[Featured Image Credit: Lendingmemo.com.]
Rewinding back to my second year of university, I recall telling the Science career advisor that my biggest fear would to be to come out of university with no job waiting for me the minute the calendar would turn its page to May 1st.
Fast forward to the end of my undergraduate journey and now currently being in the month of June with no current job in hand, I have realized how naive my ideals were and how irrational that fear was! I can safely even say that the opposite of having no certainty as to where to go to next within your career trajectory coming right out of school is probably one of the best situations to be in. Why, you may ask? It’s simple: you will unlikely be in a better position later in your life to own this level of freedom in terms of career exploration, passion-seeking and personal growth.
Just think about…the mean age of graduates is around 22. Sure, we have several loans and debt to pay off but if you fast-forward just a few years ahead, life’s greater responsibilities are bound to tie you, your time and money down. You’ll be revving up those retirement savings plans, saving up for your down payment, paying down that mortgage, maybe even devoting lots of time to your newly wed and attending to your babies! When else is the best time to figure out your career interests, understand yourself better and seek out your passions? The time is when you’re newly graduated and unemployed! If you are lost soul, a confused soul or even a broken soul because your Master’s rejection has put your plans down the drain — this advice is more like a remedy. Heck, maybe even if you have a job offer lined up it might just be best to take your time before you delve into the world of work!
I would argue that students, especially Science graduates, who jump into grad school programs are doing it for one of two reasons. The first, which is because it is what they planned for their career success, it is a step closer to their ultimate choice of profession and is the best option for advancing. The second, which is because education has become a safety net for many, and is perceived to be the ‘logical next step’. I don’t blame the students who fall in the latter category – a Master’s is increasingly becoming the norm in our poor job market today. However, I would argue that it should not always be seen as the ‘logical next step’. A Master’s degree does not guarantee a job, a research grant or anything of that sort. For some it may but for the majority of students it is an immense investment of time, finances and focus. Instead of jumping into this perceived safety net, students really need a moment to stop to ask themselves about what their true motives are and what all the options are to meet them.
For example, a student who is interested in public health may have this interest but may not realize the different subjects that entail this area of healthcare. How can you jump in without testing the water first? Volunteering after graduation as a means of career exploration is the most efficient to ensure you know what you want to pursue is just that. You get to understand your career area focus better, make new connections, friends, gain useful experiences and skills, and put your free time to good use.
Have you ever wanted to travel to another corner of the world, teach in Korea or learn a new language? What better time than after graduating? It is common for students to take a year off, explore their surroundings, the world and all the while learn new skills, make new memories and indulge in new experiences. This freedom does not come at an easy price when you are bogged down in responsibilities later on in life.
There is no written rule of life that says that you must follow x or y trajectory after you graduate. Yes, people and even you will have expectations of yourself but sometimes its better to lay off the stress and take some time to hone your passions. There is no other better time to do the things you have wanted to do than after graduation…who knows, it might just lead you to something better than what you had expected in the first place!
Explore, explore, explore! Do not fear a few weeks, months or years of uncertainty, unemployment or loss in direction. It might just be the best thing to have ever happened.