Have you ever been so hungry that you can’t decide on what you should eat? Your stomach is growling and practically eating itself while your brain flashes between a juicy burger, a thick and cheesy piece of pizza, an avocado filled sandwich, and baked mac ‘n cheese. You should be taking the next steps to getting your hands on one of these items, but instead you stand paralyzed, unable to make a choice.
Your graduation day is a little bit like that. You’re probably not too hungry—that hangover is really kicking in—but you’re faced with another decision that has you stuck, clutching your diploma, afraid to take a step in any direction.
What are you going to do this summer now that you’ve graduated?
You’re so overwhelmed with the desire to start your life that you can’t quite figure out what path to choose.
If you’ve read our job search timeline post or followed our seniors’ job search survival guide, you may have a job lined up (or at least have started to explore your options and chosen a career path). Still, as that summer approaches you may be feeling torn about this being your last chance to travel with no strings attached.
There’s no right decision, but to help you figure out the best choice for you, we’ve taken the time to explore some of your options. We’ve asked some graduates (both recent and not so recent) about what they chose to do the summer after graduation, how they feel about the decision they made, as well as what they’re up to now.
Here is what they had to say:
Andréa Butler – Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Sesi Magazine
I approached my hometown’s local newspaper and asked if I could “intern” for them. I ended up writing five or six feature stories throughout the summer—about one per week. I don’t like newspaper writing and didn’t want to do this (it was my mom’s suggestion since I was going into magazine journalism) but it ended up being good practice for graduate school and later in my career—especially since I ended up writing features rather than hard news. If I could go back in time, sure, I’d do it again since it ended up being such good practice.
Chelsea Claure – Account Manager of Talent Solutions Group, AfterCollege
So my college experience is a little different than most. I jumped right into the workforce following my high school graduation. Then I got AAs from two different two-year schools before finishing up at San Francisco State University (SFSU).
After SFSU, I jumped back into the workforce again. I’ve been lucky enough to always have connections for jobs. Immediately following SFSU I started working at Bentley Prince Street. That was in 2008, right when things looked the bleakest on the job front. I am thankful every day that I started working right away and didn’t take a break like many of my peers did. I wouldn’t have been able to find a job when I returned (especially with my degrees in Philosophy and English).
I definitely wouldn’t do anything any differently in hindsight. I know lots of people who really had a tough time getting a job (in any field, let alone their field of study) around 2008 and I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have been gainfully employed every day since leaving SFSU.
Amy Rosenthal – Program Officer in the Conservation and Sustainable Development Program, focusing on the Andes Amazon, at the MacArthur Foundation
I did an internship in DC then moved to Brazil and learned Portuguese. That was a seminal experience that changed the course of my life and career. Definitely the right adventure at the right time.
Claire McCabe – Non-Profit Fundraiser
I went to Nicaragua for a month! It was a great decision and I’d definitely do it again! I went on a month-long service project through Reed College that we had fundraised for the year before. It was fantastic, educational, meaningful, freeing, and a great way to get out of the college bubble!
Melissa Suzuno – Content Marketing Manager, AfterCollege
The summer after I graduated, I worked as a nanny for one of the Physics professors at my school (funny since I was basically the opposite of a Physics major and definitely never had any classes with her!) I spent the summer driving the kids around and hanging out with them in local libraries and parks all over Portland. I was waiting to hear whether or not I’d been selected to go on the JET Program. As the summer wore on and it started to look like I wouldn’t get to join JET, I started to research other opportunities for teaching in Japan and Korea. I was offered positions in Seoul and Shiga Prefecture (just outside Kyoto), and ended up accepting the offer to teach in Japan (which I wrote about in more detail here.)
After the stress of senior year, my summer was pretty relaxing and not too challenging intellectually (although watching a five-year-old and an eight-year-old poses different types of challenges!).
I think it was a good decision at the time because it allowed me to decompress and prepare for my big move abroad. If I could change anything, I would have tried to learn a little more Japanese. I did take a community college class and some sessions with a private tutor, but I would have liked to have arrived in Japan with a much better grasp of Japanese than I actually did!
Steve Girolami – VP of Engineering, AfterCollege
I worked. When I wasn’t in class I was writing code and interning from mid-sophomore year, and didn’t look back. In the summer of ‘98 after graduation I was working full-time. Everyone I knew did that, but there were also much fewer graduates, and many more jobs for four-year grads than there are today.
My nose to the grindstone behavior didn’t let up until February 2000, which was when I left my employer, became a consultant/contractor, and took my foot off the throttle, so to speak. That’s when I wish I would have travelled. Instead I spent a lot of time bike riding, playing pick-up sports, visiting friends, etc. It would have been nice to travel more of the world. I didn’t get to do that until I met my wife in 2003. She loves to travel and has dragged me all over the place. It was fun (though I think I’m a homebody at heart).
Celia Mulderrig – Ecommerce Professional
I went backpacking with a friend in Thailand before starting a teaching job in Japan. I thought at the time it [the job teaching in Japan] was the beginning of me saving up to go traveling, but it turned out to be me working to pay back my time in college. Also, once I was working full-time to pay bills, I quickly realized that finding a job I liked became more important to me than traveling for the sake of it.
Would I do it all again? Probably—it was super fun!
[Editor’s note: Celia has just relocated to New York City after living in both London and Tokyo. So, even though she decided to focus on finding a job she liked rather than traveling for traveling’s sake, she still found a way to add it into the mix.]
Shana Tsukiyama – Creative Recruiter
The summer after I graduated, I got in my car and drove across the US on vacation with my friends. Before that, I hadn’t even been east of Idaho. Now, I suggest recent graduates spend that time job searching and/or doing consulting or temporary roles to build a career. However, I thought my vacation was a great learning experience and a much-needed break after how stressful college was. I think there is absolutely time to travel and enjoy post-college. I wouldn’t change what I did! I think everyone should set a back-to-reality date; that would be the date that you really start digging into your job search and trying to find your first job.
I think there needs to be a timeline you set for yourself for job searching. When you’re having fun, it’s easy to forget the pressure and time consuming effort when job searching. The trip was worth it—but it made it really hard to get going afterward. If I was prepared and had a list of target job boards and companies that I wanted to apply to, I think I would have been motivated to find a job sooner.
Bri Kapellas – University Relations Engagement Manager, AfterCollege
I graduated in Dec/Jan in NYC so no summer fun for me! I did go home for Christmas after finals and maybe stayed a little longer than usual, but I was deep in the job search right after school and started my first job (that I got through a friend) in March of that year.
I decided to stay in NYC which involved putting on my big girl pants and paying NYC rent on my own. So, I had to get a job ASAP in order to live the life I wanted.
That said, a few years later, I moved back in with my parents for a few months before a year-long trip to Chile. It was an experience I also really value and would recommend to anyone who’s interested.
It all depends on the life you want to have right after school. If you have the ability and desire to take some time and travel or volunteer or intern or whatever, right after graduation is a good time of life to do those things. You are still gaining valuable experiences you can translate into the working world later. Most employers will recognize that (especially if you do a good job of communicating it).
I do wish I’d been more focused on finding a job while I was still in school, but I was also dealing with just trying to graduate (counselors telling you different things, getting classes from previous schools to count for random requirements, and the whole passing all my classes thing), so I understand why it wasn’t my first priority at the time.
What do you think? After reading about what other graduates chose to do after college, do you think you have a better idea about your own plans? Are you already a recent graduate and want to share your personal summer after graduation story? Leave a comment below!