Dear December Graduates,
There are many reasons why people graduate in December, as opposed to the traditional spring graduation, but whatever your exact reason, we know that you are pursuing a unique path for your life and career. I pray you find the freedom to pursue your vocation after graduation in the same creative manner to celebrate your God-given gifts and talents.
One of the great benefits of completing a degree is that it is an investment no one can take away from you. If you stop making payments on your car, it will be towed away. If you stop making payments on your house, the bank will remove your stuff. But no one can take your diploma away or empty out your knowledge in your sleep.
The investment of your time and effort and fortune (for many of us, it is a fortune), will pay dividends forever. Your friends, and classmates, and instructors, will support and encourage you for a lifetime. Be encouraged, particularly when the student loans come due, that you are benefiting from your education.
As a December graduate myself, I would like to share a few pieces of advice to help you transition into your next phase of life.
First, for most careers, there is a less crowded job market in January. In most industries, jobs don’t open and close on a cycle like school semesters do. While I’m sure they ebb and flow, there will be job openings all year round. When your fellow students graduate in May, they will be competing against a much larger cohort of graduates for those entry-level jobs than you will be in January. Stretch yourself to apply for jobs you may not think you qualify for or that you are not as familiar with. With fewer applicants, you may find yourself interviewing for great jobs that you never would have considered.
Those who are pursuing a career with cyclical hiring processes such as education, or accounting, or business consulting, when companies higher in large numbers over the summer, you are not without an advantage. Use the next several months to make yourself stand out from the other applicants for those jobs. For example, seek an internship with the firm you want, and when it comes time to hire in the summer, you will be familiar, proven, and much more likely to get a spot.
Second, take advantage of your free time. For many of you, your friends will still be in school. For all of you, you’ll be entering a phase of life without homework for the first time in years. Don’t waste this time! Even if you haven’t found a job in your field, or you are in the latter category of waiting for summer hiring season, take whatever decent paying job you can find and save up money. If you have a day job, consider picking up a part-time job for nights and weekends. Any money you can save now, and as much debt you can pay off as possible, will help you.
Also, feel free to invest in yourself. Read that book that you’ve been interested in, but haven’t had time because of all that required reading. Catch up on those shows, jump back into that hobby, go visit those friends. I’m not suggesting that you waste whole days on these things, just suggesting that you re-invest those 3 hours a night you used to spend studying on a little cultural catching up.
Last, for those of you interested in graduate school, use the extra time between now and the fall semester to your benefit. Visit graduate schools and meet with their admissions offices. There are some things about the culture of the school that you can only learn by going there and meeting with people. For example, when I graduated in December 2010, I was interested in starting a part-time graduate program in the fall, so I visited a variety of schools in the area and met with their admissions offices on my lunches. I learned how cohorts worked at different schools, and how their classes where structured, and really figured out what would work with my lifestyle and my job.
Again, congratulations on your accomplishment. Celebrate with friends and family over the holidays, and hit the ground running into your new, exciting phase of life in January.