Navigating the Post-Grad Question
How to answer the question that everyone—everyone—is going to ask you.
By Sara Marie-Seidel, University of Colorado at Boulder
Summer is great for many reasons, one of which is that you can literally do anything you want without having to worry about school, unless of course you masochistically enrolled in summer classes (aka me).
When finals week is finally over and you’re back on a normal sleeping schedule/have stopped drinking seven cups of coffee a day, you may not realize it yet, but you only have a short amount of time until the next big stressor comes along: inquiries about your future. The only thing more stressful than finals week is successfully guarding your sanity against the “What are your plans for after graduation?” questions.
These questions come from everyone. I’m not exaggerating. Your hairdresser is going to ask you if you have a job lined up. So is that one neighbor at your parents’ house that you never talk to unless you happen to be getting your mail at the same time.
The wording of these questions, as well as the reaction from your answer, varies from person to person.For example, during the family reunion you go to every summer, Grandma is probably going to say something about how old you’re getting, then she’ll bring up how her friend’s granddaughter has been dating the same guy for four years, all while making direct eye contact (Grandma’s aren’t subtle, let’s be honest). What she’s really saying is, “When the hell are you going to find a significant other and get engaged so I can one-up Dorris?”
All your elderly extended family will be mainly focused on when you will start continuing the bloodline and stop being so damn single. These questions are easy to laugh off, because only a small fraction of your peers are getting married and starting a family straight out of college. Grandma is crazy in thinking you’d like to add the financial burden of children onto the pile of debt you already owe for your degree.
Fortunately, people outside of your family have the decency not to ask why you have a dog instead of a boyfriend. However, they will ask questions about your education, which is expected because what’s the one thing we’ve been doing 99 percent of our lives thus far? School. (Plus binge watching “Friends” and eating an entire jar of Cookie Butter in one sitting…but they don’t need to know that.)
I have no idea why the question, “What are your plans after college?” makes me cringe, want to frantically build a time machine to go back to kindergarten and cry all at once, but it does.
The people asking you about your after-graduation plans probably have a job themselves, and have been out of school so long that they’re unable to empathize with your weird conflicting feelings about school ending. On one hand it’s cool because school is finally over, but on the other hand it sucks because school is actually over.
If you’re stressing about answering the age old “What are your post-college plans?” questions, here are how several response scenarios play out.
If the person who asks the question is someone you don’t know and have no intention of ever seeing again, be disgustingly honest.
Tell them that you have no idea what you’re going to do but you’re just going to take it day-by-day and that you’re in a million dollars of debt. They’ll be so weirded out with your honesty that they will no longer ask recent grads about their future. In the long run, you’ll be doing everyone a service.
If the questioner is someone you sort of know but not really, like one of your parents’ friends that you can never remember the name of, smile and be charming while delivering your lack of plans. There’s nothing quite like using a little charisma so make it seem like you know exactly what you’re going with your life.
If the questioner is another college student…well, they should know better.
If the questioner is someone in your extended family, try to talk about college as little as possible. This will prove to be difficult though as parents like to brag to their siblings about how great of a kid they made. If this is the case, let your parents do the talking, I’m sure they have a few things up their sleeve that’ll make your future sound like a beautiful oasis to their siblings.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is asking the question or what your answer is. What really matters is that your cat/dog still loves you and doesn’t judge you for buying them the cheap kind of food because you need to be frugal and start paying back loans.
There is no right or wrong way to tell people that you don’t have a job lined up, you aren’t getting married or you’re not having babies anytime soon (seriously, wtf, grandma), and you really have no idea what you’re doing with your life. Hopefully you’ll take some comfort in knowing you’re not the only one.