My College:
Dear Adina

My Graduate Is a Bit Lost...How Do I Help?

Adina Glickman

Hi, Adina!

My daughter graduated in December 2021. She’s not sure what to do for a job, and she might go back to get her master's. Do you have any advice that I could give her to help her make any decisions? Thank you!

Dear Parent,

My mom tells me that lots of parents think it’s a sign of weakness or incompetence for a parent to present themselves as not knowing the answer. So it might seem counterintuitive or even uncomfortable to take a stance of not having strong parental authoritative advice.

But I’m not my mom — my own kids know that, along with my irresistibly profound wisdom, I have experiences that may have no relevance to them right along with blind spots, occasional tone deafness, and intermittent myopia. I would have no credibility if I were to claim I knew exactly what they should do.

So I encourage you to get comfortable with feeling just as lost as your recent graduate is.

If you haven’t already asked her a zillion questions, here are a few I’d be curious about:

  • What sounds fun to do?
  • What kinds of jobs that other people have look like they’d be interesting to try?
  • What things have you done in life and in school that were stimulating, meaningful, etc.?
  • If you take earning a living out of the equation, what calls to you?
  • If you put earning a living into the equation, how much do you need to live your life?
  • How long do you envision this first job should last?
  • Describe what a good day at work looks like in detail (i.e. lots of fast-moving team discussion? quiet solo tasks? in an office? in nature? etc.).

If you’ve asked her a zillion questions already in an effort to help her articulate and brainstorm possibilities, but after talking through her ideas she’s still wandering, here’s what I would try and fold into my thinking.

A first job after college can be, literally, anything.

It doesn’t have to be a professional springboard and can simply be a money-generating glide through time while she lives an adult life, has experiences, develops work skills, and has the awesome satisfaction of earning money.

All of our human experiences, especially after college when the structure of school fades away and we feel like we’ve fallen off a cliff, are opportunities to notice what we like and what we don’t like. The more experiences we have, the more we can sift and sort through them to discover where we want to go next.

My recommendation on getting a master’s is to start with one important question: Why?

Why do you want to get a master’s degree in X field? I think it’s important to pursue graduate work when something very specific calls to her and the education she will receive and the experience she'll have in graduate school feel like the best next step in moving her towards something she can describe. It can be just fine to go to grad school as an I-don’t-know-what-to-do-next-so-I’ll-remain-a-student for a couple more years, but most master’s degrees aren’t funded so it’s an expensive way to go.

Either way — getting a master’s or working at a job — she will be in the world, learning to be a person in the world. She’ll meet and relate to people who are different from who she is. And she will learn to be herself. No matter what she does, she can’t go wrong.


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Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching Group, which offers academic, life, parenting and career coaching. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at
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