When your friend who snagged her dream job in New York City asks you what your post-grad plans are, just smile and humble brag about all the awesome stuff you accomplished during college.
Graduation season is a time filled with celebration, relief and an emotion often overlooked: stress. Before you can finish sending your family invitations, decorating your mortar board and passing your finals, everyone you come into contact with is dying to know your next move. In these unsure economic times it seems as if people expect seniors to walk across the stage with their degree in one hand and a daily itinerary for the next five years in the other.
While some graduation candidates have the fanciest of plans primed for flaunting, others need a little help with answering the somewhat invasive questions about what they’ll be doing once they hang up their cap and gown.
• Give ‘em the ol’ “weighing your options.”
Seriously, put on a show and act as if your Oscar depended on it — just don’t lie. Throw around phrases like “still looking into,” “in the works,” “developmental planning stages” and, my personal favorite, “in talks.” This is perfect for those without set plans that have completed applications and interviews. This will get people off your back without committing you to a career and save you from looking like a quarter-life-crisis bum.
• Say no and walk away.
This may sound like the beginnings of an afterschool special from fifth grade, but trust, it works here, too. If you’re being peppered with questions by someone you barely know or the owner of an opinion you genuinely don’t care about, tell them you’re keeping things under wraps for now and change the subject — or leave the conversation. A lot of people use this time to put their nose in your business without really caring about the outcome. If they are as invested in your life as they’re currently acting, they’ll stick around to find out what happens in the end.
• Trick them into helping you.
The best way to handle someone putting pressure on you is to hand it right back. When they ask about possible career options, have a few questions on whether or not they can aid you in your job search after telling them about all that you’ve been doing to land employment.
“I like to use it as an opportunity to network — even in my own family — and ask if they know of anyone or any companies looking for employees,” said Elizabeth Jones, a senior majoring in public relations at the University of Texas at Austin.
A strategy like this takes the heat off you and puts more of the focus on them.
• Laugh it off.
Let them know that you’re still young and that the first decision you make out of college is not the last decision you’ll make regarding your career. Show them how serious they sound with responses like, “I’ll be enjoying my last summer without the ball and chain of a grown-up job.” Watch their faces immediately turn from inquisitive to envious.
(Dealing with the Negative Nancies: Throughout this time of questioning, you will, without fail, receive a few negative responses to your post-grad plans. Remember: You know all of the opportunities that lie within your field –- you went to school for it! They may not fully understand your plans, but one job that you didn’t apply for is justifying your dreams to other people.)
• Talk about how currently awesome you are.
When they try focusing on the future, bring them back to the present and even walk them through the past. Perhaps admit that nothing is yet set in stone, but then humble brag all over the conversation with all of the amazing things you accomplished in college. Whether you started a non-profit, stayed on the dean’s list or held down a double-digit number of internships, remind them that you’re capable of some pretty impressive things. They’ll see the job market as just one more thing for you to conquer.
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