Advice for Recent College Grads: 4 Ways To Prepare for What’s Next
Graduating from college is an exciting time, yet it’s also normal for recent graduates to feel overwhelmed. Toss in the confusion created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s understandable that many graduates are grappling with uncertainty about what the future has in store.

Fortunately, there are tangible things you can do—starting today—to stay or get back on track. Here are four pieces of advice for recent college grads to help you prepare for what’s next.

1. Acknowledge How You’re Feeling

“Students are experiencing feelings of anxiety and may be overwhelmed by the job market and search process,” said Kandy Mink Salas, Ph.D., assistant professor and program director for the Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership at Azusa Pacific University. “The guidance they received before, perhaps from a career counselor, professor, or family member, helped them formulate plans and ideas, but everything feels different now.”

Sound familiar? If things feel like they’re moving a million miles per minute right now, you’re not alone. And it might help to take a moment to pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling about the whole situation. Experiencing anxiety and feeling overwhelmed can both stem from a fear of the future. It might help to ask yourself what future event(s) or outcomes you’re afraid of.

Considering these hang-ups will give you a mental and emotional road map you can refer to as you identify the action steps you’ll take moving forward.

2. Create Your Own Space

Living with your parents or a family member can feel like a step backward, especially if you were about to move to a new city or start a job somewhere else. For some students, feeling stuck might be part of the anxiety they’re experiencing.

One way to combat this is to create your own professional workspace, wherever you are. This can go a long way toward making things feel normal and productive.

Ideas include:

  • Creating a home office (even if it’s in a corner of your bedroom)
  • Rearranging or reorganizing a room in your house
  • Decluttering your space
  • Spending part of your day working at an outdoor coffee shop or coworking space (if you can do this safely)

You can also create emotional space by clearly communicating with your parents or roommates. Let them know how you’re feeling, what your goals are, and how they can help.

3. Be Proactive

Now that you’ve created some space for yourself, you can start putting a strategy together. There are a number of ways you can do this, but it mostly comes down to being proactive about creating (or finding) new opportunities for yourself.

You can start by:

  • Updating your resume
  • Applying for new jobs and internships
  • Taking an online certification
  • Learning a skill (Lynda is a good resource)
  • Mapping out potential grad school opportunities

Remember that a key part of being proactive, especially when applying for jobs, is focusing on the positives.

For example, you might receive interest from an opportunity you hadn’t previously considered. Try to approach each opportunity with a fresh set of eyes, and weigh the pros and cons of how it could help you make progress toward your goals.

4. Network

It’s truly about who you know in the job world. Opportunities can appear seemingly out of nowhere, just because someone knows you or your strengths.

“Students, this is the perfect time to network,” says Mink Salas. “Use family networks and connections. Get on social media, particularly LinkedIn. Use your APU network and connections. Reach out to alumni who run or work in companies or industries you’re interested in to learn from.”

It’ll help to set concrete networking goals, such as:

  • “Today, I will email three APU alumni.”
  • “Every weekday I will email one prospective employer.”
  • “I’ll spend one hour each day growing my LinkedIn network.”

This way, you’re moving the marker slightly each day and have a tangible outcome to shoot for.

If there’s any advice for recent college grads, it’s to be patient but persistent. Some things are out of your control right now. The best thing you can do is focus on what you can influence, keep the faith, and continue taking the next step forward!

Looking for more advice around navigating life after college and pursuing your dream job? Explore Azusa Pacific University’s Career Center to discover tools and resources that can help you get started on your career path.