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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  • That awkward moment when the article says to stay away from the plastic and yet, the site is littered with American Express credit card offers. But in all seriousness, when you are not earning any money, living off of credit cards is very tempting. That is what happened to me 2 years ago. I didn’t have an adequate amount of money coming in that summer and I had credit cards that I could use. What did you think I did? And because of that, I wound up thousands of dollars in debt. Luckily I was able to pay it all off before I graduate this May. As fr actually getting a job, I hope to get a full time position. If all I get is part time work, then I can get another part time job or use the off time to volunteer or intern elsewhere. As long as A source of income is coming in, then I can suffice with it. I don’t have credit cards anymore. I will apply for one when I can pay off the balance in full at the end of every month. Well the economy is getting better so I am a little more hopeful in getting a job.

  • Obi Andy

    You said it all Daniele, a college degree is good but learning additional vocational skill especially in your field’s gives a fresh graduate an edge after graduation. wish i knew more about this during my undergraduate days would have killed my holidays and strike time acquiring some vital skills. for present college undergraduates, do acquire some skills in course of your degree programme, you will leverage on it after your graduation and still be looking your white collar job which is hardly seen in the present over saturated labour market.

  • otaniyi ademidotun

    My name is Otaniyi ademidotun, studying banking and finance at OLABISI ONABANJO UNIVERSITY(OOU) NIGERIA. It is advisable to determine what you are capable of doing before your graduation, so that you wil be problem free during your life after school. Many graduate are suffering because of high rate of uneployment that is facing most economy in the world, they are less previledge to be recruit and at the end of it they wil find themself in an organisation they don’t want.