Oh No, I Graduated! Now What?

By Clayton Richards

Graduating from a graduate program is something that is built up over the length of your time in a program. It’s constantly seen as both a goal and a benchmark, the thing that you spend all your time and effort working towards. However, there is something else that is always in the back of your mind, what comes next? What to do after graduation? For me at least, these questions became louder and louder as graduation came closer, even while I still had readings and essays to work on. I had some ideas on what would come next, but I was unsure of the exact details. I had to decide whether or not I wanted to go on into a PhD program or work in another field such as museums or government. Since I knew I wasn’t going on to PhD right away, I figured I had some time to get some work experience and decide on what I wanted to do. Then 2020 happened.

The craziness that has been the last year threw a wrench in my plans. Possibilities that were open before the pandemic would not be available for some time. Despite the somewhat extreme circumstances of the last year, there are some general ideas and plans that I have tried to keep to which can be helpful for anyone coming out of graduate school. One of the most important and impactful things you can do is keep up with contacts, they will be the ones to give you advice and leads as you are looking forward. Keeping in contact with my former professors and advisors has helped give me some direction and leads on opportunities after graduate school. They are also one of the main resources I go to when thinking about a PhD. I have also kept in contact with my supervisors at the Florida Holocaust Museum, and they have given me research to do from home and even brough me back into the museum to work. These contacts are always going to be useful to you.

Also, simply putting yourself out there is a major part of the post-grad process. I have applied for many jobs including everything from city government to state and federal agencies to companies. Even in normal times this would be a tough process, and COVID only makes it more difficult. But, going through these applications and interviews do help you gather experience in this process, and can help you get a taste of what a job might be and if you are actually interested in it. Another thing that I’ve been trying to do more post-grad (and because of COVID) is taking care of myself. Taking mental breaks, exercising more, and picking up some new hobbies can help keep the stress and frustration from overloading. I now try to go for 3 miles walks almost every day to just get some fresh air and listen to some music or podcasts, it helps refresh me. All of these tips and ideas help, but they do not make post-grad decisions any easier. COVID has also made this last year a bit of an extreme outlier. The main thing is having faith in yourself and what you want to be, and with some help, everything will fall into place eventually.

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