You’ve turned in your last final, donned the tasseled hat, and made the ceremonial walk across the stage to accept your diploma. Now what? Don’t know what to do after college?
Typically, one graduates college and heads straight for the workforce. But what if you’re not ready to trade the classroom for a cubicle? What if you aren’t even sure you want a cubicle? These days, young people are making their way in the world in all types of different forums, spurred by all levels of passion and creativity. If you’re one of the many, who aren’t totally sure what the future holds, here are 30 great ideas for people who don’t know what to do after college.
There aren’t many times in your life when you’ll be able to travel guilt-free. Before signing that employment contract, take some time to explore those places, you’ve always dreamed about. Whether you decide to backpack across Europe or safari through southern Africa, be sure you’re getting the best deals for your money.
Pursue a graduate degree.
Perhaps you’re not ready to hit the workforce because you’re not ready to leave the comforts of a classroom. Many students earn their undergraduate degrees and go right into a graduate program. Not only does this option allow you to spend a little more time deciding on exactly the right career, it also sets you up for a larger starting salary (well, usually) and allows you to defer the start of student loan payments. Check out a website like Grad School Hub to determine your graduate options.
Become an au pair
If you don’t have the money saved up to travel purely for fun, consider taking a paid job overseas. One such job popular among young people is that of an au pair, or nanny, who lives with a family and takes care of the children during the day. Websites like aupair.com, aupairworld.com, and greataupair.com are usually free to join. Simply create a profile, and begin browsing ads made by families worldwide.
The benefits of becoming an au pair are practically endless. Not only do you get to live in a foreign country, the families typically pay for your room & board. In some places, such as Norway, families are even required to provide their au pairs with an additional stipend and pay for language classes should the au pair desire.
Pick up an internship in another state
Internships can be a great way to both build your resume and ensure you’re headed onto the career path that’s right for you. They’re also ideal for experiencing new cities and places. While some students begin interning during the summers of their undergraduate work, others continue to find internships after graduation. To find the right internships for you — both paid and unpaid — start with your university’s career office or alumni network or search for internships on websites such as LinkedIn or Glassdoor.
…Or even another country
Remember all that talk earlier about travel? Why not double world exploration with some paid resume building? If you speak Spanish, check out adelanteabroad.com for internship opportunities in Spanish-speaking countries. Another site, vacorps.com, places North Americans and Europeans in internship positions in and around Cape Town, South Africa. For other parts of the world, and for some of the most eclectic internship opportunities we’ve ever seen, explore worldinternships.org.
Become a tour guide.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place considered “touristy,” consider spending some time as a tour guide. Thanks to websites like AirBnB, amateur tour guides can promote their services to travelers looking for city tours, day trips, or even a guide to show them a location’s best eateries. If you’re the type to need a little more direction yourself, check out the International Tour Management Institute, a two-week crash course that trains people like you in all things tourism.
Work on a cruise ship.
Cruise ships offer a ton of opportunities for young people. Not only do cruise ship employees get to spend their days off exploring exotic locations from Hawaii to Iceland, but they also receive “free” room & board, so it’s easy to save money. Jobs ranging from entertainer to dishwasher can be found on each individual cruise ship’s official website.
Volunteering can bring about a lot of opportunities. Plus, it just makes you feel good! To recover from the burnout that is college, consider spending some time with a non-profit organization dedicated to something you love. Websites like Volunteer Match, HandsOn Network, and Idealist.org make it easy to search for various activities near your zip code or further afield.
Join the Peace Corps
If you have 27 months to dedicate, then consider spending some time in the Peace Corps! Once accepted, you’ll be assigned a location, usually abroad, then set to work fulfilling various tasks that better the lives of local communities. Your living expenses and healthcare costs are covered for the duration of your commitment. You also receive $8,000 in relocation allowances once you’ve finished. Serving in the Peace Corps will also allow you to defer your student loan payments.
