Those who write on the topic of what to do after graduation tend to agree that there are four main options:
- Get a job
- Become an entrepreneur, or
- Take a gap year.
Within each of these options, there are further sub-options, depending on your interests, goals, circumstances, and appetite for risk and excitement.
“I have no Idea”
It is a small consolation to know that nearly half of those graduating from universities have no idea what they want to do with their careers. Even those who make good use of their university’s career guidance office report mixed levels of satisfaction with the advice they receive. But, as one Oxford undergraduate reports:
“I decided to make it a source of empowerment. It’s OK not to know what my job title will be in 10 years. And, in fact, this mindset has allowed me to explore a whole range of career paths and possibilities.”
So, what are the four paths to career fulfillment?
1. Get a job
In the UK, about 60% of students with undergraduate degrees go on to full-time employment after graduating. This is according to the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency which reports1:
“While some economic effects of the pandemic linger in society as a whole, it seems that opportunities for graduate employment have recovered strongly.”
Job searching at this level usually covers:
- Entry-Level Positions: Begin your career by applying for entry-level jobs in your field of study.
- Internships: Gain practical experience through internships or co-op programs.
- Networking and Professional Organizations: Attend job fairs, and industry events, join professional organizations, and network with professionals in your field to stay updated and connected with industry trends and professionals.
…and could include:
- Volunteer and Nonprofit Work: Join a nonprofit organization and work for a cause you are passionate about.
- Freelancing and Consulting: Offer your skills as a freelancer or consultant in your area of expertise.
- Military Service: Explore opportunities in the military if you are interested in serving your country.
- Government Programs and Fellowships: Explore government-sponsored programs, fellowships, or scholarships that align with your career interests.
Gaining full-time employment still has its challenges, however. Access to graduate schemes and graduate jobs has become more and more competitive, with many graduates facing unemployment each academic year. In addition, graduate job applications in the UK increased by 41 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year.
These figures show that more and more graduates are competing for jobs. It’s no longer enough to hold a degree from a good university; you need to have secured internships and work experience and have evidence of participation in extracurriculars, to make yourself stand out. Even jobs advertised as “entry-level” now require significant work experience.
Ways to gain entry-level experience could include: part-time work in an area related to your primary field of interest; joining an NGO or NPO; or entering the civil service.
2. Further Study
Furthering your undergraduate studies may include these options:
- Graduate School: Pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D. in your field of interest to deepen your knowledge and enhance your career prospects.
- Professional Programs: Consider programs such as law school, medical school, or business school if they align with your career goals.
- Online Courses and Certifications: Enhance your skills and knowledge in specific areas through online courses or certifications.
- Further Skill Development: Consider taking short courses or workshops to develop specific skills that are in demand in your desired industry.
- Apprenticeships: Some industries offer apprenticeship programs that allow you to learn on the job while earning a wage.
- Graduate Programs Abroad: If you’re open to international experiences, consider pursuing graduate studies or job opportunities in another country. EU Business School, with campuses in Spain, Switzerland, and Germany, has a great selection of postgraduate business qualifications.
The important questions to ask yourself are: Why do you want to study further, and will it enhance your employment prospects? Postgraduate study should not be used as a career decision-delaying tactic.
And there are financial considerations, too, both in terms of the cost of postgraduate study and the loss of potential earnings. Becoming a research assistant at a university before entering a career in academia may be an option here.
If you have a business idea, consider starting your venture. Entrepreneurship can be a rewarding but challenging path.
As more graduates enter a job market with fewer full-time employment opportunities, many universities offer business incubators, innovation hubs, and launch labs at the undergraduate level to provide start-ups with skills development and support.
Take a gap year to travel, volunteer, or explore different cultures and experiences.
- Personal Development: Focus on personal growth and well-being. This can involve physical fitness, mental health, and self-improvement activities.
- Teaching or Education: Consider becoming a teacher or educator if you are passionate about sharing knowledge. There is a huge demand for teachers of English as a foreign language (TEFL) all over the world.
Be aware that you will probably have to account for your gap year time during job interviews, so spend it wisely. It’s the best opportunity you will have, however, before settling down to a career and possibly family responsibilities.
If you have been studying away from home, enjoy some R&R at home – but set a time limit and use the time to develop your CV/cover letter, do some networking, pursue a passion, volunteer, do seasonal work (e.g., a gym or ski instructor, or harvesting grapes in California), move to a new place, au pair, or perform some community service.
Your career path may not be linear, and it’s okay to explore different options before settling on a long-term plan. Take time to reflect on your interests and strengths, and seek advice from mentors, career counselors, and professionals to help make informed decisions about your post-graduation journey.
If furthering your studies or entrepreneurship seem like attractive options to you, explore what EU Business School has on offer here.