How to Navigate the Post-College Identity Crisis

How to Navigate the Post-College Identity Crisis

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Are you about to graduate and having anxiety about what is going to happen next? Are you a recent graduate and struggling on how to navigate this transition? Welcome to the common quarter life identity crisis that we experience in our 20s.

Here’s some advice on navigating Life After College and the Identity Crisis:

Keep an open mind about what you will be doing in your life after college. It doesn’t always go the way we expect and just because it might be difficult, doesn’t mean it won’t get better. 

Think about the first year of college, was it an easy transition for you? Did you know everything and had your plan from day one? Most likely you had to navigate finding all the different departments and found out resources years later that you wish you would’ve known. 

For many students, the first year of college is a year of exploration to find where they want to go in life. They ask questions like “What should I major in?” or “What internships  should I apply for during college?” And you’ve most likely seen many others switch their major halfway through college.

It’s okay if you decide to go another direction or you feel completely lost on what to do with your life. It’s a completely new thing for you and you have to apply the same things that you learned when you transitioned from high school to college. Build your go-to resources, your supportive network, etc. Great things take time, don’t rush it.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified financial professional and I am not responsible for anything that occurs to you as a result of acting on the information you found in this article. You should seek out a certified financial advisor for financial information.

The First Job After College

9 to 5 Work Life (or possibly more hours)

Ah, the boring first job with mundane tasks. In your first job, you’ll most likely be assigned the job duties the higher ups do not want to do or do not have time to do. These tasks are very tedious and don’t take as much thought from a college-educated individual. 

You may start to wonder when you will do less of this type of work and more of the challenging assignments. Make sure you do these job tasks well and when you have done them successfully over time, start asking for more. Try a project you are curious about and know you have the skills for.

It doesn’t hurt to ask. A lot of people new to the work world get so scared of what their employer would say if they ask for more. What are they going to do? Fire you because you’re interested in a project or want more job tasks? 

Go for it! Speaking up when you need to will get you so much more further than if you hold back. Like they said closed mouths don’t get fed.

Unemployed


Don’t be hard on yourself if you keep sending in applications and not hearing anything back. Millions of others are in the same boat and the recent graduates are having a hard time building the experience they need for entry-level jobs. There are many entry-level jobs that require you to have a couple of years of experience when you graduate, unfortunately. It shouldn’t be that way, but that is the case.

Rember that you are not your job, do not identify yourself with work. Just because you are not working, doesn’t make you any less than people that are. You are putting in a lot of effort into finding a job and that is admirable.

Some possible ways you can gain experience: 

  • Volunteering for a Nonprofit in need
  • Networking (this is by far the best way to find a job)
  • Freelancing (if no one is hiring you, you can start offering your services)
  • Still apply for jobs that you have at least 60% of the skills for, you don’t need to know everything
  • Apply for the entry-level jobs where you have most of the experience even when they say 2 – 4 years required, you never know what could happen
  • Learn the art of negotiation and persuasion, develop your personal sales pitch to get your foot in the door 

The Financial Struggle and Living at Home with Parents

Low-salary for first-time job

For most graduates, the starting pay will not be high enough for you to live on your own if you are living in an expensive city. This is when graduates have to make the decision to move back in with their parents. It has its pros and cons. 

On one side, you get to save money and pay down your student debt. On the other side, you might have to deal with strict or nagging parents if you have them. This can really take a toll on one’s mental health. You may even be embarrassed to still be living with your parents when you have a college degree and a job. 

Our society status quo is to move out of your parent’s house by 18 – 22 years old and get your own apartment. But with the high cost of living, major amounts of student debt, that is almost impossible unless you come from a well-off family or had the opportunity to secure a decent paying job.

Instead of focusing on your insecurity with living with your parents, start focusing on creating a more secure foundation. Learn how to manage your money, do your own taxes, pay off debt, save, build your retirement. Knowledge is power only when combined with action.

If we stay in self-pity and don’t discipline ourselves to take action, we won’t get anywhere.

You just recently graduated college and then you start seeing a ton of friends posting that they’re getting married, or having their first child. While you are still looking for a job, trying to find your identity after graduating, living at home with your parents, broke and what to do with your life. 

Relationships & Children

You get all of this pressure from other people that you start to set a timeline for when you should have your life milestones completed by such as getting married by 25, having your first child by 28, and buying a house by 30.

When you actually think about it, almost half of marriages end in divorce, life becomes more difficult or busy when you have children, and so much more expenses come with buying a house. There are pros and cons to every aspect of life. More things equal more responsibilities. 

Enjoy what you have now while you can. Don’t rush life and take your time finding the right partner. You don’t want to regret wasting years of your life in a toxic relationship, feeling unsatisfied with someone you never really loved or didn’t love you.

Friendships

Your friends will start moving away or become busy in their own lives with their full-time job and new responsibilities. You’ll have to learn not to identify yourself with how much effort your friends are giving to continue the friendship. This is when you must decide whether or not to stay friends.

It will start to feel lonely and you’ll have many hours where you have to yourself as not all your friends will be near you anymore. Even during a pandemic, now it’s even harder to visit your friends. Stay connected through alternative ways and you’ll have to be creative to keep the connection alive. 

You’ll start to see who are true friends and which ones you should remove from your life as you mature. Your friend group may change to those you work with or see more frequently also. If you don’t hold onto the idea of having lifelong friends and accept that people come and go, you’ll have an easier transition when your social group changes.

You are not missing out on anything!

In college, we focused so much on getting good grades and gaining experience to apply for the job that we want. After college, milestones become more vague because there’s no set timeline for achieving things. There’s no one there to tell you what goal you have next to achieve to get a reward.

It’s all up to you where you’ll go in life and many grads start to freak out because they’ve never had to thoroughly plan like that. They start to think that they have to have it all together when in reality no one actually has it all together. There’s always something someone struggles with in their life even if it doesn’t seem that way.

There is no timeline that everyone follows. Take your time developing your foundation. You don’t want to rush things and have everything crumble.

For those of you that have graduated, what’s your post-college experience?

Read my article about What Happens in Life After College?

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