The dreaded question when you’re a student/graduate

‘So what are you going to do after you finish University?’

Asked in various different formats that include ‘so what next?’ ‘Do you have anything lined up?’

As soon as I hit my final year at University I was bombarded with this question from everyone- relatives, friends, lecturers, neighbours, the window cleaner, even the person behind the checkout at the supermarket…

I didn’t know how to answer.

I should start by saying that I know most people are only showing an interest but it gets very repetitive when you’re asked it for the 26th time.

If you had a clear answer then maybe it wouldn’t be as bad. If you said ‘oh I’m going to study a masters’ or ‘I’ve got a job with EY’ then the conversation would probably end quite quickly. Those who had an answer early probably won’t be able to empathise with this post as much.  But when you’re answering it as I was, with ‘I’m not sure actually’, it didn’t shut the conversation down very quickly. Instead, it brought more unwanted questions such as ‘why don’t you continue with education?’ or ‘why haven’t you applied for any grad schemes?’ or possibly the worst one of all, ‘what do you mean you don’t know what you want to do?!’

In my case, I got a lot of ‘so you don’t want to be a PE teacher then?’

Yes, I know I did a Sports Degree and no I do not want to be a PE teacher. I can’t count how many times I had to utter this line to people. It seems that most people are unable to think of any other career options.

One particular low moment was being cornered by the nosy window cleaner who proceeded to tell me I should pursue teaching or coaching despite me first telling him at the start of the conversation that I know I don’t want to do either of those.

Many people were understanding in that I was still in my final year and I hadn’t yet thought about what I wanted to do when I finished, but a few others seemed baffled that I didn’t have a clear plan set out for myself.

I felt I had to really justify why I wanted to focus solely on my degree and not think about the next step until after I had graduated. Of course once I had actually graduated, the question continued at an ever quicker rate.

I decided in the summer following graduation that I wanted to do some travelling. I always knew this was something I’d like to do but I wanted to go straight to University after I finished Sixth Form so didn’t take a gap year. I told myself I could do the travelling afterwards and that’s exactly what I did. After I had decided I was going travelling, I then found I had an answer when I was asked the dreaded question. This seemed to satisfy people temporarily. It was a blissful few months…

It wasn’t until I got back home and it was the start of a new year that I was back in the same situation as I was post graduation. People were happy to see me back and after they’d asked ‘how was travelling?!’ the next question was ‘what’s next now then?’

I found myself not being able to answer those questions again. What was I going to do? Well that’s what I had to figure out and am currently figuring out.

I’ve had many a situation in the last year where I’ve had to awkwardly laugh at people trying to give me career advice or for making jokes about me not knowing what I want. During some conversations I’ve been made to feel rubbish for not knowing what I was going to do. As time went on I learnt not to take this from people, especially from those who barely even know me. I’m not going to let the window cleaner or a woman at the checkout make me feel bad for not having the rest of my life planned out.

Even if you’re made to feel like it isn’t ok, it is totally ok to not know what you want to do career wise. Whether you’re still at University or you’ve graduated, I know lots of people that are unsure about what they want to do. It’s normal.

It’s great if you’ve always known what you want to do. I’ve often been envious of the doctors and the dentists who knew exactly what they wanted from such a young age. They had to choose certain A Levels and sit the UKCAT test in order to get into medical school, which will eventually lead them to their chosen career.

But those doctors and dentists are only a select few of us. I chose my A Level subjects and my degree based on what I was good at and what I enjoyed and now I am looking at careers based on both of those factors.

I think it’s important to also stress that your job doesn’t have to be in the area you did your degree in. A lot of the jobs I’ve been looking at aren’t sport related. Whilst it’d be great if my job was linked to sport, I am not scared to move away from that field, and I know I won’t totally be leaving it as I’ll always do it in my spare time. You can probably think of several people who are in jobs that aren’t even slightly linked to their degree. One of my friends studied science and they’re now in a marketing job. Another did a Sociology degree and they’re in finance.

If you can identify with this post, grin and bear the questions, take a deep breath and laugh a bit. They will eventually get easier.

People are curious and naturally think to the next step. We’ve had it our whole lives: ‘Which Secondary School are you going to?’, ‘So what GCSE’s are you taking?’ ‘What subjects are you thinking for A Levels?’ ‘What Universities are you looking at?’. You don’t recognise it at the time because you have an answer ready. It is only when you are unable to answer that you really notice.

Remember, it’s ok to not have the answers now. One day you will. And when you do and everyone around you knows your job title, they’ll get bored and stop.

We don’t need to have the next 5/10 years of our lives clearly planned out already. We’ll figure it out as we go and that’s part of the excitement.

Thanks for reading.

KP x



3 thoughts on “The dreaded question when you’re a student/graduate

  1. Pingback: 3 months in: What I have learnt so far – Kate Petty

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