Each week members of our community pose a tough question they’re facing in their career for Valerie Sutton, our Non-Executive Director for Workforce Navigation & Transformation.. We post her response in our community and we then share her expert advice via our blog. Got your own career-related questions? Share your questions with us via Instagram or LinkedIn! This week’s question is: I am graduating in May and need to find a job for September, what’s the best way to start? I am overwhelmed with which step to take first.)

Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.”

Kristin Armstrong

Woohoo – you did it! You finished your degree (or will any day now) – congratulations! You have just raised your hand and said, “Here I am world, I’m ready for my dreams! Nothin’ can stop me now!” (Yes, that’s what you were thinking when you handed in that last assignment and went out with your friends.) Even if you’re scared AF about what’s next, you’ve got to admit this moment is a good one. Enjoy it – you’ve earned it! Next week? Next month? Don’t worry – we’ll get to that in a minute.

Whether you’re going on to a Master’s or Ph.D. program, a new job, or a yet-to-be-determined path, graduation marks an important marker: that last paper or exam or walk across the stage to get your diploma signals the start of a new chapter in your life. And, guess what? You can make your new normal any way you want. But, before you begin, let’s move beyond the hype and pause for a moment to acknowledge that you’re in transition & figure out the way forward.

Did you know that all life transitions have three major parts? (They do, really.)*

  • The ending – which most people think is a beginning. 
  • The neutral zone – that confusing time after an ending when you’re trying to figure things out. 
  • The beginning – is when you’ve let go of the past, worked out any practical, emotional, or psychological kinks, and successfully stepped into your new beginning.

Let’s start with the ending – Graduation.

Once you finish celebrating, you might notice that this time is as much filled with loss as it is with gains. So, just as you take time to celebrate, be sure to honor and mourn the losses. Friends moving away to new apartments, cities, or countries. That group of people you loved hanging out with disbanded, for a bit. Don’t wallow, but know that those losses are real. You’ll have to do this in order to move into the next phase of your life, whatever that may be. Help yourself to do this by making a plan to see your friends in a few weeks or get that group together in a new way – support each other in this transition. 

Life after graduation

After graduation, the structure of your life will dramatically change. On the one hand, with no classes or assignments, you’ll own your time in new ways. On the other hand, life without an academic calendar can be somewhat disorienting at first. It means you’ll have to create your own rhythm. 

If you’re moving into a new job, then the work world will likely help you establish a new rhythm quickly. In that case, be sure to understand your life needs before you start so that you are sure to make time in your week for activities that fuel your physical and mental wellbeing, your creativity, your social needs, and your personal time.  This will help you to set boundaries so that work doesn’t overconsume your life.

But, if your schedule is more open and you are looking for a job, you’ll want to actively seek resources to push forward all of the phases of your job search. (Since you’re reading this you know you can start with the ones here in the Career Skills Hub – more resources dropping next week.) You can support yourself in this transition by implementing a schedule that looks like your ideal workweek. For example, if you envision landing a full-time role, then you might support your job search by adapting a schedule like this at least three days per week:

  • 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM

  • 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

  • 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
  • 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

  • 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
  • 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
  • 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM
  • Morning exercise or meditation
  • Scan your job alerts for relevant newly posted positions, add them to your tracking sheet, and review them to prioritize your tasks for the day
  • Research the new positions through their website and news articles. Make notes on how you match the job, the organization’s culture, and first- or second-degree contacts. Work on an application.
  • Take a break for lunch, and take a walk. Give your eyes a break from screens.
  • Work your connections – talk to at least 3 people per day about your job search or about new roles. Use this time to reach out to new people, email them, follow up, and set up times to speak with them about new roles, preferably within the 10-day window of their initial posting. 
  • Prepare for an interview (even if you don’t have one lined up yet). 
  • Attend networking events. (Or research them and then attend them!)
  • Respond to emails that came in during the day and set up a task list for the next day.

To keep yourself motivated, Be sure to reward yourself as you adjust to your new rhythm. Use free time throughout the day or on off-days to dive into activities that give you joy. And, if you’re having a hard time adjusting to life after graduation, that’s ok – be kind to yourself, take a break! And, find people to talk to about your transition so that you have support (we have lots of them here at ExponentialChangemakers). Our goal is to make the career search a little bit better for everyone, so let us know if we can help you – join our free community. When you do, you can pop into any of our weekly breakthrough coaching circles to commiserate or find your next steps.

Recently, Valerie finished the Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams. A passage that speaks to her is, “Now you see; we are guests here on this planet, visitors who have come for a short time, so we need to use our days wisely, to make our world a little better for everyone.”

*Great book on transitions = Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges, PhD with Susan Bridges (2019 edition)