By Dixie Somers
When you start college, it's easy to imagine the career you'll have afterward. Even if you started off as a clueless undeclared major, you still have the firm notion you'll figure out what you want to do with your life over the next four years and find a career right after graduation.
Unfortunately, most of us realize after we graduate how difficult the job hunt can be, even for those who graduated at the top of their class. Regional location, prior work experience and other factors wind up making even the most diligent student worried about how they'll actually use the degree they worked so hard for.
Don't feel bad if you're having a hard time finding a job in the field you studied; you're not alone, and the good news is that while you may not be able to see a clear use for your degree at this exact moment, there are plenty of ways it can come in handy, five of which we're about to tell you right now!
1. Become an Influencer
Having a college education is a wonderful achievement. Not only should you feel proud of yourself, but you should also use your degree as a way to inspire others. It sounds braggy, but when applied in the right circumstances, having a college degree can turn you into a role model for someone else.
If you don't have any young people in your life to talk to about the importance of higher education and hard work, programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America can always use volunteers to work with youth and be a positive influence in their lives.
2. Use Your Knowledge to Learn a Technical Skill
You might have been dismayed reading through job postings and realizing the positions you want require a bunch of skills your college classes never covered. That's okay. If you already have a solid foundation for your future career, you can use that to be successful in online classes.
You can get certified in many skills online, or just teach yourself crucial skills that look great on your resume and might make the difference between getting hired or not. Check out sites like Coursera, edX and Mediabistro to explore the wide range of digital marketing, project management and technical skills job recruiters are looking for today.
3. Work with a Non-Profit for Practice
It might not pay anything, but using your degree to help out a non-profit organization will look great on a resume. Willingly offering your education and time to a non-profit shows recruiters that you have passion and are truly dedicated to your field. You'll gain hands-on experience and get to understand what your future career might be like and get to network with other professionals.
It's also an emotionally gratifying experience to know that your knowledge is doing some good.
4. Find an Internship
You may have done one or more in college and think you're beyond interning, but there's no real age cap on being an intern, and this could be a foot in the door. The fact you're already graduated will make you favorable in the eyes of the recruiter, and your willingness to start at the bottom as an intern and work your way up demonstrates determination and humbleness necessary to thrive in many work environments.
You can also look for internships in other fields or industries you never considered; consider it a chance to use your degree while still exploring all your options.
5. Use it to Further Your Education
The only way to get into a master's program is by having an undergraduate degree, and you're already there! Consider furthering your degree and giving yourself a competitive edge. For example, if you have a degree in biology, you could earn a CLS degree online. You can also explore other options and wind up studying a subject you never considered before.
Going to graduate school can also put you in touch with career advisors, alumni and fellow students who can encourage your studies and help you find that dream job. Your bachelor's degree is something you need to get a job most of the time, but your master's can truly be all about your passions and studying something you love.
Don't lose hope or feel like a failure just because you're stuck working the same job you had before you graduated. Even if you're nowhere remotely close to the career you envisioned, you've already achieved something wonderful by simply getting a degree.
Now, it's all up to you how you use it.
Dixie Somers is a freelance writer. Find Dixie on Facebook.