After graduation, your path is open
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.
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.