After Graduation

What to do when post graduation plans are unclear

“What are you doing after graduation?” Mike asked Katie, his senior classmate. “I got an awesome position at GE in their IT department” said Katie. “Nice” replied Mike. “Yeah, I’m excited, I’ll be reporting directly to the AVP of digital strategy” she boasted, with an affirming head nod. “And what about you Jeremy”, Mike asked his other peer graduating with him in a week. “What are you up to after graduation? Did you get any offers?” Jeremy scratched his head, looked up at his peers, sighed and responded “Uhh, I’m not sure yet, I’m still figuring it out”. Mike and Katie looked at each other, then back at Jeremy “That’s cool”, Mike responded with a sympathetic tone “You’ve got time”.

For some graduating college seniors, the question ‘what are you doing after graduation?’ is music to their ears, because they’ve found a job or they’ve figured out their next step. But for some others who may not have the best plans or any job prospects, it can be an annoyance, one that some would do almost anything to avoid. During my senior year of college, I interviewed with several organizations before landing a job with the company I interned with, but until I received a job offer, I hated when people asked me that question. It made me super anxious, and reminded me that I didn’t have a job yet and that graduation day was getting closer. Some college students have no solid plans after graduation for a number of reasons, it could be a bad job market for their particular field, or uncertainty about how they want to apply their major to their career, while others may just not feel ready to enter the workforce. A study completed by the Pew Research Center on “The State of American Jobs” indicated Americans have mixed views about higher education and its ability to prepare students for the workforce.After Graduation - Workforce Readiness Stat

To my graduating college seniors, I encourage you to be mindful of your choices. Sometimes just taking any available job after graduation can be a mistake, it can potentially leave you feeling miserable and disengaged if not aligned to your core skills and values. But holding out for the right job can be a challenge, especially given our accomplishment driven culture here in America. In some ways each of us shares an innate desire to excel, to be #1, to ‘climb the corporate ladder’.  But “what a tragedy” says Dr. Tony Evans, “to climb the ladder to the top and when you get there discover that it was leaning against the wrong wall”? Just taking any available job may have you advancing, but you could be advancing in the wrong direction, further away from your ‘calling’ and the career of your dreams.

So, if you’re not quite sure of your next step after graduation, and you’re not content with just taking any available job, I have a suggestion. Consider volunteering. Yes, volunteering, consider joining AmeriCorps. You may be thinking “What’s AmeriCorps?” don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the name, but if you’ve ever heard of organizations such as City Year, Teach for America, or Habitat for Humanity than you’re familiar with AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Its network connects over 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health, and homeland security.

When I decided to leave my corporate position one year after graduation, I didn’t have a plan and wasn’t sure what my immediate next step was going to be. I stumbled upon an AmeriCorps program called City Year and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. City Year  is an education based non-profit seeking to end the national dropout crisis through citizen service and civic leadership. The initial appeal of the program was the one year time period, an opportunity to serve my local community and the education award provided upon completion. It seemed like a good deal, and it was. In the end I was surprised by the amount of opportunities I was given to develop new skills all while working to improve the lives of others.

During my year of service, I volunteered as a team leader responsible for working alongside and supervising a team of 6 other AmeriCorps members between the ages of 18-24. My primary service site was an elementary school in West Philadelphia named Alain Locke Elementary, where my team and I were responsible for 1-on-1 tutoring/mentoring, after-school programming, and special events.

Through my time volunteering with City Year I gained experience and skills that I did not get during my first year in corporate. I was given the opportunity to gain leadership and interpersonal skills – helping the team align their daily tasks to meet organizational objectives and coaching their performance. I learned how to manage small and large scale projects from design to execution, and lastly I was given the opportunity to network with key organizational leaders of large corporations, in addition to elected officials such as the Mayor of Philadelphia and other local state representatives. I got so much out of my year of service that I decided to join the City Year staff as a program manager the following year. I didn’t know it at the time, but some of the skills I developed, have been growing in demand according to the Pew Research Center. Social Skills are among the top 3 skills being requested by growing employers, followed by analytics and physical skills.

After Graduation - Workforce Readiness Stat2

Volunteering your time to help others can be super rewarding and can be a great opportunity for you to discover more about your interests, skills, and passions. Find a cause you’re passionate about or even something you’re vaguely interested in and just start helping. Finding a structured and reputable volunteer program, can provide experience and transferable skills that can be applied to almost any career {City Year Career Bios}, and it will help you stay motivated while you figure out your next step.

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  1. The recommendation to volunteer while looking for opportunities is key because it takes one out of the house, enables an individual to remain in an engaged growth mindset, and helps in filtering out options, or as has been mentioned enables one to discover latent strengths.
    Very important, timely, and relevant topic.


    1. Thanks Christine!


  2. Wonderful, insightful post! Thank you Dave for writing and sharing. I could relate a lot with the anxiety of post-graduation/college plans (I dreaded hearing “What are you going to do after you graduate?” before I had solid plans). Like you, I felt drawn to volunteering after college – specifically through the AmeriCorps Program – and never regretted this decision. If anything, now that I’m fortunate to have a full-time position at a university, I *still* draw from my experiences in AmeriCorps (City Year and VISTA). Being in the AmeriCorps Program set a blueprint for my current (and I’m anticipating future) work.

    I also got to meet wonderful people who were passionate about social justice and doing good in/for/with the community (like you!). Looking forward to reading more posts!


  3. Thanks for sharing your experience Jackie!


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