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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

If you’re graduating this semester, you’ve most likely received the question “What are your plans after you graduate?” from your parent’s friends, grandparents, professors, and that one judgemental aunt. For some of you, that question may be easy as you might have an internship, job, or a once-in-a-lifetime trip planned over the summer. However, for other people, this question might suck all of the air out of their throats. In my case, for the last four years, I’ve pictured myself beating the odds and having a job prepped and ready to go as soon as I walked across the stage at graduation. While I’ve technically done everything “right” between completing my degree, partaking in multiple internships, and joining various extracurriculars on campus, the truth is that it’s difficult to find a job right now even if you check all the boxes. 

First and foremost, if you’re struggling with navigating the job search while trying to study for finals, you’re not alone. This period of limbo can be a very vulnerable time where you feel confused about how to apply what you just studied for four years into the real world, but this can also be a good time to reflect and discover a new or budding passion. If you have your Summer wide open, or if you’re moving back home, try taking a class or lessons for something that you’ve always wanted to try. Whether that’s a sewing class or a pottery class, try something creative that could spark an interest in something new. You could also try volunteering to free your mind of the stress that is the job hunt; whenever I get too caught up in myself, my mom always tells me to volunteer because “focusing your energy on other people who need help will redirect your brain into positive thinking.” 

Another thing to keep in mind while navigating life post-grad is to set realistic goals and timelines. Truth be told, your first job fresh out of college may not be your favorite job you’ll ever have, but it will allow you to make money while you search for a job that excites you. Also, finding that first job may take longer than you anticipate, to position yourself as a good applicant, spend some time tailoring your resume to job descriptions that sound like a good fit. This could also be the right time to start networking and calling up your random uncle’s friend who happens to work in the field that you majored in. Furthermore, create a plan to keep track of the number of applications you send out, who they’re going to, and any response you receive. One of the toughest pills to swallow when filling out this plan is that some or a lot of the responses you receive could be a form of rejection. As someone who usually takes things like that personally, something I realized is that all of this rejection will eventually lead to a job that is meant for you. 

Job hunting and trying to figure out life after graduation can be a very emotional time. It’s crucial to your well-being that you remain positive and diligent during this period in your life. I know that rejection or feeling lost can be upsetting, but don’t forget to celebrate the small victories that occur; whether that’s your application making it past the initial screening, acing an interview, or finding a new passion for volunteering, give yourself some grace. Use this time as a learning opportunity and time to focus on yourself and what you want out of the next chapter of your life.

Claudia Stewart is currently a senior at VCU, majoring in fashion merchandising with a minor in art history. She enjoys watching rom-coms, baking double chocolate chip cookies with her roommate, and finding the best spot for sushi in her free time. Stewart loves writing about pop culture, fashion, and beauty.