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What to do after graduation? Using your degree to its fullest potential

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Thomas Martino
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Published on May 12, 2014

This is a guest post by Kristle Domondon for Student Stories. 

Time and time again you’ve been told to do what makes you happy.

For four years, I’ve studied US Politics, and call me crazy, but I enjoyed reading historic court cases for hours on end and writing about it.

Today, the job market looks bleak for just about anyone who’s not a technology specialist. If you’re like me, it almost seems like those with a BA in the humanities are suffering the most.

And many of us have grown accustomed to the school system; waking up at 8am, having our parents take us to school just before the first bell rings. Or that day when finally we could take ourselves to school.

So coping without it may be harder for others, while some rejoice in their freedom upon graduation. Others continue on to college while some begin their job search. For those that continue on to college and stay there long enough to earn a degree, graduation is a milestone.

Up to that point, the average amount of life years of a student is 16. That’s a long time. When that routine ends in abruptness, you realize just how quickly time went by and how from that point on, everything you do is in your hands.

What you may not realize is in that moment is sitting alongside you is about 7,000 graduates who have the same goal that you do—to find a good paying job.

At the same time, thousands of colleges around the world are having graduation ceremonies. That means there are probably more than 700,000 (give or take) who will have all graduated, at the same time as you, some in the same field of study, and your same degree. Ok you have a degree in a saturated job market with thousands of applicants still awaiting an answer with the only thing to show for it is debt.

So what do you do?

Here are 5 tips on handling the work-life balance after graduating college:

1. If you have difficulty finding jobs in your major of study, venture out. Don’t limit yourself to your expertise.

Sure, you graduated with a degree in business. But who says you can’t use that degree when applying to that teaching position or IT job?

Many people think that once you’ve studied with a specific field of study for a long time, that you can’t or that you shouldn’t start studying different in post-secondary school.

Yes, you can. And you should.

Don’t limit yourself to your expertise. Being the jack of all trades can benefit you when applying for jobs. Along the way, you might even discover a different passion.

2. Look for jobs in other places. Be fearless. Spread your wings.

You’re no longer in school – no more fake doctor’s notes or unexcused absences! You’re free.

That moment I finished school, I felt a sense of uncomfortable relief. I knew I no longer had to sit through four hour classes but it also meant I had to start figuring out what to do in all that free time.

I started my job search in a week’s time. Naturally, I started looking for jobs near me. Months went by and I realized, it was not going to happen. I had to look elsewhere.

But just how far did I have to look? With the high-cost of gas prices, I took commuting time into consideration. Living in Los Angeles will force you to do that. But I learned the hard way that these other factors become miniscule when it’s hard to find a job in your hometown.

Everyday I found myself at a local café sending out cover letters and formatting my resume. For every 20-30 resumes I sent out, I got 1 reply. That’s when I began to broaden my search area and started looking for jobs overseas.

When searching, I found that the job market was in demand for college graduates abroad, in almost every field. Before I could even begin to think or worry about stepping out of my comfort zone, that is— the place I’ve called home, I had to first secure an opportunity.

3. On your quest to developing your career, include internships and volunteer opportunities in your search.

The process of applying for jobs and receiving a response can be painstaking. It can take weeks, or months for a reply while you wait around patiently wondering if you’re what the employer is looking for.

Consider this while you wait: Apply for internships (paid and unpaid) and volunteer opportunities in your area.

I applied to a non-profit organization in Los Angeles, and was lucky enough to get a quick response. What was supposed to be only temporary turned into a two-year volunteer job. During my time there, I learned things like knowing how to draft a 501(c) business plan, how to use software programs like GiftWorks and SalesForce, and understanding how to successfully plan a fundraising event.

In addition to equipping you with the tools deemed valuable for career development, networking can play a big role.

Networking in today’s age is one of the top ways you can get a job.

I was fortunate enough to work in a cozy office where my co-workers worked at most 10 ft. away from me in all directions, often spawning early morning coffee chats. The experiences you will have at your perspective internship and/or volunteer job are worthy information that not only you can add at the bottom of your resume under skills, but can also impress your future employers when you show them just how valuable you are.

4. Your Job Resume.

When thinking about what to put in your resume, be simple yet informative.

I once had a professor who told me, “If you want to stand out in a sea of applicants, the first thing you shouldn’t do is use a Microsoft Word resume template.”

The moment I reformatted my resume to fit my needs, I started getting replies. Some tips I found useful: 

  • To stand out,  figure out the best way you can say the most about you in a concise and neat way, and if possible, on one page.
  • Since most employers go through hundreds of resumes a day, it’s important to draw the reader in from the start. So pull the reader in with a title or achievement of yours.

Now, I am by no means a resume expert; all I can give you is advice from my experiences. Your resume is a representation of you so spend a significant time on it and have different formats of it saved on your computer to cater to differing employer needs.

5. Most importantly, broaden your life resume.

Your job resume is not your life resume.

Many people forget to travel and see what’s out there. We’ve spent years listening to class lectures and reading (and paying) for textbooks but don’t apply that knowledge in real life.

Sure, we don’t have enough time, or money to travel but make it your mission to someday breathe different air or see the wonders of the world.

On your job resume you can put you learned Japanese. But on your life’s resume, you can add that you studied Japanese tea ceremonies or took aikido lessons.

These are invaluable things that make you more than just a viable candidate for a job, but a well-rounded person.

About the Author:

Kristle Domondon is currently a Foreign English teacher in Japan and hopes to inspire her students to reach their English goals. Hit with the travel bug, she’s made it her purpose to travel to nearby countries and learn about their different cultures and traditions. She is currently studying Japanese and hopes to go to law school in the near future. Her email address is kristle.domondon@gmail.com.

Thomas Martino

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