Journal Prompts for Graduates
If you’ve recently graduated, odds are you’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of questions. You know the kind... Where are you going? What’s your plan? Where did you apply? Did you get a job yet? Will you go to grad school? … the list goes on and on.
But, what about answering some of your own questions? After all, those are the ones you really want the answers to. Think about the ones that might be swirling around in your head. There may be ones you don’t even know you have just yet.
To help you get started, we compiled responses from people of various backgrounds, ages, locations and professions in search of questions they asked themselves — or wished they would have asked — upon graduation and entry into the “real world.”
So, let yourself stop for a second and take some time to reflect on what’s next. Use these questions as journal prompts for looking inward and taking account of your heart and mind.
How can I best utilize my fellow graduates and professors to start my career?
→What I know now: My entire career path including my current position was made possible by making connections with people.
Is it okay if I have zero idea of what I want to do as a career? And I mean zero?
→What I know now: I figured out that I’m just the type of person who will never know what I want to do — and being at peace with that. I enjoy so many things, and basically leapt from place-to-place following what I liked. It was only after a few big leaps that I saw the patterns in what I did, and followed those. And no, I still have no idea what I want to do — but I do know that I work best when there’s creativity, learning, leading, and adventure and fun in it. — Amy B.
Should I take a “stepping stone” job because it pays well, even if I know I’ll hate it?
→What I know now: Ultimately I learned that I don’t want to take time for granted. Doing something now (if I hate it) with the hopes that it pays off later isn’t for me. — Jay C.
Am I open to flexibility in my career field?
→What I know now: What you think your career will look like may change.
What kind of team do I want to be part of?
→What I know now: The people you surround yourself matter as much (if not more) than the work itself. — Sara M.
Will I be prepared for my first job?
→What I know now: If you do things the right way through hard work and staying true to yourself, then yes, you will be prepared. — Eamonn R.
Is it okay if I don’t have it all figured out right now?
→What I know now: Graduating college is an incredible accomplishment and you should be proud. But you’re probably in your early 20s, so it’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out. I worked part time retail after graduating until I found the job that started my career. Stay patient and stay confident.
What is my main motivation for my first job? Rank the following by importance: Prospect of a high salary? Potential to make a difference by the work I do? Learning a specific skill or from a specific mentor? Getting myself in the door at a good company? Other?
→What I know know: What I wanted out of my first job of my career was not the same as what I wanted out of the second, third, or fourth. Ask yourself this each time you want to make a job change and you’ll have much better clarity.
What are my biggest needs starting out? (ie: companionship, income, family, adventure, experience, pay off debt, etc.)
→What I know now: There’s a time and place for all of these, if you want them. Don’t turn a blind eye to your immediate needs or you will end up making up for it somehow down the road.
What are my biggest wants starting out? (ie: companionship, income, family, adventure, experience, pay off debt, etc.)
→What I know now: Don’t just ignore your wants, either. Like anything in life, learn to balance your needs and wants and take both into account when making big decisions. If you do not pay attention to what your heart wants, you run the risk of ending up unhappy or regretting a decision you made.
Do I have a chance to do something unique that could possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
→What I know now: I’ve learned that the “timing is everything” sentiment is true. Your education and contacts through school have the opportunity to set you up with some cool opportunities. In my experience, these just don't come about mid-career as readily as when you’re a recent grad.
What is one thing (skill, attribute, mindset, mantra, etc.) that I learned in the last few years that I will continue to take with me into my next season of life?
→What I know now: It might not be obvious now, but some of the habits and skills you learned in school will say with you for a long time. And some won’t...(see below).
What is one thing that I will decide to leave behind? Something that no longer serves me?
→What I know now: As much as I absolutely loved school, moving and starting my career was another relatively blank slate. If you want to change something or leave something behind, this is the time to do it.