For the last 2-6 years, you may have been in University or College, working at passing all your courses. That being done, you’ve graduated and have a piece of paper confirming your educational status. Congratulations are in order; well done!
What now? It’s a classic question because so many people will ask this of themselves, and so many others will ask the same question of the graduate. What now? It’s like coming to the end of a chapter before you’ve hit the middle of a book and you’d like a synopsis of where the story is going. The back cover is blank however; you have to experience the book to find out if it’s worth immersing yourself in and no one else is capable of writing a review as no one has read it yet.
Well, welcome to life. We all write our own stories which collectively we call life. Some have lives that really turn out to be a short story, some are average in length while others turn out to be akin to a long novel. Some are tales of travel and adventure, conquest and domination, a rise to power, fame and glory, and some are reflective.
You as a graduate are staring at a blank page waiting for the words to appear and then suddenly you realize you’ve got the tool in your hand that makes the words appear; you are the author of your own life’s story.
Like some others around you, you may have a very clear idea of what’s next. You’re already applying for work you are now qualified academically to pursue. You’ve perhaps lined up a job before you even graduated, and now that you have that piece of paper to prove your skills and qualifications, the employer is engraving your name on the nameplate of your new office.
Ah but then again you might be one of the many who have graduated and are truly wondering, “What next?” You’re not sure as it turns out. You spent so much time having a good time in school that you’ve no idea of what to actually DO with that shiny new B.A. in Sociology. I mean where does a Sociologist go to work? If you’re looking for the sign above a door that says, “Sociologist Grads Are Us” it doesn’t exist.
Even if you graduated in a program where the job you’ll do is more suggestive by the title of the degree or diploma, say a Computer Engineer, you may still be wondering what to do next. There’s so much to consider. Do you stay in your hometown or move to the big city? Is the big city too big and you function better in rural communities? Sometimes it’s critical to find your ‘home’ first and your job as a second move. Then again, maybe your education dictates where you must live in order to work.
An even more significant factor is your personal motivation. Are you really driven to find work at all? Maybe you feel you’ve earned some time off. All that work for the last three years (except for your summers off) really took its toll. A year in the basement of your parents home playing video games with your pals while your meals, laundry and hydro are all provided sounds appealing. I mean why really extend yourself when others are so willing to hand you the car keys and the house key?
You could of course want to move forward but feel paralyzed and unsure of what to do employment-wise, and so you’ve hit the writer’s wall. Knowing there’s no whiteout or eraser for your life story, all you do goes in the book so best be 100% sure all your moves are the right ones. Ah the ever cautious you. You play things safe, calculate your chapters in advance – but this one has you stumped.
Consider that you have an advantage at the moment; something to seize upon if you choose. As a new graduate, you are THE person with the MOST up-to-date academic education. With limited real-world employment experience (which you obtain by working in your field), you’ve got that one distinctive plus that for the time being, makes you appealing to an employer.
Now suppose you were to hang out in the basement with your friends for a year. When you go looking for employment a year from now, you’ll have a fresh group of hungry grads looking for work and competing with you and the advantage you have now is lost. And what will you say when the interviewer asks, “So what have you been up to since graduating a year ago?”
Depending on you field of study, you could also find that what you learned in school just over a year has changed dramatically. Technology grads know this best. So 12 months from now, new grads will use their education to point out to employers that they are better qualified than you. That’s going to smart!
The choice is yours to make though. Up to now, mom and dad knew best. As it turns out, they don’t know much about your field of study and their advice can only go so far. You my friend are now the sole writer and the pen is squarely in your hand. Life is about learning and it never stops. Make some choices and make some errors. Learn from your achievements and your mistakes.