I was having a conversation with my younger brother over the weekend, when I asked him about his plans after graduation. Although he’s just a junior in college, I wanted him to begin thinking about what he wanted to do once school was over. Like many college students who just focus on getting a degree, my baby brother has no clue what he wants to do after graduation.

So now what?

We are living in an uncertain economy. Although it is slowly making a comeback, there are upwards of 14 million people who are unemployed or underemployed. On top of that, millions of eager college graduates hit the job market each year hoping to land their dream job, but what if they don’t have a clue what that is?

Thinking back to the months leading up to my graduation, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do either. However, I knew what I didn’t want to do. At the time I didn’t want to teach (ironically, I’d later become a teacher) and I didn’t want to work at a boring desk job. However, just like today, when I began looking for a job I quickly learned there weren’t too many options available, so I took what was available.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things: 1) Your major doesn’t really matter unless you’re trying to break into a specialized field, and 2) you have to be flexible.

Even though it’s March and graduation is a few months away you should start looking for a job now. If you’re uncertain about what you want to do after you walk the stage here are a few tips to figure it out:

Assess your skills: Are you a great writer? Do you have an eye for details? Are you analytical? Figure out what you’re really good at and target jobs that require those skills.

Know what you don’t want: Although it’ll be tempting to take the first available job, try to hold out for one you’ll actually enjoy. Once you get trapped working a job you hate you’ll not only be less likely to break out of the job, but you’ll also begin to feel dejected.

Hustle and/or work for free: Ok, so you got stuck in a job you hate because you need to pay bills. It happens. But still pursue things you love on the side. Try landing an internship in another field that matches your skills, or consider starting a business on the side that lets you do what you love.

Stay away from your credit cards: Hopefully you don’t already owe thousands of dollars in credit card debt, but if you haven’t gone plastic crazy already, don’t start now! There’s nothing that will trap you in a job you hate faster than debt. Operate on the C.R.E.A.M. principle and ALWAYS pay in cash.

Are you worried about graduation? Do you have any tips on preparing to enter the job market? Got questions? Leave a comment or find me on Twitter

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  • kissa

    Britni your break down is definitely on point…There are a lot of young, naive grads with no job experience or a sense of direction out there…Sadly they are getting chewed up by this economy …Without what you have clearly outlined above they will have much difficulty out in the job market..

  • The biggest advice that I can give someone that is graduating this May is to START LOOKING FOR A JOB RIGHT NOW!

    You need to secure a job before graduation. When I graduated a few years ago the economy was slipping. Now, it has picked up in some regions of America.

    Still, some jobs take 3 months to call you back. There are so many applications. Everyone everywhere is searching for a job. You’re not only competing with graduating students. You are competing with retirees that are looking for work, freelancers, mothers returning to work and etc.

  • Man I could not agree more with the credit cards. I am still paying off credit cards from 2001.

    On the side hustles, I REALLY wish I knew how to braid hair/weave hair. You can make sooo much money doing that even in your own home.

    Another thing I want to get better at is website development.

    • Ok- one more post-

      The one thing I am probably most consistent about is writing. That is something I could pursue but seems hard to make money out of for various reasons.

  • The last laugh

    As someone who was ridiculed for not going to college and choosing vocational training straight out of high school…I can’t help but feel a little besides myself when I hear that most everyone who did the “right” thing are now unable to cope with the reality of life.

    It’s not your fault….you were conditioned to think college is the only way to success. Sorry you fell for the okey doke.

    Real life experiences have always been my best education. I have 0 issues finding work, no debt, my own business AND a full time job in my field.

    My advice to new grads is this: get creative and stop listening to everyone’s opinion about you. You know deep inside what you need and want to do…dont be afraid to listen to that little voice.

    • Meg

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Spent way too much on a degree I’m not even using. Follow your passion and if it involves specialized training or a degree then do it smartly..Student loans are a beast.

    • Natalie

      Vocational schools are a great route as well. And it is true that a lot of recent grads end up in the same boat or worse than those that did not go to college. But I think it is important to note that there is a glass ceiling to those who do not obtain a college degree.

      If you have a four-year degree, there’s the option to pursue an advanced degree to change or enhance your career. For example, business and law schools require four-year degrees and these are amongst the professional degrees that lead to highly-paid jobs and more opportunities.

    • The last laugh

      @ natalie

      Yes, I would agree there is a glass ceiling. But I also think it will only hold you back if you let it. I do plan on going back to traditional university because I feel I am now really ready. A bachelors degree would not only benefit me but also benefit my community because I know exactly how I want to use it. Plus, now that I’ve lived a little, I’ve found how much I actually love school…which if you tried to convince me of that in my HS years I would have laughed you right out of the room.

      But I have an allergic reaction to debt. So if I can’t obtain a degree without it…well then society just lost out on the benefit of having my brain power elevated. This is why I think investing in our young ppl’s education is so important and ultimately our failure to do so will result in not just a lost generation but a lost opportunity for the country as a whole.

    • Gina

      Yeah right. Everyone that reads and writes on internet forums have their own successful business, a huge house, the perfect family, and make six figures. That is why I love the internet because you can be anything you want. You really do give me a laugh. lol. Thank you. Also you are like many American’s. You want something for nothing and value the wrong things. Allergic to debt huh? I bet you would finance a fancy car or house? Why not an education? An education doesn’t depreciate like a car and nowadays, a house. So why shun financing one? It is because you don’t value it. Americans only put money into things they value. It is obvious education is not one of those things. I’m not saying go into massive debt, but if there is a will there is a way. Go to a cheaper school, try to get grants. Here is a novel idea: DO WELL IN HIGH SCHOOL SO A COLLEGE WILL ACTUALLY PAY FOR YOU TO GO THERE! Crazy huh? Best way to go about it is be poor. The government pays for poor people to go to school, but some (maybe like yourself) STILL don’t take advantage of that fact! They just like to make excuses about “what society wants” and it being “too expensive.” Well ignorance is expensive! lol. It is funny you are laughing at others but yet you now want to be like others by going to college. Make you say hummm?????

  • Meg

    I graduated in 2006 with the assumption that jobs would plentiful and I would have options as growing up I was told that a college degree guaranteed a career. So not the case. What I regretfully neglected to do was effectively network. If you have an idea of where you want to be try to get involved. Talk with family and friends to see who knows who. Right now it’s more about who you know who can attest to you character and qualifications than a GPA or service learning activities. Get creative!