Finishing your undergraduate degree and preparing to move on after college can be both frightening and exciting.
For most people, it will be their first time outside of a familiar, structured environment where they received immediate feedback on their work and it was clear exactly what was expected of them.
If you’ve proceeded directly from high school to college, you’ll have effectively spent your whole life in a bubble. It may have often been challenging, but it was likely one where progression from one stage to the next was mapped out and there was always someone to guide or mentor you.
When you step away from a university environment, all of this changes. Even if you decide to continue your education with a postgraduate course, you’re now in a situation where you have to make your own decisions and live with the consequences.
10 Prime Suggestions For Better Career Choices After Graduation:
Many students can’t wait to hand in their last assignment, take their final exam and enter “the real world.” However, suddenly having to live without a safety net can be daunting, and the sheer number of options open to you can be bewildering.
1. A New Beginning
The phrase “today is the first day of the rest of your life” never rings so true as it does on your first day after graduating. You are likely young, without ties, obligations, or much in the way of overheads, and the world is your oyster. So, what are you going to do now? The answer is to seize the day and start making plans to live your dreams.
Of course, it’s rarely quite so easy. Many of us still don’t know exactly what we want to do with our lives when we graduate, and our ambitious dreams have to be balanced against realistic considerations, such as the need to earn some money and keep a roof over our heads. Nevertheless, it’s important to be mindful of the moment.
You have time on your side, which means you can have fun and experiment. While you should absolutely take advantage of this freedom, you should also be laying the groundwork for your future career. Think carefully about what you want to do. Try out a few things to see how you feel. Balance your short and long-term goals while always seeking out new experiences that will help you to grow as a person.
2. Get A Job
The obvious answer to the question of what you should do after graduating is to get a job. This has many advantages, not the least of which is that you’ll be earning a wage that is hopefully enough to both pay your way and save for the future. What sort of job should you pursue, and how can you avoid getting trapped in a career that’s not for you?
Your first port of call should be your university’s career advice service. They should be able to help you find companies that run graduate programs you could be eligible for or entry-level jobs in a field related to your degree.
3. Fierce Competition
Although having an undergraduate degree will give you an advantage over applicants with only high school diplomas, you may still be surprised by how competitive your chosen job market is. You’ll be up against candidates with postgraduate qualifications and more experience.
If you do get hired, your initial salary might not be what you expected, and you may not be in your first choice of role or with your first choice of employer.
Before you start applying, review the labor market overall and the sector you’re interested in or qualified for specifically. If the type of work you’re looking for isn’t easy to find locally, think about whether you’d be willing to live in another part of the country or even work abroad.
For some people, the chance to work in another country is a great opportunity, and right after graduation from college is the perfect time to take it. Others, however, would rather stick closer to home. Consider your own personality and preferences, then look for options that suit you best while remaining as flexible as possible.
4. Temporary Jobs
Another idea is to take a job that isn’t necessarily related to your long-term career goals but will earn you some money in the short term and may provide you with interesting and valuable life experiences.
Examples might include seasonal work, such as farm labor, or jobs at a ski or holiday resort. Again, this is a great time to try out this type of work, and it will help you to gain confidence and become more fully rounded while filling out your resumé.
Don’t worry about getting trapped in your first job; you can always move on. If you’re able to try a variety of different types of work, it will give you a better feel for what you really want to do. Alternatively, if you can get in on the ground floor of your chosen profession right away, go for it. You can always improve your prospects with further study as you go.
5. Continuing Education
Once you’ve earned your degree, it doesn’t mean that you have to conclude your education. Getting a post-graduate qualification, such as a master’s degree, can improve your employability, increase the number of options open to you, and add to the salary you can expect to earn. You could do this by staying on at your current university, going to a different institution, or studying online.
One of the main advantages of an internet-based program is that you can fit it in alongside full-time or part-time work, so you’ll be earning and learning at the same time. Kettering University Online, for example, offers an MBA program online that can be combined with a choice of graduate certificates, and there are many other universities offering online programs as well.
Why Stay In School?
When considering further education, you need a clear idea of your motivation. A postgraduate qualification is a necessity for some careers, including many in law or medicine.
In other cases, it will enable you to enter the field at a higher level. You might also want to pursue an academic career by earning a master’s degree as a stepping stone to a Ph.D.
