Primarily and above all else: keep calm. Don’t get caught up in how many days you have left to get a job, find an apartment, and emotionally process the enormous change you’re about to experience. Unless having a countdown app on your phone will motivate you in a strictly positive and rewarding way, don’t grant yourself that sort of information on a constant basis.
If (and when) time feels like it’s slipping through your fingers by the second and you convince yourself that you’ve already failed, remember nothing bad, disastrous, unfixable has actually happened. You haven’t wasted time or missed any deadlines yet. And I use “yet” to signal the reality that life is both unpredictable and ever-changing. Of course you’ll hit bumps in the road, you’ll be forced to re-route, you’ll make sharp left turns and be brought to places and situations you would’ve never considered before– you might exclusively utilize driving metaphors when discussing the future. And amidst all the spontaneity, you’ll adapt. You’ll accrue experiences that will equip you to to become comfortable with, and maybe even expect, a moderate amount of change. You’ll see new challenges as opportunities to grow and your personal evolution will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That being the case, become comfortable with the unknown. Securing your first post-grad position is tough! I should know, I’m currently trying to do so. Unless you’re already a successful expert in the industry in which you’re applying, you’ll have to learn to trust the process. Sure, it would be easier if we all received a magical letter offering us a full-time position and housing immediately upon graduation. But the beauty in maturing and entering this new stage of our lives is that we, for the first time, don’t know what comes next. Don’t expect the worst and don’t expect it to all be perfect. Expect that you’ll learn, change, and grow, allowing you to flourish into a tougher, more worldly version of yourself.
For some of us, the knowledge that our future plans are so certainly uncertain is both a deterrent for motivation and a catalyst for hopelessness; a fast-track to “why even apply to this fellowship if they probably won’t even look at my resume?” Questions like that will drop you headfirst into a vat of darkness and unproductivity. So, keep busy. Job boards and LinkedIn searches will provide you with a vast amount of potential applications and you might feel overwhelmed. That’s par for the course! Make a list of the positions that interest you, and then create a schedule to help plan when you’ll apply for them.
Become an active participant in your own job search; strategize. Do the extra work for applications that will feel like an accomplishment in and of themselves, throw your resume in the hat for the internship that you think you have a shot at getting. Don’t wait on the sidelines of your own life because you don’t know how things will turn out. Find a balance, and get to work.
But… don’t lose your sanity. Don’t spend every waking minute looking for jobs, checking your email, and feeling discouraged. Know when it’s time to shut your computer or talk to a friend about how mind-boggling this whole process can be. Productivity comes in multiplicitous forms: doing work for classes in which you’re currently enrolled is productive, giving your all to extracurriculars and enjoying yourself is productive, and making lasting friendships and relationships is productive. Relate to each other; time won’t speed up or slow down once we’ve graduated. Be here, now.
Appreciate the life you’ve shaped for yourself. Bask in the glory of knowing that a few years ago, you had no idea how you’d make it through 8 semesters, countless essays and tests, finals weeks, and a least one thesis all while navigating the trials and tribulations of making friends and finding your people. You’ve done it all once. You’ll be able to find your place again.
Meditating on and writing about transitioning into post-grad life assuages the fears and anxieties that reside in the nooks and crannies of my psyche. Check in on your friends, ask professors for guidance, and don’t lose faith that everything will turn out just fine. Treat this semester as a victory lap, not as a disastrous and frazzled ending.