Growing up, parents and teachers love to tell you about how your life is supposed to be. For many people, that means graduating from high school, attending a four-year university, and then promptly securing your first full-time job in your chosen field.
While this common path works for many people, it isn't right for everyone. Don't worry ― we will help you learn how to figure out what to do after college. If you are considering different things to do after college graduation, here are six exciting ideas to explore.
1. Teach English in a foreign country
When content writer and strategist Hana LaRock was in college and considering her future plans, she was looking into alternatives to a regular job and knew she wanted to travel the world.
"I spent time looking at jobs in the United States, but in my heart, I knew I just had to go abroad," she recalls. LaRock researched the Peace Corps, but it didn't pay enough for her to keep up with her student loans. She decided to teach English in Korea instead. For two years, she and her boyfriend taught full-time in a school, and she wrote for freelance clients on the side.
When their contracts with the school ended, LaRock and her boyfriend decided to continue their adventure. Today, she is a full-time freelance writer, still living abroad. "We did have to move to a cheaper country [Mexico] so we could maintain our lifestyle, but it was worth it," she says.
2. Get an internship
After spending four years immersed in study, you may not feel prepared just yet to launch into a career in your field. Or, maybe you want to switch tracks and try out other career or job options before settling on a decision. Beth Hendler-Grunt, a career coach for college students at Next Great Step, recommends taking on an internship instead of diving into a full-time position even after graduation, especially if you're not sure.
"Some grads may need more experience or clarity on their career path before working full time," she says. "There are many internships for grads to work in different industries, and this is a good way to explore different jobs."
Many internships are unpaid, which could be financially challenging for some recent graduates. However, you may have the option to pick up part-time work or live with family for a few months while you complete your internship. An extra four months of training and experience at an internship could make a big difference when you begin applying and interviewing for full-time work.
When applying for your internship, whether in or out of school, you want to put forth the best version of yourself. That means having a well-organized resume and a thoughtfully-written cover letter that explains your experience and why you're searching for an internship after graduation.
3. Make a difference with AmeriCorps
Christine LaPorte, a career coach in Portland, Oregon, says enrolling in a program like AmeriCorps after college provides an invaluable opportunity to give back to the community, build your soft skills, and add compelling content to your resume.
"Passion, interesting experience and meaningful stories resonate with hiring managers," she says. AmeriCorps has lots of different opportunities around the country, from emergency management to helping impoverished communities. Their website offers a free job quiz, which can help you explore work and location options that interest you.
"These experiences can provide a global view of different demographics while developing leadership skills," says Hendler-Grunt. "Serving with Americorps is also an opportunity to volunteer with an organization that you feel passionate about."
In addition to helping other people, you might gain more insight into what you want for your next position.
4. Go to graduate school
Some fields require more than a bachelor's degree, even for your first job. If that's the case for your dream profession, going to grad school immediately after graduation may be the best step for you. But be sure to pursue a master's degree, Ph.D. or another advanced degree for the right reasons.
"It's important to answer the question, 'Am I just delaying the job search by going to grad school, or do I really need another degree to get a job?'" says Hendler-Grunt. "If you have the choice, do some work first before going right to grad school."
5. Start your own business
If you're up for a real challenge, you may consider starting your own business. While it'll certainly be tough, creating your own company is a popular way to break into certain creative fields after graduation, like designing websites or photography. Hendler-Grunt says if you want to turn your business idea into something real, the time right after graduation is ideal for testing the waters.
"This route takes a lot of self-discipline and perseverance," she says. "However, this can be the right choice for certain grads, if they have a clear vision of what they want to create."
For some, the entrepreneurial path might begin as a side hustle while you hold down a steady, paying position. Then, if it starts to take off, you can slowly transition to making your business your full-time pursuit.
6. Take on a hobby or volunteer
The average student loan debt for four-year college graduates is $28,650. Traveling or working abroad, attending grad school or serving the community may not be feasible for your financial situation. Instead, take on a job so you can pay back your loans and immerse yourself in your passions on the side, says Wendy Braitman, a career coach in Los Angeles. When Braitman works with clients, she asks them what they would do if they could wave a magic wand and not have to worry about money anymore. Then ― since she possesses no wand ― she suggests that they volunteer in that field or try it as a hobby to gain experiences and make connections in the area.
"Volunteer work start from a place of, 'What do I love and what am I excited about? What brings me joy?'" she explains. "It's a great opportunity to do service and explore something that you are passionate about at your core."
Braitman also recommends talking to people in the field that you want to go into. "Do as much as you can to test and try out things and have conversations with people to see what it's really like," she recommends.
There can be a lot of pressure to follow a certain path, but taking a gap year after college or pursuing other things to do after graduation can be just as rewarding. In fact, your creative route may lead to a career path that you'd never thought of before (or never thought possible). You'll need a strong resume and cover letter when the time comes to begin applying for jobs. Our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder can help you turn your post-graduate pursuits into rock-solid job application materials. Chase your dreams, and you'll have the added benefit of knowing you're working toward a goal that's the best fit for you.