You can’t hide from graduation, it will find you
Graduation: it seems so far away until suddenly it isn’t. As this year’s batch of graduates near the end of the term, many are likely feeling apprehensive, excited, or perhaps terrified, and with good reason. Graduation is a life milestone that marks our real entry into adulthood — sweatpants are no longer acceptable clothing for weekdays, and yes, you do need to pay those loans back.
As I near graduation from my second degree, I too feel these pressures. But, lessons I learned from my first graduation have taught me that there is life after undergrad, and that, while there are many difficult choices to come, we can handle it.
Perhaps the most daunting problem graduates face is finding a job. Statistics Canada’s most recent study of university graduates indicates that more than 80 per cent of college and university students who graduated in 2005 and did not pursue further studies had found full-time employment by 2007. The statistics are in your favour – you will find a job.
In 2010 I graduated from Queen’s University with an English degree. Despite having good work experience with well known companies, I didn’t get job interviews for the few jobs for which I applied. So, instead of persevering, I promptly wrote the GMAT and enrolled in Laurier’s MBA program. People are surprised when I say that it seemed like the easier choice at the time, but I was good at school; I knew how to do school. Applying for jobs and working? That was new and scary.
We are all aware that since 2007, when the Statistics Canada study was done, Canada has gone through a huge economic shift, and many companies have cut their graduate hiring programs back.
Therefore, finding a job probably won’t be easy, and it likely won’t be fun either. If you are getting tired of writing countless cover letters, or feel terrified at the thought of approaching recruiters at those networking sessions you are supposed to attend, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. My experience getting summer jobs in better economic times had not prepared me for the new reality in 2010.
I found that it wasn’t easy because I didn’t have the skills companies were seeking, and so I went back to school. Getting business education after my arts degree has undoubtedly created many new opportunities for me, and will also help me to be successful later in my career.
Moving away from university and friends is another difficult aspect of graduation. Friends you make in undergrad will move, perhaps to places all over the world, and the distance will make it hard to stay in touch. It is important to make the time to catch up, however, because friendships don’t maintain themselves.
Early in my fourth year of university, one of my housemates suggested that all of us fail one course so that we could return to university the next year and live together again. Unfortunately, all of us passed and were forced to move away that summer. Despite living on two different continents and in three different countries, we send each other regular messages and have managed to schedule the occasional Skype call. Sure, things have changed, but we can always call each other when we need a friend.
However, like those old “friends forever” buddies from high school, you will lose touch with some friends. People change after university, and that person you admired for quoting Laura Mulvey now uploads their rendition of Lil’ Wayne songs to the Internet, and raves about the upcoming release of that movie series you can’t stand. It’s sad to see friendships fade, but you may realize after some time that you just don’t have much in common with some of those friends.
The most important thing I have learned since my first graduation, however, is that I really haven’t learned much at all. In university we surround ourselves with people our own age, and we don’t notice how young we are. It seems natural to panic at the thought of not having a job three months after graduation, but just remember that you will probably work for 40 years — what’s the rush? Entering an MBA program where the majority of the students are older than me has taught me that it is never too late to go back and, if you make a mistake, you have time to fix it.
My attempt to hide from adulthood by going back to school was not entirely successful.
I have had to deal with many of the mature, life-directing decisions that we all eventually need to face and this has prepared me for graduation — the second one.