You’ve Graduated. Now what?

August 5th, 2011 → 1:55 pm @ // No Comments

Graduating

This is the time of the year where many students who’ve spent the past three or more years grafting get rewarded for all their work. It’s an incredible occasion and one you’ll never forget. It also signifies a turning point in your life. You’ve gained qualification and recognition in your chosen area of study and are now ready to venture out into the real world.

University isn’t just about academic the achievement, it’s also an education in life itself. Most people will find they’ve grown up so much by the time the pass out the other end of it. You have to. After all, you’re left to fend for yourself, make new friends and manage yourself and your time independently. Some of you will have thrived in this environment, others will have found it hard but there’s no doubt it all helps build character and develop your personality.

In a way, being at University is a bit like being in a bubble, it’s a comforting place to be. You get to have plenty of fun and you have few responsibilities other than looking after yourself. Not to say that being a student is easy, it’s just a great way to live. You get to push your mind and learn some incredible things and work with some fascinating people.

I’m guessing some of you aren’t sure or haven’t decided what your plan is after graduation. I hadn’t a clue when I graduated. Others will have everything planned out to tha last detail. So what are you options after you finish University?

Get a Job

This is the obvious one. You’ve got a certificate to say you’re awesome but you’re now in a lot of debt. The best thing to do is go get a decent job doing what you want to do which pay for all the education and fun you’ve been having.

This isn’t going to be easy though. With the current economic climate and unemployment growing, you’re going to have to be a superb candidate. Speaking as someone who’s just been through all this in the past year and had so much stress finding work, you’re going to have your work cut out getting anywhere. Don’t give up though, there are still opportunities out there. You just need to get creative and be unstoppable!

Further Study

Another popular choice is to continue your education further. Go for a Masters or PHD or train to become a teacher. Before you go and dive into this, think hard about the value of the extra qualification with relation to the job or industry you’re aiming for. Will it benefit you? Is it a requirement to get the job you want? There’s little point in spending all that time and money if it doesn’t improve your career prospects.

You also need to think about the extra financial burden it’ll carry. Funding for postgraduate study works very differently. You’ll have to pay for it yourself (you can take out a Career Development Loan) or get funding or sponsorship from a company who will likely ask you to work for them as part of the agreement once you finish the course (which isn’t a bad thing at all!) Further study is a great way to specialise or get ahead of the competition, provided it carries weight in your chosen industry.

Start a Business or go Freelance

The more entrepreneurial of you out there may want to start up a business using your newly acquired skills and education. This isn’t something to be taken lightly. There will be a huge amount of work and responsibility involved but if you’re the type of person who thrives on that or are willing to put in the effort. The rewards in terms of freedom, achievement and potentially financially, will be worth it.

If that’s sounds a bit much but you’d like the same freedom and flexibility, consider freelancing. If your industry lends itself to that type of work there’s no reason not to. You’re likely to find more project-based, temporary and contract work as opposed to full-time work at the moment and despite what people say about stability, no job is ‘secure’. Freelancing will allow you to build up your experience quickly as you move from project to project and you’ll always be learning. As it grows you can build it into a business and reap even more rewards.

Volunteer / Work for Free

After getting out the other end of the University system and jumping into the job market one thing will become apparent: You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get that experience if you don’t have a job. What the hell are you supposed to do?

You could set your sights a little lower and aim for the company you want to work for then work your way up. Or you could just work for free in order to get that valuable experience you need to get the paid work. Try not to think of it as working for free though. Instead, it’s a free education, an opportunity to get your foot in the door, to make an impact. If you’re that good, you will find what you’re looking for or someone will find you.

I’ve seen friends work minimum wage full-time jobs not related in anyway to what they want to do just so they can volunteer a day or two a week at the place they’d love to work more than ever. Just so they can get that experience and make themselves known. With time and when job opportunities open up they stand a great chance as they’ve put in the hard work and proved it’s what they really want to do.

Even just volunteering for the sake of human kindness and to genuinely giving something back and helping people less fortunate will not only look great on you CV (as many will probably tell you) but it is incredibly rewarding. This type of experience will appear more beneficial for some jobs more than others but in any industry it will help show good character.

Take a Year Out

If you’re really undecided or you’ve got your sights set on travelling then you can always take a gap year. Some of you might have done this before you started University and will probably recommend it. This could involve getting away to get your head together and figure out what you want to do with you life (a big question, I know!) or travelling the world and getting some great life experience.

If you’re going to do it, get out there and make the most of it. Don’t just use it as a stopgap for indecisiveness and more importantly don’t waste the time. If you do, you’ll be in exactly the same place, just a year older. Take a year out by all means but do something with it!

Finally:
What ever you do, be sure it’s actually what you want to do. Don’t head off in one direction just to backtrack a few years later. That doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t try things out. If you’re unsure of a specific job you want volunteering is a great way to find out if you enjoy the work. Be sure to get advice from as many people as you can. Speak to people in the same position as you, people who are a year or two ahead of you, those looking to hire for the jobs you want, family members, lecturers, basically everyone will have some advice for you. Last but not least, good luck!


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