Below is a small list of things that you can do with your life once you’ve finished university. All of this is to be taken with the knowledge that I don’t really know what I’m talking about, I haven’t tried half of these things, and I am constantly going through stages of melancholy with regards to my own post-graduation situation, never knowing if I’m doing the right thing anyway. What I’m trying to say is this is not concrete advice, more musings and suggestions. When I am rich powerful successful and 100% happy with life, I’ll get back to you with that actual advice.
“Fund Raising” for a “year”
This is either a means to an end or a desperate attempt to drag yourself at least part way out of debt before doing something else. I knew people at university who really desperately wanted to keep studying full time, but just couldn’t afford it, even with sponsorship and funding, so they worked for a year for the sole purpose of building funds. The only downside to this is that earning money can become incredibly addictive and you might find yourself spending more than you intended to save anyway, so this strategy is probably only really for those who are driven by something specific and those with bucket loads of will power. As far as I know, at least one of the people I knew from university managed to stick out the fund raising for a whole year and successfully earned enough to sustain their further studying.
Temping looks fun to me; you get given a job that lasts for a few days/weeks/months and then get given something new when that job is over. You can be a temp in practically any field you like the look of and there are agencies all over the place. I’m actually tempted to break away from my cosy employment and start temping sometimes. The downsides to temping are of course that it isn’t secure work, there’s no certainty that you won’t have a couple of weeks downtime between contracts, if you’re ill you don’t get paid, the temping agency tends to take a cut of your pay and I don’t know whether this is a downside or not, but the company you’re temping for might try and snap you up and sign you on to a full time contract.
If you’re a decent writer, or a budding photographer, or have some other skill that can be freelanced, you may find flexibility and a certain amount of success doing your own thing for various different people. I know one person who has had some moderate success with freelance technical writing, but she is very good and is focusing on a rather specific niche. I’m also aware of a few sites that people have had a small amount of revenue from as a result of selling photographs, but it’s nothing that you can really live on. The major downside of this appears to be the issue of being self employed; the amount of work you put in is proportionate to what you get out of it, but unfortunately, as a start-up, even working incredibly hard won’t get you very far. I think freelancing is probably something you can only realistically consider if you know that you’re really good at something or if you have a pre-built good reputation.
I’ve already briefly discussed this in a previous post but I’ll summarise briefly. On the plus side, the way to the real heights of success is by working for yourself. You get to be your own boss, set your own hours, work habits and code of conduct. On the negative side, the hours you work have to be all of them if you want to actually survive, there is no security in your job if you fall ill or want to take a holiday and you have to be unbelievably self motivated. Normally, people that become self employed have some sort of work experience first, understanding the industry they are working in or at the very least the pressures of a working week. I know of a couple of people who are self employed and for the most part they seem happy about it, but I know I for one am not ready for this.
A basic job to do whilst you get something better
This is pretty much what I went for. Again, I recently discussed how I don’t know how or why I’m still here after two years, much less if I should be, but I decided that some employment was better than nothing whilst I looked for something more interesting. This is of course right. The one time in my life that I have been completely and utterly down in the dumps was when I was doing absolutely nothing and pretending I was making all the efforts in the world to find work, but be very careful in finding a job just to tie you over; If you lose sight of things, you could find yourself there forever. Whereas this undoubtedly has its merits, it might not be what you really want.
Visit a Recruitment agency
Similar to a basic temporary job, visiting a recruitment agency might give you some ideas and might help you find something you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. The one major downside of this is that recruitment consultants rarely have your best interests at heart. For every individual they get into employment, they get a rather hefty bonus, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself being bundled into something wholly inappropriate by some inept bonus-crazed recruiter. On the other hand, with this in mind, maybe going into recruitment wouldn’t be a bad idea…
Internship / Graduate Scheme
For those of you with relevant degrees and organisational skills, you could register yourself and get accepted onto some kind of scheme for graduates or an internship with promises of greater things in the future. Any sort of graduate training scheme from a big company will be highly beneficial, with downsides being potentially very long working hours, but if that’s not a problem, then maybe this is worth a shot.
Maybe you’re one of those people that, sickeningly enough, know what they want to do and have done since they were five years old. If so, you are probably aware of the particular road you need to start trudging down. The major downside to this is probably only that you might feel devastated if you discover half way down that it just isn’t for you. I know this is what will happen to me whenever I try and stick something out for any length of time. Although I’ll make it to the end, I’ll be bored for the last half at least.
I wouldn’t do this, but some people really really like what they studied and like studying it even more. If this is you as well, maybe a masters degree isn’t such a bad idea. Sure, it’ll put you further into debt, and the work is much harder than a bachelors, but if you’re a true academic and your heart is in it, then good for you. Really, I’m being a little facetious here, but I know people who have done this and regretted it, and I know people who have done this or are about to do this that will get loads out of it. I think the trick is to not kid yourself into thinking going back to university will solve all of your troubles.
Even More Studying
If you’re really good and popular with your university, you could always apply to do a PHD. Weirdly enough, I can see more point to this than a masters degree. This is really crossing the line into the parallel career path of the academic, and cementing yourself as a leading mind in your field. Sort of. The idea and sentiment is there anyway, and it’s a big step to go from learning and studying a subject, to teaching and researching a subject. I’d never be able to pull this off due to my scatterbrain inconsistency and inability to keep going with anything, but again, for some people this is the perfect choice.
If you have any additional or any better suggestions, I’d love to hear them, if only to actually consider them for myself.
At the age of 5, I think I wanted to be an inventor, closely followed by an astronaut, followed by an author. I also remember saying that I “wouldn’t mind going into soliciting”, thinking that was how you said “becoming a lawyer”. Either I was confused or making my very first sarcastic joke about the legal profession.