What’s next after graduating

Life after graduation

Life after graduation can be quite dreary and unpredictable, especially in the times of a pandemic. Many recent graduates may have no idea what’s next. It can be challenging to find fulfilling work, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic caused millions to lose their jobs. Youth Mind spoke to some recent graduates about their life in the wake of graduation.

Pursuing interests outside field of study

Graduates do not necessarily enter into their jobs immediately after graduation; some take time off to pursue other interests unrelated to their field of study.

Sabrina S. graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2020 with an urban planning degree. She says she entered university right after high school because that was what her family expected of her. Sabrina originally wanted to pursue architecture but chose to study urban planning because it is dynamic and creative but not technical, she says.

Sabrina says she felt that studying urban planning “worked out for the best, given the knowledge [she] had when she was younger.” However, she added that she wishes she had considered college or other opportunities outside of formal university education.

As a recent graduate, Sabrina is spending her time writing and trying out journalism. She says the pandemic has allowed her not to feel pressured to find employment immediately after post-secondary studies. She is still keeping her doors open in urban planning by applying to jobs that particularly interest her.

For those who are struggling to decide what to do after graduation, Sabrina says it’s a good idea to self-explore. “Look at what you are interested in and do research on careers [related to your interests],” she said.

Sabrina advises recent graduates to use this time to research and learn more about how to take your skills further, to build a career related to your interests.

Pursuing field of study and graduate school 

Graduate school or professional school is a popular option for those who want to continue their education or advance their careers.

Elie Waitzer graduated from McGill University in 2016 with an economics degree and from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2020 with a Juris Doctor. Waitzer’s path to law school was not direct, as he wanted to explore opportunities in economics. He applied for economics and marketing jobs after university. After multiple interviews, he landed a job at a marketing firm in Montreal and started exploring his interest in journalism.

Waitzer freelanced as a sports journalist and continued to interview for new opportunities in journalism and economics. His contingency plan was to pursue law school if his journalism career did not take off.

“It wasn’t stressful that I was not getting a job in my field immediately,” Waitzer said. “I knew there would be a gap.”

After a year in Montreal, Waitzer decided to move back to Ontario for an opportunity in a new government organization. The government organization was later dismantled due to policy changes, which forced him to start a new job search. He worked as a bike courier and server while he continued to look for full-time work. Eventually, he started a job in international relations. However, Waitzer says the work was not fulfilling; he stuck with it mostly to build his resume for law school applications. At the time, he was motivated to become a criminal lawyer after learning about broken judicial proceedings in criminal justice systems.

Currently, Waitzer is enjoying his law career and working from home as an articling student. He has no regrets about not entering into law school directly after completing his post-secondary degree. He says that his economics degree and experience in international relations helped him get accepted into law school.

For those who are unsure about their future after high school, or after earning their undergraduate degree, Waitzer recommends taking a gap year. He says that this may help new graduates to avoid rushing into a field that they are unsure of pursuing

Waitzer also advises recent graduates to use the time, particularly if they take a gap year, to reach out and connect with people in the field they want to pursue. This can provide new graduates with more perspective on what that career path is like.

“Talk to people on the path you want to be on,” Waitzer said. “People like to pass down advice; they feel flattered that you ask them.”

Exploring your interests

The pressure to chase the next milestone immediately after achieving one can lead to an unfulfilling path in the long-term. For recent graduates who have the opportunity to take a gap year, it may be best to grasp it and use the time to explore your interests. You can find a part-time job and spend your leisure time researching opportunities that you will enjoy going forward.

Remember that there are many different paths to success and fulfillment. Finding a fulfilling path involves tremendous self-exploration. Start exploring early.

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