What do I do after graduation?

With convocation season coming to an end, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate all of the new grads!

As you would imagine, I’ve been getting the question : “what do I do after graduation?” more frequently.

My answer is: “continue to explore”.

The answer often surprises students as they they just spent 4 or so years committing to their future career, so the thought of exploring is not familiar to them. They expect me to say “get a job” or “find your passion” which are both correct answers as well, and figure that continuous exploration and learning would be more beneficial for them to keep in mind.

Deciding on dinner vs deciding on your career

Why is continuing to explore so important? I ask a bit of a silly question to illustrate: “why do spend more deciding on where to go for dinner than your career?”. Seems unrelated but stay with me and let me explain….

If you’re like me and my family and friends, then it often takes something like 10 minutes to decide. The length depends on how many people, who like / dislikes what cuisines, who had what recently and a list of many other factors, but 10 minutes, wouldn’t be unreasonable. Now a restaurant meal is often about an hour and a half. Yes you executive types need your hour power lunches while others in more casual occasions might spend two or more. But again, we’ll pick a reasonable sounding number and you can adjust for your own circumstances . So 10 minutes to decide how to spend the next 90 minutes is about 11%. In this example, you spend an equivalent of 11% of the time you commit to something as simple as a meal.

Now how long do you spend deciding on something as important as your career? A typical post secondary program is 4 years. A full course load is a full time job so let’s say 40 hrs/ week. You’re there for 30 weeks (two 4-month terms). 4x40x30 = 4,800 which is how long that degree takes you. Again, you adjust for your own circumstances. Now people typically work for 42 years (graduate 22 and retire 65). A work year has roughly 48 weeks (assuming 3 weeks vacation and adding another weeks for various statutory holidays). A work week is often 40 hrs. 42x48x40 = 80,640.

Now I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat to know what the percentage is 5.9%. Even if you shorten your meal decision to 5 minutes that just barely beats it at 5.5%. And the reality is that the 4,800 hrs was spent completing the degree and your decision process was likely much shorter!

Take the time to explore

So do take the time to explore even after graduation. A follow on question is: well what if I end up doing something different than my degree, doesn’t that mean my education was a waste?

One particular creative reply was: if someone gave you a hundred $1 bills or coins and 5 of them were damaged beyond recognition, would you throw the other 95 away? The point began to sink in. Considering that your career is a more important decision than dinner, I feel giving it the appropriate amount of time would be justified. If you’re clear on your career path, exploration might be worthwhile to see how you could enhance your current path.

If you are lucky that your degree is a meaningful part of your future career after graduation, then that’s great. And don’t limit your career dreams to your degree. You’ll be keeping yourself back from all of the wonderful opportunities out there after you graduate!

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