Up in the Air – Managing Uncertainty
Just as you were starting to get the hang of university – you learned how to do your laundry, you figured out how to navigate the basement of TSH, and you finally worked up the courage to go to office hours – you realize that it’s almost over. It’s almost OVER. You feel like you should be excited but really, the question, “What am I going to do after I graduate!?” is plaguing your thoughts, Google searches, and conversations with just about everyone. For many students, the answer to this question is unclear.
When thinking about our future, one of the big questions is, “What career path do I want to pursue?” Surely the world is made up of more than just doctors, lawyers, and accountants! The diversity of careers is vast and confusing, so it can take time to find those that appeal to you. Although feelings of uncertainty are natural and well-founded, try not to let them lead to complacency. It is important to take action – set small, definitive goals towards learning about yourself, then actualizing your future aspirations.
Am I the Only One?
It is common for students completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees to feel uncertain about what lies ahead. Consider it as if it were a rite of passage that we, as young adults, must overcome to further develop ourselves. Take notice of those around you – each person is there because of the choices they have made and are currently making. They did not arrive at this point overnight; in fact, it took many years to reach where they are now, and potentially a few more to get to where they want to be. The trick to making the journey manageable is to try not to overwhelm
yourself by thinking about steps that will take place much farther down the road, without even completing the next logical step. Instead, take these suggestions into consideration:
- Define what you might want for your life and/or career.
- List all available options (and BE EXHAUSTIVE).
- Review these options against what you want, and decide which ones are realistic.
- Define a potential path for your journey.
- Identify the first step.
Identifying that first step is the key to this process. What can you do today to progress towards your ultimate goal? Maybe it’s buying test prep books, or asking a friend how they landed that super cool internship, or a phone call to make an appointment with a career advisor. However small it may seem, feel good about the progress you were able to make today, and commit to setting daily goals regarding your future.
For resources and support in exploring future goals, visit the Student Success Centre in Gilmour Hall 110, or visit their website a http://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca. As well, seek out your faculty office to speak to advisors there about faculty-specific questions and concerns.
HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS TO HELP YOU DEFINE WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT FOR YOUR LIFE AND/OR CAREER:
- Help you explore your options
- Give you related work experience
- Help you learn new skills
- Enable you to make connections
- Give you an opportunity to examine the professional world
- Encourage you and get you motivated!
Where can I find volunteer opportunities?
- Volunteer fairs
- Talking with friends and family regarding opportunities
- the Internet (be specific in the role you are seeking and your location)
CONTINUE WITH POST-GRADUATE EDUCATION
There are several reasons why many students contemplate pursuing post-graduate education. Some have a specific career goal which requires further education, while others aim to avoid entering the workforce either because of career uncertainty or limited job prospects during economically difficult times. Although the latter is not an ideal reason to pursue further studies, it could be worth exploring school-related opportunities to know your options:
A | Professional Degree Programs, such as:
- Business Administration
B | College
Writing off college without as much as a second thought? There are a multitude of college programs offering post-graduate degrees, some exclusively for university graduates. A college program can give you peace of mind in knowing that by graduation, you will have acquired specific and marketable skills for your designated career choice. Some interesting examples include:
- Sports Journalism
- Respiratory Therapy
- Aviation Safety
- Workplace Wellness
- Children’s Entertainment:
- Advanced Filmmaking
- Writing, Production and Management
C | Graduate School
Graduate programs are extremely varied, from molecular genetics to music and everything in between. If you’re interested in research, consider completing a thesis project during your fourth year. You’ll be able to figure out if research is right for you, all while creating valuable networks with professors, current Master’s students and other people in your field of interest. Even course-based Master’s programs typically involve a research project. Why not further your education, delve into a something you’re passionate about, and increase your earning potential?
FIND A MENTOR
A mentor can be anyone who is willing to commit time and energy to sharing their knowledge and experiences to help you reach your own professional goals. It is a good idea to find a mentor in your field of interest early in your university career. You don’t have to look any further than McMaster’s own online career portal, OSCAR Plus (https://www.oscarplusmcmaster.ca/), to find an extensive list of McMaster and non-McMaster alumni interested in mentoring hopeful business operations managers, hydrogeologists, or even pastors, amongst many other careers.
Many students have dreams of travelling after graduation. For those with the resources to do so, travelling provides a much needed vacation and an opportunity to learn about oneself through immersion in diverse cultures and experiences. For others, however, this may seem like a far-off fantasy. But it doesn’t have to be!
Consider going abroad to teach English, pursue an internship or gain work experience. Be rigorous when doing your research as recruiting agencies are easy to come by, but sometimes untrustworthy. The Government of Canada is a safe place to start and they offer an amazing International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) for recent Canadian graduates in fields ranging from improving health outcomes and gender equality to promoting good governance (http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/iyip). Also, check out International Experience Canada, a program which facilitates work abroad for young adults (http://www.international.gc.ca/experience/).
The International Students Office offers resources and support to students considering study abroad programs – you can visit them in Gilmour Hall 110 or on their website at: https://iss.mcmaster.ca/
Some students find it beneficial to start working immediately after school finishes, even if it is not in a role that is line with their career goals. This could be to gain experience or for practical reasons, to help pay bills and loans. At the Student Success Centre, you can access OSCAR Plus (https://www.oscarplusmcmaster.ca/) to search potential employment opportunities geared towards recent graduates.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill
- Career Counselling, Student Success Centre