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Attention College Seniors: How To Figure Out What To Do With Your Life After Graduation

Graduation time is upon us, and I’m currently working with a number of college seniors to ease their path from near-adult college student to full-adult college grad, and to answer their principal question: How do I figure out what to do with my life after graduation?

Here’s what I tell them.

I begin with congratulations on your achievement. You are now among the approximately 40% of Americans who hold a college degree. reports that, as a result of this accomplishment, not only have you acquired superior communication, critical thinking, and task completion skills compared to non-college grads, but you can also expect a greater array of employment opportunities that will provide you with more job satisfaction and greater job stability, as well as more robust employment benefits (e.g., healthcare, tuition reimbursement, retirement matching, etc.), than those without a college degree.

Additionally, you are now poised to earn about $2.3-million more over the course of your lifetime than those who do not have a college degree. (You and your colleague degree-holders will become even more distinguished, and enjoy even greater benefits, with each successive educational accomplishment, such as post-graduate degrees and professional certifications; and each new educational credential you obtain can add as much as $500,000 or more to your lifetime earning potential. The moral here: Be a lifelong learner.)

This is all good news, so again, congratulations.

We now have two specific objectives as we apply practical change management to this significant milestone in your life. Objective number one is to reduce or eliminate anxiety over the change process that kicks in as soon as you pass your very last final. Objective number two is to identify the parameters of the first post-graduation path you will walk in your full-adult future. In other words, I’m going to show you how to figure out what to do with your life after graduation.

Why we have to deal with post-graduation anxiety first

The change from college student to college graduate is typically stressful because so many normal structures are impacted simultaneously. This is a testament to the multipotency of change (that is, the ability of a single change to produce or influence multiple effects or results). (You can read more about the multipotency of change in my blog, Change is Multipotent … And That’s Good to Expect, at my website

The prospect that their social, family, residential, financial, employment, and time-use constructs, along with many others, will all change, all at the same time, the moment they turn their tassel, propels many college seniors into overwhelm. Failure to address the anxiety that accompanies the graduation experience can result in physical ailments like disturbances in sleep, digestion, equilibrium, and heart rate; emotional problems like panic and depression; and mental issues like lack of focus, thought paralysis, and difficulty making decisions. Unchecked, these classic symptoms of stress can immobilize you and cause a failure to launch, meaning that you can become increasingly unable to assume adult responsibility and independence.

Since you do not wish to remain in your pre-adult phase indefinitely, and since your desire to move forward is stronger than your desire to stay stuck, we must remedy whatever post-graduation anxiety you are experiencing and get you moving forward confidently and without hesitation toward your next new normal.

We are going to do this by using a practical change management technique that introduces clarity and immediate, definitive action into the mix. Which leads us to ...

How to figure out what to do with your life after graduation

Simple questions often yield the most profound answers. So I have devised a series of simple questions designed to reveal to you the criteria you can use to help you figure out what to do with your life after graduation.

Before we proceed, I must emphasize the following. The questions you are about to read are designed to help you arrive at certain answers. The answers you give do not have to be your answers forever. Repeat: The answers you give to the questions you are about to read do not have to be your answers forever. In fact, they shouldn’t be. They just have to get you started in a direction right now. Once you get started, your experiences, intellect, intuition, and a host of other influencers, will impact your goals and how you progress. You will have to make adjustments as this happens. But at least you will have started moving forward. And that’s the practical and useful position we want you to be in. So here goes.

Below are 30 short questions divided into the six familiar categories of Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Of course, an infinite number of questions can be asked in each category, but these 30 have a deliberate purpose: They are designed to give you clarity. From clarity, you will gain confidence. And confidence, you will find, is a catalyst to action.

Here are Barbara Dershowitz’s 30 practical change management questions to help you figure out what to do with your life after graduation.


1. Who do you want to be and become in this new incarnation of yourself?

2. Who is most likely to want to associate with the person you want to become?

3. Who will be the members of your new, mature support system?

4. Who does not support you and may need to be left behind as you move forward?

5. Who can you use as a model and/or a mentor for what you want to accomplish?


6. What do you do well?

7. What do you enjoy doing?

8. What type of work supports your values?

9. What do you want to be able to say you have done with your life?

10. What are you willing to invest and/or sacrifice in order to do what you want to do with your life?


11. When exactly will you embark on your adult path in earnest? (Give a specific date.)

12. When will you become emotionally independent from your parents and/or the systems that supported you before you graduated? (Give a specific date.)

13. When will you become financially independent from your parents and/or the systems that supported you before you graduated? (Give a specific date.)

14. When do you intend to establish yourself as a stable adult capable of maintaining adult employment, relationships, and head-of-household status? (Give a specific date.)

15. When will you begin to acquire next-level information, and perhaps higher educational credentials, in order to be most knowledgeable about the most important aspects of your life path? (Give a specific date.)


16. Where do you want to live?

17. Where do you want to work?

18. Where do you want to apply your greatest effort?

19. Where do you want to acquire your next levels of formal and informal education?

20. Where do you want to be in two, five, seven, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years from now?


21. Why do you want to do what you want to do?

22. Why are you making the decisions you are making?

23. Why have your past successes succeeded, and why have your past failures failed?

24. Why do you, or why don’t you, pursue your goals?

25. Why would you compromise your potential and your future?


26. How do you want to think of yourself?

27. How do you want other people to think of you?

28. How do you want to express yourself in the adult work you do?

29. How will you plan for the next phases of your life (marriage, family, home ownership, retirement, etc.)?

30. How can you structure your life so that there is time, space, energy, and resources to do as many of the things you want to do as possible?

By using the information above, and especially by seriously thinking about, and answering, these 30 questions, you will have a clearer vision and a great start on figuring out what to do with your life after graduation.


What are your thoughts and experiences around the change from college senior to college graduate? The Barbara Dershowitz Community of Change wants to know. Share your message below.

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