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For recent college graduates, this fall marks the first that they are not gearing up to head back to class for another academic year. While some may be in the throes of entry-level positions, others are still seeking employment. The glee that accompanied them as they walked across the stage and graduated into the job market has likely dissipated, wilting at the awareness that not only has the frivolity of summer ended, but they are degreed up without a job prospect in their grasps.

Though the Seattle Times reports that the job market is on an upswing for 2012 college graduates (citing a 10.2 percent increase in the hiring of 2012 college graduates over those who entered the job market in 2011), employment rates have yet to meet or surpass pre-recession levels. For many would-be professionals, the back-to-school season—a time that once signified a fresh, hopeful start for students—has ignited a bevy of post-graduate anxieties, including the following:

Should I go back to school, too?
Those who may not have considered an advanced degree in their field of study may consider waiting out the economic storm in the shelter of graduate school. While attaining additional education is not a bad idea, doing so for the sole purpose of killing time is not ideal, especially if it means incurring additional debt. Does professional success in a graduate’s field of choice require a Master’s or Doctorate degree? If it doesn’t, would-be grad students should determine whether they are quenching a natural curiosity and affinity for the subject matter, or if their hearts are not in it at all, in which case, graduate school can be a waste of money and time.

When does the living start?
Combing through Facebook timelines and seeing photos of friends’ vacations, their new cars or their newly furnished apartments are enough to make a recent graduate wonder when his or her turn is coming. While some may have avoided the economic fray and scored well-paying jobs in their fields, some graduates are awaiting the moment in which they can get a head start on their bills, move into a place of their own, and start living the golden young adult lives they dreamed of. This is where getting out of the comparison game is absolutely necessary. While wondering when their time will come, recent grads should take advantage of the joys that are within reach, like road trips, free outdoor concerts, community festivals and staycations. Volunteering is also a feel-good way to spend downtime from the job hunt.

What will happen when my student loan payments kick in?
Taking out a student loan to pay for educational expenses was a much easier concept when the idea of snagging a job or launching a well-paying career immediately after graduation didn’t seem like a far-fetched possibility. Now, with loan repayment plans starting six months after a student has graduated, tackling a hefty loan bill without a job can be disconcerting. However, recent grads shouldn’t be dismayed; private lenders and the federal government offer loan deferment and loan forbearance options that allow for a temporary postponement of repayment or a reduction in monthly repayment amount.

Should I make a switch and start again?
Fruitless job leads can tug at a grad’s insecurities, making him or her wonder whether that English degree was worth the sweat. Recent grads might be riddled with thoughts of taking a chance at another career field (by taking additional undergraduate courses to count for a second major, or becoming certified to be a teacher) or settling where they are because it’s paying the bills (like working the same waitressing gig they held down in college). This is often where the crossroads of chasing a passion and getting paid veer onto separate pathways, and new grads are yanked in a tug of war between likely playing the job search game longer than their classmates and determining whether they should start from scratch.

Am I Doing This Job Search Right?
After countless job interviews and an immeasurable number of resumes and applications submitted, recent grads wonder if there is something they’re doing to count themselves out of landing a new gig. Perhaps a seminar on interviewing and resume creation is in order? Many universities offer career counseling, training sessions and mock interviews with evaluations for its alumni at no cost. Face-to-face connections (like mixers and career fairs) are networking staples, but leveraging social media outlets like LinkedIn can also be beneficial for getting leads on jobs that graduates may not have been able to find elsewhere. Also, finding opportunities to fatten a resume without a “traditional” position can be impressive to employers. Aspiring writers and editors can start a blog or write for online magazines. Those with eyes on public relations careers can offer freelance support to small, local events and friends with businesses to tout.

The period of time after college graduation is one in which young adults are often rapt with life-changing decisions and thoughts on whether their choices have been correct ones. One piece of advice, however, applies no matter what path a recent graduate decides to take: Always keep moving forward.

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