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What comes next?

28th November 2011

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After coming to university, it will become clear that one of the most commonly asked questions from parents, relatives and older friends is ‘so what do you want to do after you leave’?

QuestionsWhilst many students will have had this answer prepared for years, for others it is not as simple. Dealing with living away from home, attending lectures and avoiding overdrafts are the first things on an eighteen year olds mind, not what their path for the next twenty years will be, but this is an ever-growing issue that creeps up on students when they least expect it – when they feel they are just starting out!

Whilst some courses are easy to expand in and provide a wide range of career options, such as Business Management and English Literature, others are more industry based and selective, such as Law or Medicine. Law students have to start applying for their training contracts at the end of the second year; crucial to the path of any lawyer but an undeniably massive decision. The automatic pressure to have planned a future and to be working towards something is implied at university and having to pick modules throughout the course can make it feel as though you are specifying in a job you do not even have. When a student can choose to do a module in Spanish with an Economics course, how can it be expected of them to have a clear focus on their future?

So are life paths determined by what course at university we pick?

Some, of course, have known what they want to do since they were young; mini-barristers and mini-writers growing up with their goals never faltering. Many have switched back and forth or are just clueless. They aren’t alone but can take comfort in the fact that a recent statistic showed that a whopping 75% of students do not use their degree in their graduate job.

Bizarre and unrelated careers are becoming ever more popular; such as a buyer at a wood factory who took a degree in Sociology, or the girl who now helps manage a division of a well-known charity due to making contacts, despite studying for a Media Studies degree. It is undeniable that traditionally the degree studied at university should be related to the career path taken afterwards, but in today’s society, that is becoming less and less true. Students are now able to define their careers and choose what they want to be. 

So, what can be said to the student who is baffled by their future? It is easy to forget that most students in education are only in their late teens and that although university is the clear doorway to their future, it is not set in stone and a decision that huge is difficult at a young age. Being determined, hard working, getting out there and building up a wide circle of contacts means that most career options are still available – anything really is possible in today’s society.

Statistics beg the question of whether a degree is really worth the debt and expense; if it will eventually become irrelevant to a future job, what is the point in it?

Despite this, it is undeniable that a degree versus no degree is a no-brainer.

The qualification, whatever subject in, demonstrates a hard working, intelligent individual and will go a long way in an interview or on a CV.

Whilst thinking about the future is not a bad idea, there is no point anyone rushing into a career that is not going to be not only fulfilling, but also enjoyable. Anything can happen and the people who are currently confident about their careers may have a change of heart or circumstance. Dream big, have high goals and do not let the stress become too much. As written in the ‘Sunscreen’ song ‘the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t’.

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