What type of new grad are you?

As I’ve been chatting with new grads about their careers I’ve noticed a pattern emerging. Recent grads tend to be on a spectrum of purpose and an on/off switch for finding a job (one they want and one they’ll take). 


When one has a purpose, then finding a job just seems to be a matter of time. 

  • At the top of the spectrum is a new grad with purpose.  You are positive though perhaps a little anxious if you haven’t yet secured anything. Within the grads “with a purpose”, there are three categories based on where you are in the job hunt. 
    • Category 1: You have the job they want. This is the ideal state that most new grads want to get into. You have a sense of purpose and they are able to find something to do that meets your purpose. And when I say “job”, you could be an entrepreneur with something that you’ve built on your own. For some new grads, you think that you are in category 1 however you are actually in category 2 or 5. That’s when your purpose is actually not yours. You’ve been striving for something based on someone else’s expectations. That’s often from their parents, or others around them. When you find a new purpose, you end up in Category 2. If you don’t have a purpose, then you end up in Category 4. So if you can stay in category 1, enjoy it!
    • Category 2: You have a job, but not the job you necessarily want. If you’re this type of grad then you have a weight lifted off their shoulder as you’re now employed. You’re probably making a little bit of money, keeping your idle hands busy, though the work that you’re doing is not necessarily what you love. With your purpose, you get to use the role as a stepping stone for what you really want. For many, this is actually the ideal state to be in. Understanding that you will grow and what you will want will change as well as level up. So hopefully you are growing to the point that you actually want something different and go from category 2 to category 1. At the end of the day, this can be a pretty good place to be!
    • Category 3: You have a sense of purpose and haven’t yet found a job. Because you have a sense of purpose, you’re often more positive and driven and work harder towards your job search. You tend to network more than you apply online. And hopefully, you don’t slip into questioning your purpose and end up in categories 4-6. Keep at it! Get some help or at least a second opinion on how to improve your job hunt. You can do it!
  • Below them are those without purpose. They tend to be much more anxious and put less effort into their search. 
    • Category 4: You have the job “you want”. “You want” is in quotations because, without a sense of purpose, the job is probably something that someone wanted for you versus the job you actually wanted. Perhaps you got the job you wanted and shortly realized that you didn’t really want that job. Either didn’t have the right purpose or the job they thought they wanted didn’t meet their expectations. New grads don’t often spend much time here and often drop down to the next category 5. Or perhaps they find a new purpose and this is just a stepping stone of a job to get them where they want to be and they hop up to category 2. It’s up to you to put in the effort in which category you want to end up! Reach out for help to help find your purpose. Whether that’s at work or outside work. 
    • Category 5: You’re without purpose and employed. One of the most challenging categories to be in. You might be grateful to have a job, however, without a sense of purpose, you might not be willing to do anything about improving your current situation. Taking some time to think of What do you want to be doing, or reaching out for feedback could be helpful in moving you into categories 1-2. Consider staying employed or you might end up going quickly from category 3 to category 6. Look to reignite that sense of purpose. 
    • Category 6: You don’t have a purpose and are unemployed. It’s difficult to stay in this category for very long and you’re encouraged to get help. Seriously, you’re not alone and there is a multitude of people and services that could help you. Reach out to your career center. Reach out to friends and family. Reach out to not-for-profit and government organizations. The proverb comes to mind: “the purpose of life is to live life purposefully”. Make a choice to seek out and even create your purpose!

What sort of new grad are you? None are necessarily better or worse than others. They just are. So don’t worry if you’re a 6, 5, 4 or whatever. These tend to be “transient states” meaning that you go through all of them. You might spend longer in one than another. Sometimes spending longer in one can benefit you to get to another. Then you might move in and out of certain categories.  This doesn’t just apply to new grads either. The categories can apply to any time of your career. 

When I graduated I was in category 3 (didn’t have a job). Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to get a job, and I moved into category 1 (I felt it was a good job and was learning a lot so it gave me purpose). After a few months, I realized I didn’t really want this job so I moved into category 5 (the work was ok but wasn’t necessarily enjoying it, or perhaps it was because I saw other work being done that seemed more enjoyable). I found other roles to occupy me and moved back into category 1 (lots of fun and lots of learning!). Then became complacent and moved to category 4 (I kind of learned all that I felt I needed to and it wasn’t as fun anymore). Then after a lot of soul-searching and self-reflecting, I found myself back to category 1 (I love what I do). As my entrepreneurial journey wasn’t as smooth as I hoped, I bounced through categories 1-6 (loving what I do, then not having work and not knowing if I should keep going). Now, I’ve learned to accept myself and circumstances and bounce around between categories 1-3. At least for now 😉 

So perhaps the more important question is: what sort of new grad do you want to be?