You graduated! Now what?

As a new graduate, you can expect to experience a flurry of emotions. These may include, but are not limited to, a sense of relief stemming from the fact that you have finally completed your degree. Depending on the particulars of your McGill experience, this accomplishment may have been more or less of an uphill battle. A sense of confusion may be in the mix… a disoriented feeling given that what you’ve worked so hard for over the past few years is now coming to a close. Ideally, your emotional cocktail is topped off with a sprinkle of excitement for what lies ahead. Perhaps the excitement is overshadowed by a sense of impending doom and panic. That’s okay, too! Whatever it may be for you, ultimately, along with this change, you are one step closer to being fully immersed in *real* life. You will be reminded of this fast approaching responsibility time and time again by peers, parents and other family members. “Congrats, you graduated!” They’ll say. Followed promptly by a, “What’s next?

Caring friends and family with nothing but good intentions have, nonetheless, sent my heart rate racing when faced with the question, “What’s next?” All I can do is squirm and reply frankly, “I don’t know.” They’ll often pause for a beat, and then quickly change tactics and say, “That’s fine! You have time to figure it out.” While I maintain this to be true, a few decisions do have to be made in order to set the stage for those elusive future career plans.

To those of you who also find yourself in the depths of the transitional grey area that is post-undergrad life – fear not! I am one week out from convocation. Take these words of advice, and hopefully find some peace of mind.

1. You are not alone.
I can assure you there are others out there who, just like you, are not clutching prestigious graduate school acceptances. Not waltzing around penthouse office spaces in finely tailored suits. Not jetting off to New Zealand for the trip of a lifetime. Beware of the tendency we all have within us to play the comparison game. Not everyone’s path is going to be the same. If you see someone doing something you’re jealous of, maybe ask them about it! You can gain some inspiration instead of ruminating and losing some self esteem. Embrace whatever drive it is within you that has propelled you this far. However, allow yourself some space because this may be the first time in your life not everything is mapped out for you. You can find the difference there between this time being negative versus simply an unknown (easier said than done, but worth a try).

2. Break it down! Focus on a few small decisions.
Instead of sitting in your room, staring at a wall, contemplating “what do I want to do with my life?” I would suggest to identify several smaller decisions which you can easily tackle. For example, do you want to stay in Montreal? Why or why not? Have you considered moving? Where can you realistically go? Where can you go that will best set you up for success over the next few years? This helped me significantly While I didn’t always know why I came up with the answers I did, sometimes you have to trust your gut. If that’s not enough to satisfy your confusion, at the end of the day, finding out where you’re physically going to be post-grad is fundamental. You HAVE to make moves and figure it out, so just get going and do it. The rest will inevitably unfold based on your location.

My initial thought when it set in that graduation was fast approaching was to pretty passively look for a job in any location whatsoever. I browsed job listings in Montreal, home in New York, anywhere that sounded remotely interesting… this did NOT work for me. I ended up even more scatterbrained than before. Instead of easing my indecisiveness, I became even more torn over what to do next. Perhaps if you have a quite specific job in mind, you could browse different locations, but if you’re uncertain about the job you’re looking for AND the location, that makes a lot of unknowns, so beware.

3. Work with what you already have right in front of you.
Work with what you’ve got. What do I mean by this? Well, chances are you’re starting better off than you thought. Take this newfound free time to reflect. Think about your time at McGill. What experiences did you really love? What did you hate? What did you feel indifferent about? Not only should you be reflecting, but you should also be reaching out to various connections. Talk to your peers and even your superiors who are doing things that you find interesting. You’d be surprised what you can unlock if you ride that wave of uncertainty within you and seek out guidance from others.

I have done my personal best to follow all of this advice, mostly inspired from discussions with family, friends, and advisors. I plan to move back home to Albany, NY in a few weeks. There, I will fully jump into the job search. I have been aiming towards a career in the education sector, however recently, I have started to think I may be more interested in the government sector. Hopefully, I’ll continue to follow this advice and be patient with myself as I enter the job search. I can’t promise my anxieties have been fully abated, yet I do feel better after settling on this than I did over the past couple months of back and forth. Stay tuned, and good luck!

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