For most people, graduating represents far more than simply passing your exams and gaining your degree. It is, instead, a pivotal point in our life where we move from the highly structured life that full-time education affords us into one where we begin to set our own goals and choose how we spend our time, wisely or otherwise.
Graduating is, then, an extremely exciting time where we can begin to knuckle down and focus our efforts on where we choose to. The risk, of course, is that outside of the educational environment, we may lose momentum. It can be difficult formulating our own “curriculum” and determining our own path. With most graduates in their early twenties, there can be a temptation to put things off and assume there’s plenty of time to make big career decisions later on.
With most of your life’s biggest decisions made during the years that follow graduation, however, this is no time for sitting back. Instead, post-graduation represents the time to double down and spend time investing in yourself so you can keep momentum and reap the benefits down the line. Below, we’ve put together some of the best ways to go about this and keep your momentum going after university.
Don’t stop learning
While your university education will no doubt give you some skills and proficiencies that will net you a job, it’s important to keep studying. In fact, far from the end of education, graduation can be considered the beginning of a lifelong journey to keep learning.
As most graduates soon discover, a university education is great for teaching theory and fundamental practices but most roles will require some form of specialised knowledge and experience that a single degree can’t cover.
One way to invest in yourself and keep the momentum going, then, is to enrol in some evening classes, bootcamps, workshops, or online courses to further expand your skillset.
For example, the platforms, languages, and libraries, that a recently graduated web developer has learned about in university will likely already be outdated. It is simply the nature of some industries to move fast and it is expected for those involved to keep abreast of the latest technologies.
Make big decisions
Despite being told how nice it must be to be young, free, and have your entire future ahead of you, graduation can be an anxious time for many. Not only is graduation a time for saying goodbye to close friends and a supportive environment, but you may even feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices and possibility before you.
As well-cited books such as Dr. Meg Jay’s Defining Decade explain, however, the period following graduation is crucial in setting the tone for the rest of your life, especially your career. During these years, you will most likely set your career trajectory, meet your life partner, and see some of your career’s most dramatic pay increases. The data shows that graduates who make big decisions tend to be more confident, enjoy higher self-esteem, and go on to be overall more successful.
While you may not exactly know where you want to be in twenty years, you will want to formulate a vision of what success looks like for you and pursue this with a passion. This will help make career decisions easier, asking yourself whether a job role, for example, helps you move towards your own personal idea of success.
Make new connections and get involved
No matter what career path you are going down, it’s important to develop a professional network and be involved in your industry.
Keeping in touch with old friends and making new connections with like-minded professionals not only opens the door to a host of new opportunities in the future but also helps keep you interested in your field. Being involved in this way gives you a competitive edge and can mean the difference between simply working a job and becoming a thought-leader within your field.
Most networking begins in university with graduates keeping in touch via platforms such as Linkedin. You can also network online via other social media platforms such as Twitter, posting relevant industry content, giving your thoughts and inviting conversation.
Offline networking can be achieved via dedicated networking events and seminars usually arranged by companies within your industry. These range from speaking events and formal networking sessions, to informal mixing functions with a focus on expanding your contact network.
Look for extra opportunities
While, at first, the role you find immediately following graduation may feel somewhat challenging and overwhelming, before long imposter syndrome will fade and you will feel more than ready to take on new duties.
Asking your manager or supervisor for extra responsibilities not only does this look great to your employer giving you an advantage come promotion opportunities, but also keeps things fresh. New responsibilities can help renew your passion for your chosen field and new challenges give you enough resistance to grow professionally.
Should you find yourself able to, you can also look to your colleagues to ask if there’s any way you can help them. Again, this demonstrates initiative and passion to your employer but more importantly, gives you new learning opportunities and should be seen as self-investment.
Remind yourself of your goals
Throughout the period following graduation, you want to keep your career aspirations in mind. Goals vary from person to person and this may require some self-reflection, preferably shortly before graduation itself.
For some, running their own company or landing a high-level managerial role represents the pinnacle of a career, others have financial goals that their career serves as a vehicle to achieve. For some, recognition as an expert or thought-leader in their chosen field is something to work towards. And for many, it may be a combination of all of the above.
Whatever your career goals are, write them down and remind yourself of them every now and then. The nitty gritty of working life can often distract us from our goals and prevent us from seeing the big picture. Momentum can be maintained by enshrining these goals in some form such as a letter to yourself, meditation and mindfulness, and even something as simple as a desktop wallpaper.
Maintaining momentum after university isn’t easy. There’s plenty to distract and overwhelm graduates who are entering a workforce more competitive and fast-paced than ever before. Nevertheless, by following the above tips you should find your passion for your chosen field is maintained and you successfully achieve your career goals.