Do you already know what you want to do with your life after you graduate?
While leaving school and entering the real world, many of us tend to jump right into job searches to finally earn our first actual salary for various reasons; so that we can spend for ourselves on ourselves, be more adult and responsible, pay for what we want for so long and so on.
Life after you graduate brings much excitement and anticipation.
Securing your first job and feeling grown-up is no doubt an exciting journey. Not only will you get to finally dip your toes in the professional field, you will also get to widen your social circles and at the same time, deepen your learning curve with experience and exposure.
Questions To Ask Yourself
There are those who already knew what they want to pursue from a young age, while there are those like the rest of us who may not have a clue at all what to do with ourselves as we step into the adult world. Some may have their futures planned out for them while some may have been talked into certain industries that are booming right now.
Some might tell you to ‘just find a job first, and see how later’ whereas there are others who might ask you to take a ‘gap year’ if you can afford to.
When I asked many of the youths around me (teenagers to young adults) and even grown-ups around me, what they want to be, most of them came back with shrugs saying “I don’t know”, which is perfectly fine. This is the age when you are still learning new experiences and exploring your options.
However, before you plunge into job hunting and securing the first job that says ‘Yes’ to you, ponder the following questions:
Do you know what you want to do?
Do you have a direction where you are headed in terms of your career?
Are you aware of the job description that you have signed up for, i.e. the actual day to day activities?
Have you checked in on what kind of working culture or environment you’ll be in?
Are you aware of the culture of the company culture you intend to join?
Have you spoken to anyone on what the career you are embarking on require?
If you answered ‘No’ to more than three of the questions above, take a step back.
It’s fine to not know what to do with our lives.
As mentioned, it is perfectly fine to not know what we want to do with our lives at this stage. In fact, this is the best time for you to find out.
Your life is for you to embark on and discover for yourself.
While it may seem practical and responsible to secure a job asap or even before you graduate, taking the time to actually think through what you want for yourself brings long-term, if not permanent, the advantage to yourself.
If climbing up the corporate ladder, to have a ‘title’, to be ‘successful’ and ‘rich’, or even to buy that bag or car you could not afford now is a motivating factor, I strongly suggest you take the back seat and think twice before accepting any job offers.
Consider two paths (or a few more, in fact) you have now.
Pursue the career path in which you have studied for the last three or four years
Write to every company you can find and attend every interview you have been asked to, and accept that offer to the first company that calls you up saying ‘You’re Hired’.
You work hard to prove that you are worth the job for the next 3 to 6 months, passed it and worked in the same position for the next two years, only to realize that the company does not really support training nor help you in your career progression and annual increment of $150, and possibly promotion only after ‘more’ experience. Or probably feeling bored after a year into your job.
Or you may move up the corporate ladder pretty quick, with increments and promotions every year. It may feel driven and be motivating at first. However, at some point, you probably will start wondering, where am I headed with this career?
Take a few months (or a year) off during this transition period to explore, educate and experiment for yourself what interests you and learn what you have always wanted to learn more about. Perhaps work part-time, take up some other courses that interest you, join a club or volunteer for a cause.
Along the way, you might find what you love doing and embark towards that direction. Or you may still not find what you like, and finally, have to settle for a job that brings you a regular income.
In the first scenario above, you might come to like your job or likely encounter disgruntlement in your job when you faced stagnancy, job hop a few times before you finally settle for some time, or you might find yourself on the edge of burnout after striving hard with added responsibilities year after year to even trying to persuade yourself to stay in this line of industry since you have worked so hard for it for so long. Someday, you might be able to do something that you actually like and enjoy.
In the second scenario, you might or might not find something that you like doing, or you might still eventually fall into the first scenario, but here’s the catch — You would already have tried and tested out a few things for yourself; activities that you thought you like and found out to be true or untrue when you actually did them. You would have learned more about yourself, what you like or dislike, what you enjoy, what interests you and so on.
In my case, I fell in the first category.
Like many of the youths I’ve talked to. I answered the same myself as well when I was just starting out fresh from school, which is okay because I was a greenhorn to everything except books, assignments and exams at that stage.
