Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on this great accomplishment in your life – whether it’s high school, vocational school, Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD, or any other graduation. You made it! Times are difficult and particularly the Dutch higher education system is known as the 10th best in the world according to Universitas 21; thus, your effort was not only impressive, but also quite worth it. Tap yourself on the back!
Now that you have that diploma in your hand, have possibly had an online graduation ceremony and maybe popped a bottle of champagne, it’s time to get to business. Taking your first steps are important in outlining your future path.
But don’t you worry! Here, I have outlined the most important steps you can take in the very beginning to help you orientate yourself and navigate through the post-graduation blues. This period is what I call an ‘orientation period’. You know, similarly to the first weeks of any sort of educational institution when you test the waters, try out courses, meet people, and organize.
Credit: Joshua Hoehne from Unsplash
Step 1: Take a breath (or more)
Everything is looking bright, there are things ahead, you are excited about what this new course known as post-graduation holds for you, but you are also feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of the exciting possibilities and opportunities. The orientation period is becoming tougher than expected. We have all been there.
That’s why it’s important to take half of your step back and breathe! You just graduated and you are allowed to take some time off to relax. Do things you wanted to do while studying and working hard, but just did not have time to do so. Self-care is probably one of the most important steps during this orientation period. Check out apps such as Calm, Headspace for meditation exercises, take a bath or bike to that one park you never went to but always wanted to. Is there one hobby you miss doing? Exercise, painting, crafting? Yes to all! Tell me, when else will you have some extra free time on your hands if not after graduation? Now is the time and in the wise words of Shia LaBeouf and Nike – “just do it”.
Step 2: Seeking help
Best advice I have ever received is to never be afraid to seek out help from others and ask questions. You should already be familiar with that, especially in the Dutch education system where questions are always encouraged (or at least that was my experience).
Check out your university’s career center, for instance. Do they have any interesting events that may be of use to you? Register for info sessions, make 1-1 appointments with career coaches. The institution is there to give you help post-graduation, guide and help you with orientation. It would also be beneficial to utilize any other online resources to prepare a great resume and LinkedIn page. Make sure that you create them in a way that you would be proud to show them off.
Step 3: Make a plan of action
Here it is, orientation period in its full swing. Time to plan, organize and ask yourself some questions. It’s okay, there are no wrong answers and you can always drop out a ‘course’ or two. What seems to help people are note taking and organizational tools such as Notion, but you can also do the old-school method of using Excel sheets or the most old-fashioned way of them all – bullet journaling.
Ask yourself questions such as: What sort of jobs will you be looking for? Do you need a work permit visa if you are not from the EU? Where in the Netherlands (with Covid-19 and work from home possibilities are both larger and limited at the same time since you can work from anywhere)? Would you like to continue studying? Take a gap year? Internships or part-time jobs? One small note on internships: most of these in the Netherlands require a student status and pay much lower than part-time jobs. Therefore, it may be more difficult if you are graduated or if you are on a budget. For the job search process in the Netherlands, you can check these websites out – IamExpat, Iamsterdam, Undutchables, etc.
Don’t forget to do proper research on the sort of post-graduation path you would like to take and have it as a goal, but don’t fret if it takes time. You only need to do things one step at a time to get closer to your ultimate goal.
Step 4: Networking
The most important part of any orientation period, especially of the one following your graduation is networking and making connections. Message anyone you know in a similar position as you or a few steps further and enquire after their own post-graduation orientation periods. Who knows, one of them might have something of importance and relevance to say to you.
Build your LinkedIn profile and connect with anyone you met or did not. Connect with those you see are in interesting positions that you would be interested in the future. Ask them about how they got there. The more you ask, the higher the chance someone would be nice enough to respond. In this way, you will learn more about what you would like to do or not do in the future. For instance, someone contacted me on LinkedIn regarding moving from the British educational system to the Dutch one without knowing me. It does not matter who you are, what stage you are at, we are all social creatures and are looking for contact. Even more so when face-to-face possibilities are limited in 2020.
The post-graduation orientation period is there for you to take steps to navigate challenges, explore opportunities and get your head straight about things you both want and dislike. What is important is not to undermine this period as stress levels may increase in time while looking for potential jobs, higher degrees, etc. Leave panicking and stressing in the other room, take a breather and enjoy dreaming about the future. Being a graduate in the Netherlands is a sign of your hard work, which will pay off in the future.
In the meantime, if you are looking for more ‘adulting’ tips, check out this article on getting your driver’s license in the Netherlands!