Working Strategies: College is over, graduation over, what next?

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Amy Lindgren

Graduation season inspires advice from everyone it seems. Aunts, uncles, hairdressers and friends’ parents all have something important to say about your future and what you should do about it.

Well, me too. I hate to miss out on a good advice-fest, so if you’re newly graduated from a college or training program, I have some tips for you. There are no big ideas here; just some things you want to pay attention to while everything’s still fresh.

(Note that these are mostly geared toward traditional-age grads, so watch for another batch geared to adult graduates coming soon.)

Putzy logistical stuff

• Check your diploma for accuracy. Seriously. If there’s a mistake there, you could have one on your transcript too. A small correction now could save a big headache down the road.

• Confirm which online resources can still be used at your alma mater. If you need to switch to a non-school email address, for example, sooner is better than later.

• Ask about available career resources. Some schools offer placement assistance while others provide job leads. There may also be career counseling or job search advice, sometimes at no charge for a certain period post-graduation.

• Figure out your student loan repayment, if applicable. Even if repayment won’t start for a few months, knowing all the facts lets you make good plans.

• Check on health insurance. If you were covered as part of your tuition, you need to confirm when that ends and what your options for coverage are now.

Job search stuff

• Update or create your LinkedIn profile. Even a basic version will help, as recruiters will sometimes run broad searches to find new candidates. If you know the field you want to enter, make that clear in the headline and in the “About” section.

• Update your résumé. You almost certainly made one for a class or career fair. Now’s the time to ensure you have the file available and that your recent school or work experiences are included. Again, if you know your work goals, go ahead and focus your résumé to showcase related skills and training.

• Think about what you want to do next. If you don’t have career goals yet, don’t panic. One option is to start exploration steps, perhaps with informational interviews or meetings with a career counselor. Another option is to take volunteer or lower-level positions in a field you’re considering, to check things out. Both options work, so don’t worry that you’re taking the wrong path.

Life stuff

• Decide where to live. Twenty-somethings frequently choose to live at home with family while saving for a place. If you take this route, make a savings plan to ensure it happens. Another option gets you out in the world faster but has you eating ramen longer: sharing housing with others in the same situation.

• Guard your mental health. Easier said than done, but you may already know your triggers for sadness or depression or anxiety. Big achievements (such as a graduation) can lead to a letdown when the hoopla fades away. If you already have a counselor or a mental health routine, it’s important to keep that going while you’re in transition. If not, now might be a good time to start on those practices.

• Hang onto your money. Even if you land a solid job right away, it’s smart to keep your expenses low while you figure out where your new degree can take you.

And the big three

These are things I recommend to all new graduates, as a way to keep the motor running while other things come into focus.

• 1. Take a job right away, even if it’s minimum wage or part-time. You need the structure, the money, and the credibility. If you get a career position soon after, that’s awkward but better than having no job for months on end just to avoid having to quit something.

• 2. Start volunteering right away. This will help with mental health, self-esteem, and your general sense of being a good person.

• 3. Join an exercise group. Play basketball on Tuesdays or go running with friends in the morning or plan bike trips for the weekend. Whatever it is, you’ll benefit from the social aspects and the physical routine.

And a final word: Don’t sweat the whole career thing, but — if you’re not feeling on track by fall, consider asking for help. Sometimes all it takes is new information or fresh ideas for things to line up.

Congratulations, graduate. On you go!

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Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at

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