On average, most students spend at least 16 years of their life in an academic setting. And the game plan is to get a full-time job after that. Right?
I recently graduated with my master’s degree. Like most graduates, I felt impatient about entering the workforce. After seven years of higher education and student debt, I was keen to begin earning my own way in the world.
Not only was I navigating the pressures I put on myself, I was also contending with pressure from others. As a grad student, I was bombarded with the question, “What's your plan after you graduate?” If the answer is anything other than “get a job,” you're bound to get some weird looks. There's this idea that you’ve got to do something with your degree as soon as you graduate. In fact, a study by YouGov found that eight in ten students feel pressure to get a job within six months of graduating.
Oh, and did I mention that across the world, more students than ever earn degrees each year? This means that the sheer amount of competition entering the field is higher than ever. In the UK, compared to eight years ago (academic year 2012-13), the total number of students awarded a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree in 2020-21 increased by 7.7%, or 262,992 students.
After reflecting on all this, for the first time in my life, I refused to jump into another program or the workforce. I was anxious but thrilled about the idea of resting in the unknown for a while. I’ll admit, while I enjoyed the idea of staying in bed and watching Netflix, the thought of having nothing to do scared me! And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous that many of my peers had landed incredible jobs right after graduation.
I felt the benefits of taking time to focus on my mental health and well-being before starting my job hunt. I travelled, read, and cooked my favourite foods, which helped me refuel my mind for the next adventure. I also beefed up my resume in unconventional ways: I took an interesting course, volunteered, and networked at social events.
You don’t have to have all the answers right now. Post-graduation is a time to discover yourself. Plus, you've already accomplished something huge — earning a degree! Make sure you celebrate your accomplishments. And remember, you have your whole life to work, but life is short — so do what makes you happy!
If you’d like support to figure out the next steps in your life, you can reach out to one of our therapists. We’d be glad to walk with you on your journey.
This article was written by Melanie Katz during their time at Shift Collab.
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