Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, your path is open

The National - News - Business - - The Life - Sanjay Modi is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, APAC & Mid­dle East, for the jobs site Monster.com

Ex­ams are over and the re­sults are out. Af­ter years of hard work, it is time for grad­u­ates to em­bark on a new and ex­cit­ing path; but there are many paths to choose from with dif­fer­ent ap­peals. De­cid­ing on the right path is a per­sonal de­ci­sion that must be con­sid­ered care­fully with a ca­reer ad­viser and your fam­ily. Here is a guide to help with that process:

Tak­ing a gap year

Many stu­dents de­cide that af­ter ded­i­cat­ing so much time and ef­fort dur­ing univer­sity, a long break is in or­der. A gap year is a good time to ex­plore in­ter­ests and iden­tify what you want to do in your life. In a com­pet­i­tive work­force, travel ex­pe­ri­ence can dif­fer­en­ti­ate you among peers with an en­hanced cul­tural un­der­stand­ing and in­ter­est­ing sto­ries to share. If you choose to vol­un­teer dur­ing your gap year, you will also demon­strate de­sir­able skills in­clud­ing team­work and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

A gap year may not be the best op­tion for ev­ery­one, how­ever. Trav­el­ling can be ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially when you con­sider the money you are not earn­ing in a job. If not used wisely, a gap year can make you look as though you are not se­ri­ous about your ca­reer and can set you back a year from your peers who would have a solid year of ex­pe­ri­ence by the time you are back. Fi­nally, many fam­i­lies might not ac­cept the idea so it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand their views on this be­fore con­sid­er­ing it.

Fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion

Con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion af­ter a de­gree is the fo­cus of de­bate among aca­demics and em­ploy­ers. You are still young and the knowl­edge you have ac­quired in your un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gramme is still fresh, which will make a post­grad­u­ate course eas­ier. You are also likely to be free from the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with mar­ried life – chil­dren, work and fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments – that may be bar­ri­ers to fur­ther­ing your ed­u­ca­tion later. Many ca­reers will ben­e­fit from post­grad­u­ate courses im­me­di­ately af­ter earn­ing your un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree, in­clud­ing aca­demic po­si­tions and in­dus­tries where spe­cial­i­sa­tion is re­quired.

For most re­cent grad­u­ates, how­ever, it would be best to de­lay fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion un­til you have gained a few years of work ex­pe­ri­ence. You will dis­cover which ca­reer path you really want to pur­sue and can then tai­lor your post­grad­u­ate course to fo­cus on your dis­cov­ered in­ter­ests. Many may find that their in­ter­ests have ac­tu­ally swayed in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion – to a com­pletely new area – and it is of­ten pos­si­ble to make such a shift through con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion. Go­ing back to school a few years af­ter earn­ing your un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree will also mean you are more ma­ture and can make the most out of the courses. You will also be able to of­fer more value to the course with your prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. Fi­nally, fur­ther­ing your ed­u­ca­tion too early can lead some em­ploy­ers to find that you are overqual­i­fied with aca­demic skills but lack im­por­tant prac­ti­cal skills, which could hin­der your job ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Join­ing the work­force

Many grad­u­ates are ea­ger to land a job and earn a salary, how­ever, it is im­por­tant to care­fully eval­u­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties as they could have a big ef­fect on long-term ca­reer goals.

If you are one of the lucky grad­u­ates of­fered a full-time po­si­tion with a de­cent salary, think about what doors this op­por­tu­nity will open for you. Is it a ca­reer path you want to em­bark on in the long term? Will it help you to achieve your ca­reer ob­jec­tives? If you have doubts in an­swer­ing th­ese ques­tions, it may be wise to po­litely re­ject and keep look­ing. Be­ing idle for too long is not good ei­ther, as it could sug­gest a lack of em­ploy­able skills. If by about six months you do not se­cure an op­por­tu­nity, it’s time to ei­ther change your ap­pli­ca­tion tac­tics or ad­just your ex­pec­ta­tions.

With lit­tle to no ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter grad­u­at­ing, it can be a chal­lenge to ap­peal to em­ploy­ers. This is where in­tern­ships add value. Fresh grad­u­ates should be open to tak­ing up in­tern­ships or train­ing pro­grammes that build em­ploy­able skills.

The right choice?

What’s best for one grad­u­ate may not be right for an­other. The most im­por­tant thing to keep in mind is that what you do now will af­fect where you end up. This is not to say that a de­ci­sion you make now will per­ma­nently mark your pro­fes­sional life. No amount of care­ful plan­ning can lead you to your dream job, but then you might end up in a com­pletely un­ex­pected role that bet­ter fits your skills and pas­sion.

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