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Navigating the Gradu-pocalypse





Navigating the Gradu-pocalypse

How to make post-graduation options more manageable


Coming home for the holidays this year, there was one song that was persistently and unapologetically stuck in my head - and no, it wasn't 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.' From the second my mother's car pulled into our driveway all the way through New Year's Eve, the song's chorus played in my head on repeat.

It's the end of the world as we know it / It's the end of the world as we know it / It's the end of the world as we know it / And I feel fine.

R.E.M. never spoke so purely to my soul. With only one more semester left in college, everything around me is beginning to change. Talking about what I'd like to do after graduation is no longer supposed to be fun speculation, but the beginning of tangible plans. It doesn't help that everyone else seems to have their own ideas about what my post-grad life should look like. My professors push graduate school applications my way like they're candy. My friends send me links to fellowships and entry-level jobs they think are 'just my type.' My parents remind me that regardless of what path I choose, a decision needs to be made - and soon.

But while my impending graduation does feel like the end of the world, I do, as R.E.M. put it, feel fine. How have I been able to navigate the stormy seas of transition without losing my mind? It's actually not as impossible as it seems.

Here are some must-follow tips that I've compiled while trying to keep my head above these murky waters:

1. Make a list of your priorities.

Is going to graduate school the next step in your career? Or is an overseas teaching opportunity your post-grad dream come true? Ranking your options can help you settle on one path instead of another; instead of spreading yourself thin and applying to any and every opportunity that comes your way, you'll know where to put most of your efforts.

2. Know yourself.

It sounds cheesy, but it's true. College is a time to explore your interests, strengths, and weaknesses. By the time senior year rolls around you should be able to talk about yourself in a marketable, approachable way. Doing that requires you to analyze not only the options that lie before you, but also to analyze yourself. Forbes recommends that you do this with a self-SWOT analysis, or by compiling a list of your internal strengths and weaknesses as well as your opportunities and threats to those opportunities.

3. Practice talking about yourself.

Consider creating an elevator pitch: a 60 second summary of "who you are, what you do, and why you'd be a perfect candidate" for whatever position you're seeking. Having an elevator pitch is one thing. Perfecting it is another. Get used to networking by practicing your pitch to your parents, your friends, or even your dog! When all else fails, record it and critique your own performance. While it might seem awkward to talk about yourself so much, it'll pay off later ... like when your former third grade teacher asks you about your plans for the future in the middle of a crowded supermarket.

4. Be adaptable.

Things change ... and so should your cover letter. While cover letters are meant to show your abilities and experiences, they shouldn't be standard repetitions of your resume. Your cover letter is a chance to show your personality and what makes you stand out. It might help to research the school, company, or organization that you're applying to, changing your cover letter to reflect the values and history of the institution that you're sending it to.

5. Give yourself a break.

Sometimes that job listing that you were banking on at least getting an interview for disappears overnight. Sometimes your friends might get a job offer or a grad school acceptance before you do. While it may be easy to let these events rock your boat, don't let them. Remember: things happen for people at different times, and setbacks happen to everyone. At the end of the day, even when something doesn't pan out, you are still a highly qualified, smart, savvy individual who will find a new way to succeed.