Graduating from university is the end of an era. The world is at your feet, anything is possible, and the shape your next chapter takes is firmly in your hands. That’s great for those of us with a clear-cut vision of our future, but what if you have absolutely no clue what you want to do next?
Whilst this is undoubtedly an exciting time, it can also be pretty terrifying. What if I make the wrong decision? What if my dreams are dashed? What if I can’t even find a job? All of these fears are perfectly normal. But what if you could find a way to view these questions as an opportunity rather than a threat?
This is probably the last chance you will have to be selfish, carefree, and time-rich before responsibilities such as mortgage payments, child rearing, and career development kick in. Before you leap into a decision about your future, take the time to fully think about what you want by considering these four questions.
- Are you clear about how you want to live your life?
Nowadays, while your degree specialism might narrow down your list of choices, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to forging a career. You can be freelance or employed. You can work for a big company or a small one. You can work in an office, at home, or on the road. Each of these decisions and many more will significantly shape your day-to-day life.
How well-matched your job is to your needs will depend greatly on your ability to know yourself and to define your requirements. If you are introverted, working in an open plan office environment with little room for concentration may overwhelm you. If you are naturally organised and precise, working in a highly creative and free-thinking industry might drive you to distraction. Consider your individual traits before you head down a particular path.
- Are you willing to chase your own dreams rather than somebody else’s?
Despite the living-for-the-weekend culture that many of us come to see as the norm, work isn’t supposed to be a drag. Your job is something that you should look forward – something that motivates and energises you.
One of the biggest reasons for not loving your work is when you are living a dream that someone else dictated for you. The expectations of others can leave us wracked with guilt, fearing that we will let people down. But in the long run, denying your passions will eat away at you, leaving you unhappy. Take the time now to really think about what you want.
- Have you considered alternatives to taking a ‘real job’ straight away?
If after some soul searching you decide that jumping straight into the world of work isn’t right for you, there are tons of options for you to consider that will add weight to your resume.
Volunteering, taking a gap year to travel, working on your passions, or continuing your education are all viable alternatives to a 9-5 job.
- If you’ve decided to find employment, are you clear on your non-negotiables?
What would you ideally like to do for your first post-graduate role? What are your salary expectations? Are you willing to relocate? Consider your must-haves before you begin your search for the perfect role.
Whatever you decide to do once you graduate from university, make sure you see this time for what it really is: an opportunity to explore who you are and what you want out of life. Instead of worrying about what you should do next, take the brave step of doing what is right for you. And, above all, make sure you enjoy this new chapter of your life.