In May of 2020, I submitted my final college assignment, closed my laptop, and thought, “What’s next?” There was no graduation. No senior send-off. No final hurrah with all of our friends. Just a lingering awareness of how difficult the next few months were shaping up to be. At the time the pandemic was still in its early stages, no one knew how to prepare college students for what lay ahead. The world changed, but somehow 2020 graduates managed to transition into adulthood.
So to those who’ve just graduated, or who are heading into their senior year, we have some advice. Things may be looking up, but the academic world and beyond are still surrounded in feelings of uncertainty, but now we know a thing or two about building resilience, coping with feeling lost, and finding your footing after a global disaster.
Never ever, ever, give up
“I’ll definitely have a job by October,” I’d say to my friends over the phone. When October rolled by, it became I have to have a job by the end of the year. Neither happened, and it was at that point that I stopped putting a timeline on my postgrad journey. Don’t get me wrong, I had a job – three to be exact – but I didn’t have the salaried job, within a larger company, that I always assumed I would get postgrad. While I stopped imposing a timeline on myself, I never gave up.
Micaela Shirley, a content writer at Artil Magazine and a Salisbury University alumna, did the same thing. “Don’t give up!” she says. “The job search can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve been searching for the perfect position for months and you haven’t heard back from the companies you applied for. However, what I’ve learned is that the more jobs you apply to, the higher your chances are of hearing back from an interested employer. Trust me, the process is worth it in the end!”
When you’re in the middle of a difficult job search and a global pandemic, it can seem like life will never work out. You have to trust that with perseverance, one day you will have the career you imagined.
Friendships will change, and that’s okay
The most difficult aspect of my postgrad journey was losing physical access to my friends! I loved the ease of hanging out with my best friends during college. But when we graduated, we spread out. Her Campus Contributing Editor Erica Kam wrote about the effort friendships require postgrad. “I’m learning that sometimes growth in friendships happens by falling apart, and then back together again,” she says.
Friendships are sometimes meant to be temporary. In addition to job hunting, saving money, and moving to a new city, there is a change in how we socialize and who we value in our lives. That being said, not all friendships will fade away once you leave campus. Lean on your core squad of friends, and get in touch with those who live in your area. With new beginnings comes a new opportunity for friendship.
Kiss your expectations goodbye!
It was my first day working as a contact tracer for the COVID-response team in my local county when it hit me: This was not what I wanted my first job postgrad to be. I felt that having this job was pushing me away from my dream career. Yet I was making money, gaining experience, and helping end the pandemic. It took me eight long months into the pandemic to throw my road map away and embrace the uncertainty of life and careers.
Lena Robledo, Associate Analyst at Cadence Design Symptoms, graduated from USC Annenberg. “Don’t pay too much attention to job titles! I’m currently in a role I have never heard of when I first graduated, but am learning so much and think I’ve found the field I want to spend the rest of my career in,” she says. “Keep your mind open to all the possibilities and look to learn as much as you can, when you can!”
But don’t stop there. When I was a senior in college I couldn’t fathom the possibility of living at home postgrad. One pandemic later, I was back in my childhood home with my parents. While I initially interpreted this move home as a failure, I soon recognized the benefits of this unexpected change. Not only was I saving money, but I got to make new memories with my parents. Memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. It’s okay if your life postgrad is not what you had anticipated. Try and shift your perspective and learn as much as possible from your current situation.
Be kind to yourself
It took me a long time to shed the expectations I had for my pre-pandemic life. “We’re living in a pandemic, but life in and of itself is always unpredictable and you can never truly plan where you’ll end up next. Be gentle with yourself, lean on your support system, and keep an eye out for doors that will open,” Fairley Lloyd, a graduate of University of North Carolina Wilmington, says.
There are many assumptions of what you should be doing with your postgrad life: find a job, move out, save money, date, etc! Finding your path may take longer than expected.
“Try not to take setbacks in securing a job as a personal failure. It is a pandemic and the job market has never been so competitive nor have the standards been so high from companies hiring. It’s easy to start thinking it’s you,” Angelina Beltrani, a graduate of SUNY Oneonta University, says. And this applies to all areas of postgrad life. Take your time, try new things, and be kind to yourself.
Take. A. Break!
The day after I graduated, I logged onto Linkedin and began my job hunt. We were in lockdown, with nothing else to do, so, why not get ahead, right? Wrong! I did not give myself a break and applied to job after job until January. Angelina adds, “It’s okay to take a brief intermission from the application grind if it’s becoming really daunting, especially if you need some perspective on what you want/where you want to go next.”
Explore your identity outside of school, and work by starting a new hobby or by visiting a new city. College graduation is a new beginning, take some time to reflect and figure out who you want to be as an adult.
Lastly, you just graduated college! You deserve to take a break and celebrate your achievements. Life is so much more than having a job. Take a break, you earned it.
The United States places a ton of pressure on its college graduates. Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s still an expectation to make the most out of your time postgrad. Take it from the people who have been through this: the sky will not fall if you take a break, and it is okay to feel lost and behind. Embrace the unknown, and lean on your support system.
Congratulations class of 2021, we’re rooting for you all.
The Class of 2020