want to be a double major, you have to make that decision very early on in your college career. By the time you’re a sophomore, you should have earned credits towards both majors. Double-majoring is also a lot of work. Believe me, I was an English and Communications double major in college, and it often seemed like I had more papers than I had fingers to type them with.
WHEN IN DOUBT, GIVE CAREER SERVICES A SHOUT
Maybe, unlike that banjo-player, you really don’t know what you want out of life. You’re like David Sedaris, skimming through lectures, but never sitting in on one that makes you say, “Hey! I wanna do that!” Don’t be afraid to let other people help you. Career Services is located on your campus for a reason. Schedule a visit with them and explain your problem. The counselors at Career Services have a lot of experience helping uncertain students just like you. I also recommend seeing the counselors at Career Services because they have more time to assist you than your course advisor does. My course advisor in college was inundated with work for his own classes, and was trying to advise 20 other students besides me. Our appointments usually consisted of him telling me I needed several more math and history credits, then shooing me out the door. But my counselor at Career Services actually had time to sit down and discuss my future. After all, that was her job, and she loved doing it!
So I hope these three tips will help you develop your own “Post-Graduation Plan.” Right now, the future may look a little murky. It’s so important to have a path ahead of you in these woods which are called life. Maybe that path won’t be in a straight line, but as long as you can put one foot in front of the other, you’ll reach that goal! :-)
Also remember to check out our new book, The NYC Student Guide, for more tips on career-planning. The Guide will be out soon!
Written by Megan Soyars, Campus Clipper Blogger