My sole intention at that time was to step into the working society, to make my own living, pay for my own expenses and not be a financial burden to my parents any longer.
So I graduated in the engineering field in an industry I was told to be booming at that time. I went on to secure the first company that offered me a position as I wanted to start earning money for myself and I didn’t want to take money from my parents anymore.
I went on to build my career along the same path for the next 12 years. In between, I took on different roles with different companies, still within the same industry but I never really felt a deep passion for it.
What pushed me to keep going was my innate competitive character and passion for learning. So long as I was not doing any routine work, I was challenged to create or start something or given a new project/role, I would be driven to achieve what I set out to do.
However, not all jobs provide the same learning curve. At one point, I was deeply disgruntled in my job but it was also one which I stayed on the longest in my career journey. My motivation for staying? The bonus at the end of every year, which was a wrong choice.
Along the way, I took up whatever I thought interested me and found out for myself whether I really liked them or not.
Art — Oil Painting
Jewellery making / Beading
Korean/ Japanese / French / German language lessons
Calligraphy and Lettering
Creating websites, done digital marketing works
Setting up online retail business
It was an interesting journey. However, that was not the path I would have wanted if I could choose again.
I probably would have taken a few months off to travel (something I’d always wanted to do) and see more of the outside world before I commit my days to be an employee chasing reports and deadlines, aiming for promotion and higher salary and looking forward to my 14 days annual leave each year.
More recently, I began to question my purpose for chasing these career goals. After working hard to so many years, rising from working in a small local firm to an MNC, I felt like ‘this is it?’, ‘I’ve achieved my goals now’, and ‘what’s next?’
I came to a blank and had no idea where I want to be moving forward. As I kept asking myself, I began to explore other interests and started working on L3Hub among other activities.
Eventually, I felt it’s time for me to move on and pursue what I really enjoy instead of staying in the rat race. When I was offered to relocate to another office. I said no, despite feeling bad towards my boss and unsure if I was doing the right thing.
Did I feel like I have wasted my 12 years in choosing to leave the industry? No, because I have gained experience in other forms, be it through communication, working relationships, dealing with vendors and clients, and even managing my time well.
It is not only the hard skills that I’m bringing with me, it is also the soft skills that I have picked up, but I would have liked to find out what I actually wanted to be doing earlier in my years than using my off days to explore.
Regardless Which Path You Choose
That’s not to say we’re doomed for burnout and job unhappiness if we choose the first path to get a job soon after graduation. Nor does it mean we will not be able to do what we enjoy while working.
In the second scenario, you might find yourself knowing and understanding yourself better and earlier when you take actions to find out what you were keen on or remotely interested in. You get to spend more time with yourself finding these answers while not bound by the commitment to stay in the job or having to wait for the weekends to do what you want to try out.
It’s Your Choice
What I am trying to say is, the world is full of possibilities and opportunities.
There are other options but these options are definitely yours to consider and choose. Consider all the alternatives before you decide. Don’t limit yourself to one route.
Of course, there are those of us who feel we have no choice but to follow the beaten track because of various expectations towards self and from those close to us. (I covered in my e-book why feeling no choice is still our own choices. Get your free copy here)
Even if we knew what we want to pursue early on, it does not also mean that our passion or goals will not change over time. However, at that point in time, that was what we wanted and worked for. That alone,is a discovery journey in itself.
No matter how well paid a job offer is or how attractive a position look, feel or sound to you, you will end up disliking your job if it does not interest you or challenge you to grow.
Don’t waste time working on something that looks glamorous and rich on the outside but does not enrich you as an individual.
If you have to, find out, at least, the direction where you want to head towards and take the first step towards it.
If you still have not found out what you want to be working on, keep exploring, experiencing and experimenting.
Do research and talk to more people who are in the same field as you want to be in.
And lastly, give yourself the chance to get out when you feel stuck. Don’t be afraid to change because you think you have been in the job for a long time.
Don’t make the mistake of saying yes to something you’re not sure that you want now, only to hate your job and drag your feet to work in the next few years.
There is so much more to life after you graduate, make sure you make full use of it and not wait for the answers to come to you.