Graduating high school is a huge milestone; however, beyond the milestone is another one. What’s next? After graduation, what will the graduate decide to do? It is a lofty decision with so many unknowns and questions as teenagers approach adulthood.

Figuring out life after graduation doesn’t mean you should necessarily have all the answers. What it does mean is that you are willing to do the work to find the answers. Work can look like volunteering, enrolling in college, enrolling in vocational coursework, traveling, or exploring a passion project. Everyone’s path will look different and pose different obstacles, but there is a rough outline all high school graduates can follow to determine their next steps.

Create a network of supporters.

In high school, if you were part of the “in” crowd, you probably felt liberated by the feeling of being considered cool. If you weren’t part of the “in” crowd, you might have kept to yourself and relied exclusively on yourself. After high school, the cool crowd doesn’t matter, and you’ll need more than just yourself.

Create a circle of supportive individuals who will motivate you to strive for more. Recruit your family members, neighbors, former coaches and teachers, and close friends who have similar life goals. It is important to have a strong unit of people willing to tell you the truth and not sugar coat the reality of a situation. You need people in your corner who aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings but are willing to lift you up when you need a boost. Growing up is challenging, but if you have a strong foundation of people behind you, then you can do just about anything.

Identify what is important to you.

Ask yourself, “What is important to you?” Be vulnerable and create a list of items that are a priority. When you are writing your list, don’t worry about appearing materialistic or silly. Write down what you want. Some examples could be a new car, a condo, a career, the ability to practice a hobby you enjoy, your family, having time to appreciate the sunsets or a vacation in Europe. Keep this list nearby and refer to it often. Think of your list as a motivational board and aspire to attain things on your list.

Even though you may not know how to attain the things on your list, you will at least know what you want out of life and have the framework to make it a reality.

Get professional.

Getting professional looks a lot different than it did ten years ago. Not only should you dress the part, but you need to make sure you have your personal life buttoned up. Before you begin applying for jobs, consider:

  • Making your social media settings private
  • Brushing up on your interview skills and conversational starters
  • Creating a resume and cover letter

Putting together an outfit that is professional enough for an interview, but an ensemble that you feel comfortable in

Develop a general plan.

Even though you may not know exactly what you want to do in terms of a long-term career, you can still get the ball rolling by attending classes or beginning work in the field. Assess your goals and figure out the best way you can begin getting your foot in the door. Maybe you are intrigued by the construction field. Beginning a career in this field may not involve college, and that’s okay. Instead, you’ll need to attend classes at a vocational school and start as a laborer in the field. Or maybe you want to be a writer and college is the way to go. Starting a writing portfolio could be an additional route you take to diversify and cultivate your talents.

Developing a general plan for your future may seem overwhelming. Recruit your mentors and family so you can have additional advice and feedback. Even though you may not follow through with their suggestions, having additional insight could spark an idea or help you feel comfortable with a decision.

Make time for passion projects.

If there are hobbies that you enjoy or projects that you wished you had time to do, take the time to accomplish these things. Yes, you need to make money to earn a living, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and create a deeper purpose as an individual. Oftentimes, when adults get into their career and start a family, they forget about the simple things that made them happy.

It is important that you don’t wait for a rainy day or your retirement to embark on passion projects. Find joy in the things that make you happy, and who knows, your hobby could become your career. And, if it doesn’t, at least you’ll have something that sparks joy!

Take some time to travel.

Traveling will build your insight and views. Not only will you have the opportunity to see how other people live, but you’ll have a chance to build from that insight and become a well-rounded individual. Sometimes venturing away from your homestead has the power to enlighten your senses and provide education on various topics that affect the world; thus, helping you make a lasting footprint. It is possible to grow as an individual if you are more aware.

One of the biggest misconceptions in life is that you should have everything figured out after high school. The reality is knowing what you will do for the rest of your life or understanding the lay of the land is not realistic—figuring out life after high school means that you are willing to put forth the hard work and not give up. Take this precious time to grow and become the person you were meant to be and remember that growing is never comfortable. You must get uncomfortable and step outside of the box to grow.

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