So, You’ve Graduated. Now What?

As the weather turns warmer and May rolls around, thousands of colleges and universities across the country initiate their graduation ceremonies. If you’re in the company of students who donned black caps with tassels during one of the last couple of weekends, congratulations! Welcome to the rest of your life.

Graduating from college can feel both exciting and a little daunting. Chances are good that you’ve worked very hard over the last four years (or more), and graduating can feel like welcoming a very promising season of rest. It’s essential and healthy to take a little time off from the busy pace of studies and finals that you’ve faced over the last few weeks, but it’s also important to take a good look into the future.

We’ve put together a list of things to consider as you stand on the cusp of the rest of your life. If you feel a little paralyzed by what’s next, then read on!

1. Become marketable 

Even if you were at the top of your class throughout your time in school, the job landscape can really mix things up. Competition for jobs is intense, and it’s important that you position yourself as a highly covetable option for hiring managers. Prove to employers that you’re worth a shot by increasing your marketability. Whatever subject matter you’re now qualified in, it’s a good idea to showcase your innovation and abilities in a way that will get you noticed.

Start by making sure your resume and LinkedIn account are up to snuff. Have a designer friend help you lay out your resume in a way that’s pleasing to the eye, and make sure you’ve eliminated all potential grammar and spelling errors. Depending on your field of interest, make a website to showcase your work and prove that your skills extend even beyond what you’ve studied. It’s a good idea to show off your skills on social media as well—you never know who is connected to who, and your work in front of the right eyes can make all the difference.

2. Keep studying

“But didn’t I just get my degree?!” you ask. The thing is, depending on your area of study, it might be a really smart move for you to continue on in school. Some fields require a master’s or doctorate degree in order to ensure proper job placement, and if you plan to work in academia, a Ph.D. is probably required.

Now, there’s nothing to say that you can’t take a break from school, score an easy summer job, and take a few months before you jump back into the books. But don’t wait too terribly long, or you might find your motivation lacking. The other thing to keep in mind is that many master’s and doctorate degrees can be completed online or from afar. Having the option to attend school in a “non-traditional” way can be really helpful and give you a little more versatility in where you want to move and what you want to do next.

3. Start networking

It’s not what you know—it’s who you know. This age-old saying proves true time and time again. It’s a good idea to keep your connections with fellow classmates post-graduation and stay open to making new connections as well. Oftentimes, job opportunities will fall into your lap, simply because you knew the right person.

If you have the option to, attend networking events or get involved with some sort of extracurricular hobby. Whether it’s a good friend or simply an acquaintance, there’s never harm in reaching out and letting others know what kind of job you’re looking for or if they know of anyone you could meet with for business mentoring or to talk through how to improve your resume or portfolio.

4. Start saving

Getting a job and a real paycheck can feel a bit strange at first—all of a sudden, it feels like you have loads of money! While it can be tempting to start spending like crazy, stay sensible with the money you’re making and make wise decisions. Pay off your student loans and start putting money into a retirement fund. If money management feels confusing and hard to you, start meeting with a trusted friend or adult who can show you the ropes and help you get started.