Career Advice for Graduates

by Peter Appleby


Any person that graduated from university remembers the bittersweet sensation of having obtained their degree: on the one hand, the pride of having fulfilled their academic mission; on the other hand, trepidation about what in the heck comes next! Indeed, just about any university graduate is going to be hard pressed to come up with the perfect answer to the question, "What are you going to do when you graduate"? There are just so many possible answers to the question, and with such an abundance of possibilities comes a preponderance uncertainty on behalf of most graduates.

The reality for university graduates is that the road ahead is not going to be an easy one, and - unlike what happened during university itself - pretty much nobody will be there to hold your hand and make sure you don't falter.

Entering the real world is infinitely complex and the demands placed on graduates will far exceed their wildest expectations - so get ready! Here, we will go over some basic strategies to help university grads adapt to the reality of the job market and carve the best path possible for themselves in the wide world of work.

1. Your Career Path After University Will Be Influenced by Your Choices During University

Yes, the way you chose to pass your time during university will significantly weigh on how the job market will receive you after graduation: those university students that had the foresight to spend their summers and breaks doing internships and holding actual jobs will have a much more cushy landing in the job market than those who only thought about work at the time they were donning their cap and gown. If in addition to actually working/interning during university, you managed to accrue experience in the field you hope to pursue a career in, then all the more kudos to you (as you will have greater chances of success)! Whatever it is that you have done during your time in university, it is important that during the months leading up to graduation you arrange for some sort of job/internship after your graduation. Sure, traveling the world and living a carefree existence for a couple of years upon graduation would be nice, but this is an article about career advice, not bohemian debauchery.

2. Use Your School's Career Office as Best You Can!

Yes: your university will grow in prestige and renown if its graduates (aka, you) actually land good jobs after graduation, which is why you should be in touch with your Career Office well before graduation time rolls around. The people staffing your Career Office are trained professionals whose prime objective is to find dignified career outlets for you and your co-alumni, so don't fail to take advantage of this golden opportunity. Ideally, a graduate will harness this tool before and around the time of graduation, though many people return to their university's Career Office for career counselling much later in life when they change careers or simply want to re-enter the job market.

3. Research, Research, Research, and More Research

Though the ideal situation would be that a university grad have a job lined up for after graduation, the simple reality is that many grads end up going for a decent spell without landing a job after getting their degree. That's OK, as long as you don't let this become a period of inactivity that will yield no positive results for your future. More than anything else (and continuing a trend that should have begun well before graduation), this is a time to do lots and lots of research: hopefully, not about what your interests are, but rather about what the actual career implications are of the field or fields that you have already identified as being of interest to you. It is important for recent university grads to fully grasp the implications of a certain job - that is, all the tasks it requires and responsibilities it imposes - because this information is crucial for making a sound choice of future career. It’s only too sad when somebody realises, well into a certain career path, that the work implies doing things he or she is not fond of. Hence, part of the research you should perform during this time is shadowing a few professionals in a field that you consider appealing: use any contacts and even take the risk of branching out in order to find people who will agree to you shadowing them for a few days. The insights you will garner from such an exercise will represent a large part of the basis for ultimately making a decision regarding career path.

4. Have Modest Expectations, and Leave Yourself Room to Grow

One common lamentation among recent university grads is that they do not receive job offers for positions that they would like to fill: in short, they feel like they are entering too far down the pecking order. Though in certain cases this reticence may be justified, in general university grads suffer from unjustifiably high expectations, and this is something to be avoided. If a person really is meant to occupy a higher role, then they will find the right opportunities in which to expose to their employers their merit and gain a promotion. Furthermore, most employers value having university-educated employees, but they value even more having university-educated employees with experience on the job and in practical aspects; university grads are rich in theoretical knowledge, and usually deficient in practical knowledge (with some exceptions), and time and experience really are the only cures for this situation. Which brings us to the final point:

5. Keep Learning! That’s Right

Don’t rest on your laurels (your university degree, that is), but rather prove that you have a desire to keep growing and learning. Specifically, and keeping in mind the point about practical knowledge made above, recent university grads are encouraged to attend training courses, take licensing exams (for the applicable career fields, specifically technical work), etc., and do everything to prove "on paper" that they have the abilities to match for their knowledge. The time spent taking a course of career coaching will be well worth it when your CV comes out better, brighter & much improved. Though most university grads are thinking about anything but taking more classes and exams, doing this will not only show initiative on your behalf, but will add some impressive new entries to your CV.

Peter Appleby is a professional career consultant whose job it is to help those at a career crossroads.

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