Joining AmeriCorps requires a bit more commitment than volunteering with a typical non-profit. As with the PeaceCorps, AmeriCorps volunteers work alongside a service program meant to provide increased health and well-being to various populations. Instead of going abroad, however, AmeriCorps opportunities are all within the United States. After one year of service, volunteers receive a stipend of approximately $5,350 to be used towards graduate school or student loan debt.
Channel your inner entrepreneur
Maybe corporate life isn’t for you. Perhaps something a bit more entrepreneurial would be better suited to your lifestyle. If you suspect this is the case, the time immediately after college is ideal for exploring potential options, as investors often look at a college degree as a good measure of a good investment.
Grab a part-time job.
Okay, so a part-time job is still a job. But if you’re unsure about what you want the rest of your life to look like, you want flexible hours, and you need to make money, taking on a part-time job is a great idea for people who don’t know what to do after college. Try to find a job that fits your passion in life or at least your interests. Love to read? How about a job at Barnes & Noble? Prefer to spend your day with animals? Check out local feed stores or grooming shops, or start your own pet business on a website like Rover.
Teach English abroad
You don’t need to harbor a desire to be a teacher to benefit from spending a little time teaching English abroad. Because English has become the official language of business and tourism, people worldwide are investing in their English language skills. Options for teachers vary from country to country and from program to program. If teaching English in a Japanese school appeals to you, check out opportunities available through the Jet Program. Spain offers a similar program that provides native English speakers with translation jobs in exchange for monthly stipends. Go Abroad is another great resource for finding jobs teaching English worldwide.
Trade in your student ID for an employee ID at your college or university
There are lots of jobs to be had on any college campus, and universities love to hire their own graduates. If you’re settled into the local community, consider working a part-time or full-time job right there at your alma mater. Offices to check out include admissions, financial aid, the department you majored in, student services, or alumni relations. Consider, too, that working for your college could lead to potential benefits such as free classes or money towards a master’s degree.
Join the military
Though many people choose to join the military right out of high school, the opportunity doesn’t end there. Recruiters for the various military branches often visit college campuses and are available to answer any questions one might have. Otherwise, search online, ask a friend currently serving, or visit a brick-and-mortar recruiting office to learn more.
You might not be ready for the workforce or even know exactly what it is you want to do. However, you can still move forward toward your intended goals by obtaining any industry certifications that would boost your resume or ensure a higher starting salary. A former professor or your university career counselor would be a great resource for determining which certifications would benefit you. If you majored in a technology-related field, perhaps certifications in cloud computing or networking would be worth your while. If you majored in education, check into local CPR certification classes.
Head Down Under with a working holiday visa
Okay, so you’re not ready for a job. But could you be ready for a job if it were in Australia or New Zealand? Both countries offer holiday working visas for American students. In other words, you can get a pass that allows you to spend up to 24 months working down under. This is a great opportunity for anyone adventurous enough to move across the world without the promise of a specific job.
Work on a farm
Working on a farm has long been a go-to option for those looking to “find themselves.” Those from older generations are full of adventurous stories about working on a kibbutz in Israel or spending a summer in France picking apples. For the recent college graduate, there’s the organic farm. The website World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a great resource for finding farm jobs worldwide. Most farms provide their WWOOFers with free room and board. Just be aware: While there is usually plenty of time left for exploring, the farm owners expect hard work while on the job.
Go fishing in Alaska
Maybe planting and harvesting organic crops isn’t for you, but what about fishing? Commercial fishing jobs in Alaska are in high demand and are perfect for the recent college graduate. Plus, they pay extremely well. Of course, the pay doesn’t come easy. Fishing off the coast of Alaska requires long days of hard work and manual labor. It’s also considered one of America’s most dangerous jobs. Still, if you’re up for the adventure, you can browse available positions here.
Become an adventure guide.
Recent graduates who enjoy backpacking, white-water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, and camping might find spending some time as an outdoor adventure guide to prove worthwhile. Doing so could also allow you to experience a new region of the United States or even the world where demand for English-speaking guides is constantly increasing. If you love hiking in Lake Tahoe or camping in the Appalachians, you could start by contacting local companies. Alternatively, check out the adventure guide job listings on websites like G Adventures.