Alternatively, you might just have a passion for the subject and want to continue learning. This is a perfectly valid reason for staying in education, and a master’s degree or equivalent qualification in any area will improve your career prospects as well. You will need the commitment to see the course through to make it worthwhile.
6. Take A Gap Year
Most people think of a gap year as time spent traveling or working a temporary job after high school before starting college, but plenty of students find that a gap year after college can be just as useful and fulfilling.
This gives you time to think about what you really want to do with the rest of your life. Your decision will be informed by the experiences you have during your year off, whether it’s in a different part of the world or back home doing a variety of jobs.
However, you should not spend this time drifting idly. Plan your gap year carefully to ensure you get the most out of it. Consider keeping a journal so you can reflect on what you’ve learned and observed from your experiences.
If you’re traveling, you might even want to publish an online blog with photos and write-ups. This could earn you money to support your travels and can be a great start if you’re thinking about journalism or creative writing as a full-time career.
Whatever you do with your gap year, it’s also worth having an exit strategy lined up well in advance. At some point, your year off has to end, and you can’t expect to have your dream job just waiting for you. Create an action plan that will allow you to transition smoothly back into reality.
7. Start Your Own Business
Perhaps you’ve always had a passion or hobby that you think could earn you a living, or maybe the skills and knowledge you gained in college could translate into a successful business venture. If you’re tempted to give self-employment a try, immediately after college may be the best time to attempt it.
This is a time in your life when you’ll likely have very few overheads or responsibilities. You have nothing to lose and everything to go for, and your excitement and enthusiasm are at their peak.
Nevertheless, turning a passion into a business requires careful planning and a realistic outlook. You need to think about funding, marketing yourself, and putting together a professional business plan.
The advantages of running your own business are numerous, and they include independence, freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to spend your days doing something you love. However, it also involves hard work, a lot of stress, and a big responsibility for less money and security than you’d find in an entry-level regular job, at least at first.
If this still sounds like something you’d like to go for, be sure to look around for all the help and advice you can. Follow your dreams, and if it doesn’t work out, at least you’ll know you tried.
8. Volunteering And Internships
An internship can be a great way to get a foot in the door in your chosen career sector. The bad news is that interns are usually poorly paid; sometimes, they are not paid at all. However, you may find yourself working in an environment you’d otherwise struggle to access, making useful contacts, and gaining valuable work experience.
Many big companies are willing to take on new graduates as interns, and you might be offered a permanent job at the end of it. However, the competition for internships is fierce, so it is best to apply before graduation. If you are accepted, make the most of the experience by being observant and volunteering for as many different tasks as possible.
Other ways to gain experience in a job before you’re able to do it yourself include work shadowing or volunteer work. In the case of volunteer work, you’ll most likely be working unpaid for a charity or community organization, and the job may not be related to your future career plans. Nevertheless, you will gain experience, confidence, and transferable skills while knowing that you’re supporting a good cause.
9. Returning Home
If you’re unsure about what you want to do next, you may want to return to the family home for a while. Not everyone is ready to go straight into work or further education after graduating, and some people need time to rest and recover from their final stretch of studying.
If you’re able to move back home for a while, it can be a familiar, comfortable, and cost-effective way to transition into the next stage of your life. Find an undemanding job that will allow you to pay your way while saving for a place of your own. At the same time, network, do your research, and start planning out your next move.
10. Working At Your University
Some students become attached to their universities and are reluctant to leave. Besides continuing your education, another way to stay on is to get a job at college. New graduates are often employed in various administrative departments, such as admissions or student services. If you got along well with a particular professor, they might be prepared to take you on as an assistant.
Recent graduates may be employed as research assistants, helping research fellows or departments with data gathering. This can be an invaluable experience for a future career, especially one in academia, and it might be combined with post-graduate study.
Graduates Have Many Choices
There are many choices open to you when you graduate from college, so seize the moment and act decisively. The most obvious options are to start your career with an entry-level job or go into further education. Both of these routes have their advantages, but they aren’t the only ones; it’s also acceptable to take a gap year or do something unrelated to your eventual career goals.
Whatever path you choose, remember to work hard, have fun and stay focused.
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