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Keeping Sane in the Interim

Ready? Set? Go! Wait! Learn to navigate your way through the dreaded interim between college and the workaday world.

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The journey from college freshman to college graduate is a study in momentum. You start out slow, test the waters and get a feel for your studies. Then you lock into a major, focus on a specific field and learn to flourish in your new surroundings. You gain friends, join clubs and learn volumes. The further along you go, the faster it gets, and the more rapidly the steam builds.

Naturally, by the time graduation rolls around you've built up tremendous momentum. You have a vague idea of what steps to take once out of school, and you know how to go about taking them. The momentum builds and builds and finally hits a crescendo, on the day you don the cap and gown.

And then, sheepskin in hand, you burst from the gates full of energy and plans, ambitions and ideas, and land... at home. With no prospects. Or money. And with a curfew. And parents' thumbs under which to live.

Ah, the dreaded interim between college and the workaday world.

If you're like most seniors or recent grads today who haven't been lucky enough to land a position before graduation, you'll find that nothing is more disheartening than having to wait six months for your first well-paying job. Living at home, perhaps returning to the summer jobs you held as far back as high school, are par for the course. The last sixteen years of schooling were all building to this very moment - which can often be more purgatorial than liberating.

It's hard, yes, and even harder in a tough economy where every job opening gets hundreds of applicants. But if your education has taught you to gear up for a promising future, it has also taught you the importance of patience. So buck up and take these tips. You'll be back on track in no time.

  1. Stay busy. Get a part time job, take a class, build models, pursue models, read, join a gym - basically anything you can do to work out that anxious energy and keep your mind and body sharp is crucial.
  2. Stay out of your parents' hair. For many, the interim bears an uncanny resemblance to adolescence - the frustration, the need for space, for independence et cetera. But no matter how strong those feelings are, do not succumb to them, or worse still, unload them on your parents.
  3. Take some time to reflect on that next step. Sometimes personal feelings can get crowded out by what you think others are expecting of you. Keep track of how you spend your free time, of what you do for your own enjoyment. Can that be parlayed into a career?
  4. Stay at the job search, no matter how unpromising it may seem. Keep sending out resumes, keep following up and building your contacts (for more on the job search, see the eGrad's Careers Channel). It's tough, but you will find something.
  5. Keep in touch with college friends. Odds are a lot of them are going through the same thing as you, and are feeling the attendant pinch of loneliness that gets most college grads after graduation. The months after can be isolating, especially if you've moved back home.
  6. Volunteer. Why not? The post-grad interim is a good time to reflect on one's own personal advantages, and to use them to help others.
  7. Read the papers and watch the news. Take an interest in the world around you. College life is a cloistered life, and there's no better way to adapt to the overwhelming world beyond than by keeping up with current events.
  8. Finally, stay positive and remain calm. This interim may seem endless, but it isn't. If it was endless, it wouldn't be a "transitional period."

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