May is upon us, and soon all around the country colleges will bidding adieu to the Class of 2015 as they head out into the world, diplomas in hand, ready to begin the next big phase of their lives.
If you're one of these soon-to-be graduates — congratulations! You should be proud of everything you've achieved and all the hard work you've put in over the past four years.
That said, unless you want to spend the next decade of you life bouncing around from job to job with no general direction — much like I did — you better have a solid plan and some goals in place to help keep you focused and on track.
I still remember the feeling I had, lo those many years ago, after I had received my college diploma and returned to my room to pack up my stuff to go home. It was a mixture of shock, confusion, and terror. Shock, because it was impossible to conceive how one minute I could be a college senior in the best time of my life, and the next I was a college grad heading home to move back in with my parents; confusion, because I had a degree in English and no idea what I was going to do with it; and terror, because I was completely unprepared to begin this next phase of my life, which was going to last, well, the rest of my life.
If only I had been more prepared... If only I had taken the time to make a plan and set some goals... Maybe then I wouldn’t have stumbled through 14 — yes, 14 — random jobs over the next 10 years before finally landing a good-paying job that actually had something to do with my degree and my desired career field.
If you’re a senior and you’ve been spending the past year preparing yourself, making a plan, and setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for life after college—great! You’re well on your way to a successful, fulfilling career.
On the other hand, maybe you’re reading this and thinking ‘Uh, oh. I feel like he’s talking about me!’ If so, relax. Don’t panic. You still have time to take advantage of the amazing resources around you and make a plan for your future that will keep you on the path to success after graduation. Follow the following three steps to get started...
Step 1 — Meet with your mentor or advisor
Hopefully over the course of your college career you’ve developed a good relationship with at least one of your professors. Give them a call and ask them if you can buy them a cup of coffee (or a beer) to talk about your future. Chances are they know you pretty well by now and can give you some solid advice as you head out into the real world. You can also set an appointment with your advisor or a career center counselor to start working on your plans for life after college. Never again will you be surrounded by so many people who can and want to help you. Take advantage of this incredible resource!
Step 2 — Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
This is the fun part. What types of things do you want to achieve in the next one, five, ten years? Where do you see yourself working? Where would you like to live? Challenge yourself. Set goals that push you outside of your comfort zone. Shoot for the stars. Just remember to make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-related, i.e., S.M.A.R.T. That way you’ll have a better chance of staying focused on them and realizing them down the road.
Step 3 — Make a plan
Now that you’ve gotten some direction from a trusted advisor and set some measurable goals for yourself, it’s time to map things out step by step. What’s the first thing you’re going to do once you get settled in back at home? Sure, it’s fine to take a few days to sit back and celebrate your accomplishment. Just don’t get used to sitting around watching daytime TV all day. (Trust me—those soap operas can be addicting!)
Think the past four years of your life flew by? Before you know it you’ll be reconnecting with old classmates at your 5-year reunion. No joke. Make a detailed plan and map out what you’re going to do each and every day to help you get closer to the goals you set for yourself. Make a list of people you want to contact — people who can help you get where you want to be — and reach out to one new person each day. Make a list of ways you want to continue your education, whether online or on-ground. If you stay vigilant and keep working hard on a daily basis, you’ll eventually build the career you’ve always imagined.
Good luck! The best is yet to come. ~