There are three big problems new graduates have after finishing their educational career:
1. Figuring out what to do with all your newfound free time
2. Finding a job
3. Choosing a job
Each problem comes with its own specific set of issues. Figuring out what to do with newfound free time is easier for some than it is for others. For me, I was so busy during graduate school that I basically had every hour of my day scheduled. I always had specific things to do at almost any point in the day. After graduating though, my tightly-packed schedule suddenly loosened up (and by loosened up I mean it completely cleared up). My days began at 6:30 a.m. when I was in school and instructing courses. Suddenly, my days began whenever I opened my eyes (which was 6:30 a.m. for a while because my sleep schedule didn’t change as quickly as my daily schedule). Without having each hour planned out, I felt a sense of freedom at first, closely followed by panic and the constant nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. To soothe my anxieties, I took up a few hobbies (crocheting, cross-stitch, painting), exercised daily, applied to many jobs, read books and began cooking and baking. I have to admit, it was refreshing to accomplish more enjoyable tasks without the pressure of a grade or criticism to follow. Sleeping in was equally as easy to acclimate to as well.
Finding a job was one of the first goals I set for myself. Before everything else, I would apply to as many jobs as I could. I learned quickly how to choose the ones I was qualified for but also felt excited about. Five days after graduation I had three job offers, two of which I felt more dread for than excitement, so I decided that those were not the jobs for me. Finding a job had always been so easy for me while I was in school because I was limited to part-time summer jobs (and those were always in high demand). Suddenly though, I had to think about a job in terms of years or even the rest of my life. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had to think about salary and commuting, two things I’d never given much thought to before, but when a job offer arrived from a company two-hours away from home, I had to decided whether the job was worth not only the gas money, but if it was also worth traveling for four hours every day. I also had to think about cities in terms of safety and price. Again, something I had never given much thought to since I’ve stayed in the same area for almost twenty years. I had to consider and prepare for the very real situation in which I might have to move. Of course, a whole other set of concerns comes with the issue of moving. It was all getting a little overwhelming, but after sitting down and figuring out the basics, things got a lot easier and then the interviews starting pouring in.
A lot of students in the past had trouble finding work after graduation. The economy wasn’t good and unemployment was higher than ever. Luckily, I was in school during the worst of the financial crisis. I graduated in an average or mediocre economic time though. Jobs are not prevalent, but they aren’t impossible to find. (Here’s the thing, I never thought jobs were impossible to find, I believe you just have to have the right mind-set, motivation and self-discipline.) I graduated with job offers and received a few more days after graduation. I went to multiple interviews and felt like I was on top of the world…for a short time at least. While not being able to find a job is tough, choosing a job is also tough. I didn’t want to take the first thing thrown my way, but how would I know if turning something down would be a huge mistake or great decision? What if I love the job, but it comes with complications? What if I love the job but it doesn’t pay well? What if I hate the job but it pays really well? Is this job worth moving to another state for? What are my opportunities for advancement here or there? And the questions went on and on and on. I understand that not being able to find a job is scary. I don’t doubt that; but not knowing whether to take a job or not, not knowing if a job is right for you or having to choose between jobs…that’s scary too. I don’t want to make a big mistake right out of the gate, but I also don’t want to miss great opportunities when they come alone.
There are other problems that new graduates face, especially ones out of graduate school rather than undergraduate. In fact, each graduation of our lives comes with a specific set of problems. Graduating from high school presents the problem of which college to go to or which one will you get into (or which one can you afford!). Graduating 8th grade presents the problem of high school to follow (which is quite a problem to endure). Our challenges, I guess, simply change as we get older. Sometimes the problems get bigger, more challenging, but on the whole, they seem to get a little more exciting too. Sure, there’s more responsibility and more expectations of us as we age, but with that responsibility and expectations comes freedom and creativity. I sometimes sit around, overwhelmed at the predicament that I find myself in, but the important people in my life remind me that this is the most exciting time of my life; I’m only just getting started, and I can go in whatever direction I want to.