Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
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My sister is home for the Winter Break. It’s supposed to be a time to relax, mingle with old friends, and eat good food. Instead, she’s being bombarded with the century-old question of “so, what’s next?”

Before, the answer was simple. She would shrug and simply state “to graduate”. Now that she has graduated a semester early, it’s a bit more complex.

Let’s recap a new graduate’s life real quick. You start high school. You think you are the cool, big kid now (which couldn’t be further from the truth). Obviously, as a big kid, there are many questions thrown your way… what’s next? where to volunteer? when’s the SAT? Flash forward a couple of years, and you are a Junior in high school who just sat for their SAT. Naturally, the questions start… what’s next?, what colleges are you considering?, what do you want to do? Then, after intensely waiting for your acceptance letter, you are now a Freshman in college. The congratulations is short lived, however, as there are silly questions yet still demanding your attention… what’s next?, what do you want to study?, what are you good at? Then, you are a semester from earning that Bachelor’s degree. Surprise, surprise.. more questions! What’s next? Where are you applying? What are you looking for?

Why are we so determinedly focused on “what’s next” while consistently failing to adequately prepare for what actually is next?

Did high school prepare you for the SAT? Did the SAT prepare you for college? Did college prepare you for the real world?

Regardless, now you are here. A new graduate. Another number for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Did you know that it typically takes a new graduate about eight or more months to find a job? Not a job related to your major… just ANY job. Huh.

I digress.

So, what’s next for you as a new graduate? Think of it as preparing for your SAT. You made a study schedule, you learned the exam, you practiced questions, and after all this rehearsal, you finally took your exam.

That’s what you have to do now after graduation. Make finding-a-job your upgraded SAT prep.

    1. Make a Schedule. Give yourself a timeline for finding a job. If it takes eight months to find a job, plan accordingly. Maybe don’t wait until your graduation day to start your job search, for example.
    2. Learn about the Job Market. This is possibly the most important step in your job search. Hard to find a job when you don’t know what’s out there, wouldn’t you say? Focus some time understanding different industries, companies, locations, career-ladders, etc. This is how you find opportunities. Also, just FYI… typically, clicking submit to every job opening you see will not lead you to a job. You must do your research.
    3. Practice. Practice. Practice. Think you have the perfect resume? Think again. Ask your university’s career center, your relatives, professionals, and friends to review your resume. Similarly, think you can wing your interview? Nope, not gonna happen! Practice interview questions. Rehearse your answers. Know what you are going to wear. Remember, there’s always room for improvement.

To be honest, the only good thing about this lack-of-preparation vs. constant-what’s-next is that it’s a true testament to how real life is like. It’s not as scary as it sounds though. Take it one step at a time. All big goals start with baby steps, remember?

Next time someone prods you with the whole “what’s next?” question, feel free to share your job search plan. That’s what my sister’s doing, and really enjoying people’s no-response reactions ;)