Instead of Looking for a Job After Graduation — I Escaped to Hawaii

Like most undergraduates, I went to college with one end goal: Leave with a degree and a job. 

I was that overachieving student in your class — the one who took over 15 credits every semester so I could double major in Media Arts and Design and Communications Studies while still graduating in four years. I worked hard (and yes, partied hard too), held leadership positions for multiple organizations on campus (hi, Her Campus JMU!), took freelance gigs, worked part-time on campus, and sometimes even juggled two jobs at once. I was the kind of person who did everything and stopped at nothing to create new opportunities for myself.

Then, I graduated. Without a job. And escaped to Hawaii. 

I first went into my senior year with a plan. I’d get a job out in California after graduation, live in Los Angeles, and never look back at my hometown of Woodbridge, Virginia. I began exploring job openings during fall semester and quickly learned that for what I wanted to do — basically any job in media that combined content creation and coordinating — it made no sense for me to look unless I could be available to work immediately. So, I took a break, and said I’d start up again during the spring semester. Until then, I would enjoy tailgating, college fall festivals, and one last Halloweekend.

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I pretty much blinked and it was spring semester. People around me started to figure out their post-grad plans. Some had jobs lined up, others got accepted to grad school, and a handful we’re going to the Peace Corps. Graduation was only a few months away and everyone around me seemed to have figured out what their next step was. I — the overachieving double major — on the other hand, wasn’t sure what was next.

My lack of applying to jobs was a mix of being busy with final projects (writing tailored cover letters and resumes for each job is honestly a job within itself) and not finding a position or company I was passionate about. So there I was midway through my spring semester stressed because nothing was going according to plan. What I failed to realize at the time was that being so obsessed with sticking to a plan can keep you on the same road instead of opening you to a new, maybe better, one. 

In one of my classes,  Dollars and Sense, which teaches you about finances after college, I was challenged to think about the logistics of my dream move to Los Angeles. Entry level positions in media there have starting salaries at around $35,000 combined with the high cost of living, I realized it would be more responsible for me to live at home for a few months with the contingency that I wouldn’t commit to a full-time job in the area unless it was what I was passionate about it. While living at home, I would work part-time or at a paid internship for income and experience, and I stopped my post-grad job search. 

I have never felt freer than when I stopped looking for a full-time job. After graduation, my parents and I were taking a trip to Hawaii to spend a few days in Kona and Maui, where I grew up until I was six. With my post-grad focus shifted on Hawaii and making it the best trip possible — I even convinced two of my closest friends to tag along — the urgency of needing to have a job just to tell others that I had one started to fade away. 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Here’s what no one tells you about applying for full-time jobs: The process is long, and can take a hit on your morale. 

My trip to Hawaii was the escape I needed. It made me realize that after all this time of constantly being on the go and doing everything to make sure I stood out so I have my future together, I was doing everything that made me blend in. We’re programmed to think that after graduation you need a job immediately or you’re a failure. I’d feel more like a failure if I didn’t take the time to explore a new opportunity just to do what everyone else was doing. 

The trip was incredible. Our days were filled with breathtaking views, island adventures, food to make any foodie jealous, and people that made you feel like ohana.

When our vacation came to an end and we got back to the mainland I felt refreshed and energized. This vacation was the much-needed self-care break that I didn’t think was acceptable to take. I felt like I finally hit my life’s reset button, one I didn’t know was there.

With all that time I had on my hands I was able to refocus my energy on applying to jobs with one condition: I wasn’t going to be that person that jumped on the first full-time offer to come my way. After the trip, I ended up working an internship for the second half of summer. In that time, I enjoyed being with my friends, I got to explore places around me, go on mini getaways, and meet new people. I truly enjoyed my last summer vacation before entering my freshman year of life. Because once the work starts, it really doesn’t stop.

Taking care of myself, having patience, plus a strong will to never settle paid off. I ended up with my dream job as Her Campus’s Social Video Editor by the end of December with enough money saved to move to a new city. My position wasn’t available when I was looking for jobs during my senior year. In fact, my role didn’t even exist at the company then.  

I’m not saying everyone has to say “screw it, I’m going to Hawaii after graduation” —  I know not everyone has that luxury. But I will say that it’s okay if you don’t have a plan after graduation. Your plan should be to be selfish and focus on yourself. In the process, you’ll end up on a different road that leads you to the next step.

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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