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As college students, we were all some sort of strange super-human. Our powers included regularly pulling all-nighters, surviving on energy drinks, pop tarts and ramen, and finding time to work minimum wage jobs that help us afford the books we didn’t fully read before busting out a ten page paper on it. In twenty minutes.

Then graduation comes – you finally made it! You celebrate for a little while before starting the job hunting, moving, and overall initial phase of joining the “real” world. If you’re like most college grads, you’ve probably found a job to help you get by, but not a job that serves as a stepping stone for your anticipated career.

There are a million pieces of advice for college grads who ask “what now?” and as much as most of us would love to pack up our things and backpack across Europe to find ourselves, for many of us that’s not a reality. If you find yourself struggling to gain experience, figuring out your next step, or even just having trouble adjusting to a less chaotic life, there are options that can help point you in the right direction, without having to spend the money you’re trying to save.

Internships

If you’ve got the time and the ambition, an internship can open doors, even in the smallest way. You’ll find that most advertised internships are looking for current college students who can earn college credit. However, that doesn’t mean that post-grad internships don’t exist.  Look hard, look often and if you can’t find an opening that suits you, find a company that does, and ask. You have nothing to lose, and you sometimes have to dig deep to find gold.

Career Counseling

When I graduated college, I job hunted like crazy. I had a decent job but was looking for that little something more. The problem was that I ended up applying to any and all jobs that seemed to suit my level of education – even though most the time I was really unsure if that field or job even suited my personality or goals. After a year of this anxiety-inducing nonstop searching, I decided to do what I should have considered much earlier: I looked into counseling. (If you’re a current student, make sure to check with your university, as many offer these services to students free of charge.) Luckily, I found an amazing counselor with expertise in career counseling. If you’re a recent grad who majored in a broad subject and you’re unsure of what to do next, it can’t hurt to check it out.

Volunteer Abroad

Now let me add a disclaimer here: this option may not always be free. Some packages can cost thousands of dollars, just for the program fee. However, if you’re dying to travel (and aren’t too picky about where) there are programs out there that require only a small start up fee, can reimburse you for your flights, and allow you to earn a stipend while traveling! The most affordable programs are those that aren’t exactly the most popular or glamorous, but have a high demand. You could even combine this with the next option, and start a travel or photography blog to document your experience. See the world and build your resume? Sounds good to me!

Get Creative

If you know what you want to do, but are having a hard time finding an intern or entry level opportunity – get creative with it! Work on a portfolio, start a blog, volunteer your services for people and businesses you know personally. If you’ve always loved photography, filmmaking, writing, graphic design, or what have you – and you can’t quite find an opportunity to develop – create that opportunity for yourself.

Do you have any other tips for college grads looking to gain experience?


Featured photo credit: HckySo via photopin cc