Pick up some freelance work
If you’re not ready to take on a job with a cubicle and set hours, then you may find freelancing to be a nice alternative. Check out websites like Upwork to find and apply for freelancing jobs in writing, graphic design, coding, and illustrating. Although it takes some time to establish oneself as a freelancer, those who put in the time and hard work can find that they’re able to make good money while working a flexible schedule.
Apply for a fellowship
Students who graduate with an outstanding academic record could consider applying for a fellowship that will allow them to spend a year conducting research for a project. Some universities offer their own fellowships, while other prestigious fellowships include the Fulbright Program, the Rhodes Scholarship program, and the Goldwater Scholarship program, to name but a few. Every fellowship application has its own set of guidelines, but winners are given some amazing opportunities to work with world-famous companies, organizations, or universities worldwide.
You may not be ready for a full-time career, but chances are you could use a little income, and tutoring is a great way to get that income. Choose a subject or two that you’re especially talented at — perhaps mathematics, chemistry, or French — then advertise your information to local schools. And while you may be most accustomed to college students, don’t forget about the younger kids. Parents want their elementary, middle, and high school students to succeed and are often willing to shell out good money for additional help when needed.
Work for a start-up
Working for a start-up is a great way to get one’s feet wet regarding careers and the workforce. Despite the pressure they’re under, start-ups tend to offer employees a more laid-back work environment than the typical corporate office. They can also offer one-on-one mentorship opportunities, the promise of close friendships, and increased responsibilities (read: better for the resumé!). While working for a start-up has its risks, those who end up with a successful company could earn a huge payoff by getting in early. To find start-up jobs near you or in exciting cities like New York and San Francisco, check out your university’s alumni network or browse AngelList, a website specifically for startups.
Learn something new
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or learn but which you’ve never had the time or money for? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn to ride horses or do karate. Maybe you think you’d enjoy learning how to build furniture. Whatever your dream hobby, chances are you won’t have the time once you take on a full-time job, get married, or start a family. Take some time after college to pursue something you know you’d enjoy doing, whatever that happens to be.
Write that novel
It’s hard to write for yourself when you’re a college student. Indeed, if you’ve been writing lately, you’ve likely been limited to essays or maybe even your resumé. If you can (i.e., you have parental support or another form of income), take some time to fully focus on getting that dream of yours down on paper. When it’s finished, pursue publication via a literary agent, or choose to self-publish.
Mentor at-risk kids with City Year
Working with City Year enables you to help with a good cause. It also allows one to spend a year living in one of 29 cities across the country. Options include:
- New York
- New Orleans
- and Los Angeles, among others.
City Year’s main task is to work closely with students who are most at risk of dropping out of school. Volunteers are organized into teams of 8-15, then sent to mentor children ages elementary to high school. City Year participants aren’t paid but do receive a stipend for living expenses and $5,500 towards their own education after 10 months.
Apply for a reality show
Granted, a very small percentage of people are going to have success with this great idea for those who don’t know what to do after college. But if you’ve always dreamed of competing on Survivor, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, or another popular reality show, now is the time to do it.
Even if you don’t harbor a desire to spend five decades of your life teaching children, spending a school year as a teacher could offer you the opportunity to think about what it is you really want to do while earning a decent income. Believe it or not, there are quite a few teaching opportunities for those who are not certified in education. If private school interests you, check out opportunities with various classical or parochial schools nationwide. If you like the idea of teaching to make a difference, Teach for America is a great program that places teachers in high-need schools, usually in inner-city areas. And if you decide teaching is for you, after all, Teach for America will help you receive your teacher certification and/or pursue further studies in education.
Well, take calculated risks. After college, graduation is a great time to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do — whatever that happens to be. At this point, you’ve got a college degree and have the time to spend without it being considered wasted. Start your business, move overseas, and do what excites you. You may fail, but at least you won’t move forward with the regret you never tried.