Please give me some advice on how to start my post university life!
November 18, 2009 7:57 PM   Subscribe

How do I figure out what I can and/or should do after my undergraduate degree?

I am halfway through my last year of my undergraduate degree in History, at a UK university. As graduation draws ever closer I am getting more worried about what is going to happen after the university bubble pops. I am told in every form of media that the job market for graduates is appalling at the moment, and that doesn't even matter since I have no idea what I want to try and aim to do with this degree anyway. I feel like I have been slightly conned into this degree when I was younger and more naive, and I regret not getting a more technical and employable degree.

How do I know if I should pursue a Masters? I mainly want to do one for the interest of learning rather than for any career purpose, and to hopefully study abroad in the Netherlands or somewhere in mainland Europe. I realise that these aren't the best reasons to consider a post graduate program. Are there any ways I can get to live in europe while still supporting myself?

Basically, through all of this mess of unorganised thoughts, I would just appreciate any information, help, advice, anecdotes, anything that is related to this problem of facing the big wide world.
posted by tumples to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Take a year off. Travel, for at least 3 months.

Blow some steam and discover what's really important to you.
posted by pmv at 8:11 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

-What is your financial situation?
-What type of work/volunteer experience have you had?
-What other things are you interested in?
-What kind of life do you want to have?

With a history degree, you're probably best suited for the following jobs, in the order of most likely to least likely: Teaching primary or secondary school, professorship at a university, research, writing historical fiction.

If you abhor the idea of doing any of the above for money, I'd suggest you immediately add a second, more employable degree, or just switch your major. Keep in mind doing the latter 3 jobs above will most likely require you to get a graduate degree.

That said, if you're not interested in a job in narrowly concentrated field (accounting, nursing, etc), and you have good work experience AND/OR connections, you may be able to get an entry job unrelated to history. Think sales, administrative assistant, other generally unskilled office work, or if you're REALLY lucky, something related to journalism/writing.

While I cannot agree more that you need to discover what you really care about, what you're interested in, what you could see yourself doing for money, I think it's extremely irresponsible to take a year off to traipse around Europe. You're going to be 1 year older, and just as unemployable, most likely with more debt than before.

Get some real work experience (internship or teaching or something else with a future [not retail/food service/etc]), save up some money, and then go on your life discovery quest if you hate history. I have an ex-coworker that after 2 years working in sales (her first real job post degree) dropped everything and moved from the US to New Zealand for a year.
posted by mhuckaba at 9:25 PM on November 18, 2009

Err, that should be historical non-fiction. But fiction also works?
posted by mhuckaba at 9:25 PM on November 18, 2009

I am halfway through my last year of my undergraduate degree in History, at a UK university.

Switching your major should not even be suggested. In US terms, you have a liberal arts degree. If you're smart, this can lead pretty much anywhere non-vocational.

Are there any ways I can get to live in europe while still supporting myself?
A number of TESOL programs work in Eastern Europe, and you'll have the required degree ot qualify. Maybe look into them.
posted by jacalata at 10:45 PM on November 18, 2009

I'm also in my last year of uni, and did Erasmus last year in Paris and Bologna. At the Sorbonne in Paris many of the other foreign students in my class were Masters students, does your uni have a Study Abroad/Erasmus department? They would be able to advise you on that, if not try the British council Erasmus website.

I spoke to the careers department at my uni (Reading) recently, and found them really helpful. I enquired about teaching, which could also work for you, and as the Government always need more teachers, PGCEs can pay up to £9k in bursaries for a year's study.

Overall, I think that graduating 2010 is a much better choice than graduating in 2009, the job market is improving gradually, and by next summer, or even next September if you do a more menial job over the summer, there should be more opportunities for graduates.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:41 AM on November 19, 2009

Don't worry about trying to do something relating to your degree if you're not particularly interested in it. If you got even basic computer and organizational skills you're qualified for various administrative assistant / office bullshit jobs and employers like to see degrees, even unrelated one. Low level stuff like that can give you an idea of what you want to do without committing much long term. Getting a masters degree based on your current reasons sounds to me like just putting of the inevitable move to working life and probably a recipe for unnecessary debt.

I graduated with a (US) history degree in '06 with no idea of how to get a job or what to do with it. I ended up temping off and on for a while and only made about $10,000 in the 12 months after graduating but I sorta fell into an AA position in healthcare and now I'm getting promoted and sort of have career prospects.

jacalata's post reminded me of TESOL, I had two friends from school who did/are doing that in Prague and have been getting along alright.

Also, I don't know if there is an equivalent in the UK but in the US there are programs like Americorps, the Student Conservations Association, and City Year where you can do kind of a gap year of service, but I think they are kind of competitive to get into.
posted by ghharr at 6:18 AM on November 19, 2009

If you do travel it may be best to combine it with a job, such as teaching abroad.

I have to agree with mhuckaba about internships and work experience. You can't imagine the difference they make until you complete one or two placements and consider how much you've learned. You could try and get an internship in a field which is only remotely related to what you think you might eventually do. I think that a lot of office skills you will gain will be transferable even if you don't end up working in the same sector later on. Same goes for temping.

My advice is not to allow yourself to get too discouraged by what the pundits say about the job market. They were saying that when my sibling and I were looking for work and we managed fine, after a few months' hard graft and looking everywhere and not ending up exactly where we expected, but happy and financially settled. Looking for work is hectic and thankless and difficult, but it's part of growing up.

With a humanities degree you could consider teaching, any number of media roles, or the not-for-profit sector. With a 2:i you would also be eligible for the Civil Service fast stream. Your degree opens up possibilities because it is not specialised, so don't let that discourage you either.

If you do decide to go on to an MA that's great. But while working on your MA you could consider getting a part-time job so that you would be getting saleable work experience while studying.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:20 AM on November 19, 2009

« Older How worthwhile is it, careerwise, to pursue a...   |   Where to find a bag to ship in? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.