So You Graduated College But Don't Have a Job. Now What?

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the struggles, turned your tassel and finally got to the finish line. You’re officially a college graduate...now what? You may think your life will drastically change right when you get off the stage and you may even start to panic, but know that it will be okay. Yes, you may not have gotten as much experience or internships as you wanted, or you may not have a full-time position yet, but the summer is here and you still have time to adjust! If you’re confused on what to do the summer after graduation, we have you covered.

1. Get a part-time job

If you’re in need of money right away but you aren’t having the best of luck with full-time employment, try getting a part-time job that is similar to what you want to do full-time. It doesn’t have to be permanent, so try not to feel bad about it because you’re not where you want to be. Think of it as one of the first steps that will get you to that perfect position. 

Use this time to also keep job searching, or freelance to build up your resume and portfolio. “I spent the summer going to the library every day and applying for jobs. I also went on informational interviews with people in the industry to make connections and learn more about job opportunities,” says Samantha Abramowitz, a graduate of George Washington University.  “It can seem daunting when all of your friends have jobs after graduation, but at the end of the day a few months spent job hunting won't hurt your career. Enjoy the time off and know you will get a job.”

2. Learn a new skill or hobby

There’s nothing like me time or doing something for yourself that you never got to do. Another way to spend your summer is learning a new skill or hobby. Signing up for cooking classes to learn new dishes, pottery, painting and even sports are a great way to learn about yourself, your likes and dislikes and allows you to have fun with it. Recreational buildings also have classes that you can experience for new workouts like Zumba, cycling or spin, instead of just going to the gym. Search around your city or ask some friends if they know of classes that are interesting to sign up for this summer. You could also look into expanding your professional skill set by taking a course that might make you more marketable to jobs when you begin applying. Sites like findcourses.co.uk provide huge lists of professional courses you could take, many of which are online courses. Over the summer is a great time to finally master coding! 

3. Try a work program for recent grads

Depending on what industry you want to go into for a career, it may not be too late to get more experience in the field. Some companies have programs that are just for recent graduates that will give you experience and training for the job you want. Programs can last from 6-12 months and are even full-time, paid and with benefits.

Turner Broadcasting has trainee programs for writing and production if you’re interested in a career in journalism or media. T3 trainees will work directly with supervisors, are expected to be hands-on for projects and offer creative solutions, and develop creative working relationships with their team. The program is paid with benefits, but you can't be no more than two years post-grad and full-time employment is not guaranteed after the program is over. However, programs like Turner’s are an excellent way to continue gaining experience after graduation and can be a beneficial stepping stone towards the position you desire.

4. Apply to graduate school

If you feel that you need more school experience, or if the industry you desire requires a master's degree, the summer will definitely give you more time to work on your application for grad school. You will be able to focus on researching the best schools and programs that fit perfectly for you, visit schools and prepare all materials needed for the application. Make sure to mark all deadlines, register and take your GRE ahead of the application date, and work on getting your recommendations.

Related: 7 Steps to a Stellar Grad School Application

5. Visit your friends and family

The summer will always be the perfect time to play in the sun and create memories with the ones you love. Use this time to reconnect with family and friends. Suggest a family vacation and help plan it, or maybe a family cookout. Go out with friends you haven’t been able to see or hang out with in a while. There will be plenty of day parties, pool parties, lounge events, festivals in the park, summer movies and more. Now that you don’t have school, class, homework or papers to worry about, you can enjoy your free time genuinely.

6. Go to networking events

Networking is a skill that most people shy away from, forget how important it is, or don’t have much experience with at all. Now that you are an alumnus/alumna, your alma mater is a great place to start with networking events. Fellow alumni are more willing to help recent graduates get their foot in the door, guide you to the best people to talk to for advice, or even set up possible interviews. Also look for networking events that go on in your city, and use your social media to your advantage.

“Invest time in going to a lot of events. They can be extremely helpful with making connections and learning more about your industry,” says Emily Miethner, President & Founder of FindSpark.com, a career development community for young creatives. “Meeting in person to ask for advice and building those relationships will help you get that job you want.”

7. Explore your city or travel abroad

We may think we know everything about our respective cities and have been to all of the restaurants, attractions and tourist locations, but if you’re in a considerably big city there still may be a lot of places you’ve never been to or have even heard of. Making a summer list of new places to go and new things to try could be a fun way to spend your summer as well. Look up new places to eat, try food trucks or even participate in food weeks with participating restaurants. Become a tourist and go sightseeing, go to new events you’ve never been to, and new attractions like museums you’ve probably haven’t seen. This is also a great way to meet new people now that you’re on a new journey after graduation.

If you’re wanting to get out of your city, traveling on your own and studying abroad are great options as well. Exploring new places without someone accompanying you will definitely get you out of your comfort zone and will become a cherishable summer memory. People usually want to travel with someone else or in groups, but the feeling of being by yourself, planning a trip for one and exploring could be a lot of fun and let you see things in a new perspective. “I think it would be an amazing time to travel on your own. This would definitely allow you to learn to adapt to new environments and learn more about yourself,” says Dajin Kim, a sophomore at University of Texas at Austin. “You can also meet new people, explore new places, and [summer] is definitely the prime time to do it.” Along with traveling, there are some study abroad trips that graduates can take the summer right after graduation. If there’s a class trip you are dying to take, use this last chance to your advantage.

8. Go to concerts and music festivals

Summer is also the time for new music, concerts and music festivals. Music festival season starts off with the big one being Coachella, but if you can’t make it to California, try finding a smaller festival or a local one that’s convenient for you. Some of the really popular festivals include: Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL; Ultra Music Fest in Miami, FL; Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN; Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE; and Governors Ball in Randall’s Island, NYC. Traveling to music festivals, or even experiencing it for the first time, will be a time to remember and a fun way to spend your summer after graduation. Artists will also use the summer for tours of their latest albums, so be on the lookout for your favorite artist to come to a city near you.

Related: 5 Ways to do Festival Season on a Budget

9. Volunteer in a community service project

The summer after college graduation will bring so much needed free time you never knew you needed. If you’re interested in giving back to your community, the summer is great for community service projects. There are dozens of projects all over the world that can be reached locally in different cities. You can also look into paid volunteer opportunities such as AmeriCorps, American Cancer Society and Community Outreach that will be a helpful addition for any financial needs. Find a passion of yours and see where you can lend a hand to those in need around you.

“Although you may not have a job, dedicating your time to community service can give you a mission or purpose,” says Juliane Veloso, a senior at George Mason University. “I'm hoping to have a job post-graduation, but I've worked closely with the March of Dimes since I was in high school.” Continuing volunteer work and setting time aside to give back will definitely make you feel good and make being productive worthwhile.

10. Spend time with yourself

While you’re closing one chapter of your life and walking into new doors with new opportunities, use this time to simply take care of yourself. Use the summer after graduation to reflect, start yoga if it interests you, meditate, read new books and journal. Write lists—goals, dreams, things to do, or even affirmations and intentions that you have for yourself and this new beginning. The Happiness Planner is an amazing way to keep up with to-do lists, how you’re feeling everyday, and helps to include more positive thinking, self-development, and gratitude into your life. Even spending time to create and work on projects that relate to your industry will help you build experience. “Come up with a project that you’re passionate about, start a side hustle, create a blog and grow your skills to stay active and have more [material] for your portfolio,” adds Miethner. “You have time to work on your projects and show off your skills since you’re not in school.”

Spend this summer to do new things you’ve never done and plan as much as you can for this next journey of your life.