Life After University

Wow! How exciting to be graduating from a university and moving on to the next stage of your life! You have the whole world at your fingertips. Now your friends and family are probably asking questions like: So what are you doing next? If you're like most soon-to-be graduates, you probably don't have a very clear idea yet. You put all your blood, sweat and tears into graduating and now you have to actually decide what you want to do for the rest of your life!

Every time somebody asked me what I was going to do after school, I made up a new answer. And that killed me, because up to this point I'd always had a very clear picture of exactly what I wanted to do next in my life. You'll probably have a couple of job offers, a couple of living options, a couple of possible graduate school opportunities…but mostly just a lot of important decisions. Remember being a senior in high school? You applied to a few universities, picked a major you thought you'd like and then packed up your stuff and left. Piece of cake, right?

Well, graduating from a university is similar, except that it might be a little scarier. If there is anything that I've learned over the years it's this; anytime that I've stretched my comfort zone by trying something new and scary, I've ALWAYS learned volumes about my own personality and myself.

Around one million people graduate from universities each year. Where in the world do they all go? Well, a few travel, a few get jobs, a few go on to graduate school, but most people end up joining the working world sooner or later and become…who knows. The great thing is that you become whatever and whoever you decide to be.

You could work your way up the corporate ladder until you manage the company. You could try out a lot of different jobs and then start your own business. You could continue your education until all the mail arriving at your house begins with the title, Doctor. The world is full of opportunity, but it all boils down to knowing yourself and what matters the most to you.

There are only a few times in your life where you are going to feel compelled to set new goals for yourself. Most of the time, people are content enough to follow the same routine. Why fix something that isn't broken? But have you ever stopped to evaluate where your life path is taking you? Are you on the right road? People need to be inspired in some way to reevaluate their lives. Graduating from a university can be an inspiring moment. So is starting a new job or beginning graduate school. It's a time to start fresh, build new relationships and do everything better! But what is it that you want to do better? And what relationships are the most important to develop?

OK, let's recap what we know so far. Life changes are exciting and scary. They're exciting because you have the whole world at your fingertips. They're scary because you have the whole world at your fingertips. Your goal is to decide what is most important to you and who you are. Once you know those things, everything else tends to fall into place. But how do you find these things out? Well, you have two choices. One, you could find out on your own as I have and many others before me have, by trial and error. It works, it's worked for me (but it's a bit frustrating and I would not recommend it). Or two, you could avoid a lot of the pitfalls by learning from other people's experiences.

One of the things I found most frustrating when I had just graduated was all the real life stuff that I was now responsible for that I had no idea how to deal with (i.e. Where are Mom and Dad when you really need them?). It felt like a trial and error period for me. For example, what's the difference between a HMO and PPO and how was I supposed to decide that on my first day of work? Or how much of my salary should I be investing and what should I be withholding from my paycheck? And what are the ethics of staying home from work when you just don't feel like going in that day? My book, titled Now That You've Got it, What are You Going to do with it? addresses these issues and all the other ones that are going to come up during the first years on your own. The book will help you avoid possible life detours and keep you focused and aware of all the possibilities open to you. This column will highlight topics from the book.

Plan your life path. Don't let life plan it for you. It really helps to know yourself and your values. The JVIS is a great place to start. And once you have a starting point and know what's important to you, those difficult decisions won't seem nearly as difficult. Your plan will be your guide through life's tests and adventures.

You have a tremendous opportunity to build a strong foundation for the years to come…financially, emotionally, in your relationships, and in your career as well. You will learn what you are passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning. You will learn what to do when you can't stand your job another day. You will learn how to broaden your life when you feel like all you do is go to work or school. The goal of this column is to give you direction and insight into your values, personality and to help you find your path in life. Look for regular updates. I can't wait to begin…

Nikole McCollum

Nikole McCollum
Author of Now That You've Got it, What are You Going to do with it?

About Nikole

Nikole McCollum has made a living out of changing majors and changing careers. She graduated from high school in San Diego, California and chose to attend junior college only a week before she was set to begin classes at a 4-year University. 5 majors later, she went to work in her field for an Engineering firm - only to find that, once again, she was in for another big change. During her 6 years of post-high school education and years of working in the real world, Nikole has been able to amass a wide array of useful & not so useful (but always worth a laugh) information about education, life, careers, relationships, money and the art of being who you want to be.