Please help me plan for life after graduation!
December 9, 2012 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I will be graduating soon and I have no idea what I want to do. I really don't want to be unemployed but it seems that way right now. What are your experiences? What helpful advice can you give me regarding on how I should proceed?

I apologize in advance if this sounds messy and confused. I don't really know where I stand in all this except I don't want to be aimless. Any thoughts/advice/tips you have regarding how to figure out what to do with your life after graduation will help.

I am in my third year at a relatively good university in Canada double majoring in Political Science and US Studies. I like political theory a lot and I mostly get good grades that are in the top 5-10% of the class in my political science courses but I'm not quite sure if academia is the path I want to embark on just yet. I'm not even sure if I can get into a masters program.

Moreover, my GPA is less-than-stellar since I pretty much bombed every class that didn't involve political theory. I'm on the mend now and I may stay a fifth year to bring up my GPA but the damage from first, second, and most of this semester is done. I've dealt with my issues though and I'm more than confident that I can bring it up to speed. However, because of my horrible performance in the past, I haven't been able to get into a co-op program so that is dead to me also.

I really have no idea what I want to do. I entered university with the expectation that I was going to become a lawyer but since then, I have discovered that I'm not cut out for that type of job at all.

Like most students, I will be coming out with debt and I'm really stressed out over this. My family is not wealthy and they can't help me out. If I stay at home, I will have to pay rent and help out. I don't have anywhere to just 'chill' for a bit while I figure things out. I am also expected to help out with my family's finances so I really can't be a deadbeat. I guess I will get a job at a grocery store or something while I wait it out, but that really isn't ideal because I have people that are counting on me and I feel like I need a career path. I don't just need an income, I also need a direction.

I like travelling, meeting people. I love political theory and I really do like writing. I wouldn't be opposed to a job in the government, but I don't even know what sort of opportunities are available.

How did you guys deal with the whole post-graduation thing? I feel like my past performance has closed a lot of doors and now I'm feeling lost and stressed over my lack of direction.

Also, can you think of any jobs that I should consider that I haven't already?

Finally, while I don't know if academia is my thing, I am intrigued by the idea of getting a masters. I don't know if that is a good idea, or if it's impossible to someone in my position, and if it's something that is worth my time and money. I am the first in my family to enter university so I have no idea what education beyond my level is like. I don't know anyone with that experience.
posted by cyml to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As an American, I have to wonder what US Studies involves. We have pretty similar cultures, as far as I can tell - Though you lot seem a bit more polite than us. :)

As for what to do - If you can't find a "real" job, find yourself an internship (paid!) with the potential to lead into what you want to do.

And there, you may have your biggest stumbling block... PolySci and a not-your-country studies? You need to decide what you want to do with your life. Politician? Professor? Something totally unrelated to your academic career?

Perhaps you just want to work as an electrician, and never realized it. If so... Get yourself apprenticed to a master electrician ASAP and don't worry about the past few years. At worst, you've made yourself a generally better person.

At the very least, you need to decide if you want to work in politics or not.
posted by pla at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2012

Try talking to your poli-sci teachers and also see if your school offers counsellors for career or job placement. Let your teachers know that you need help figuring out your next step. They may know of fellowships, internships or post-bac programs that may be of interest to you and probably get a good deal of job announcements too. There are people at your school that are paid to help you with just the question you have.

Your department should track placements of what people go on to do after they graduate, so try to find that information.

Paid internships are a good way to try things out--see if your legislature has paid internships or fellowships. In California, there's a great program for students to do a year staffing legislative issues and seeing the political process firsthand. Perhaps there's a similar program in your region.
posted by dottiechang at 5:32 PM on December 9, 2012

I was the same way you are last year regarding jobs and what I want to do. I was also a political science major who really likes writing. I ended up (on a lark) taking a job in Hong Kong and it's been great! I've always wanted to live abroad and travel, but more importantly, it made sense for me financially.

I was able to get my employer to throw in housing and relocation help. I basically didn't pay a penny to come here nor am I paying rent. The only things I am responsible for paying are food, utilities, and just spending money. I'm not sure about Canadian tax laws, but for the US ones, I won't have to pay much, if any (I still need to figure this part out), since I don't make enough and the tax rates here are only 15% of income, which is pretty chump change compared to anywhere else in the world. The amount that I actually get to keep at the end of the day is more than what I would've made if I stayed in the US with a higher salary! I'm throwing half my income every month at my student loans (I have around 20k) and am hoping to pay it off or have only like 1k left before my contract here is up.

I've also met great people here. One thing that living as an expat has shown me is just how many different paths there are out there for us to take. I've met investment bankers turned professional bakers, teachers turned personal trainers, and even a fishery manager who's working in finance now. I suppose this is part of what I like most about having moved abroad. Everyone I've met is just so willing to talk to you about how exactly they ended up in Hong Kong and vice versa because we all know that there's some interesting story behind it.

As much as it sucks not being able to chase after policy and other governmental internships in DC, I'm hoping living abroad will help me land jobs in government later. I'm also working on getting my Mandarin back to usable and picking up random bits of Cantonese. The Cantonese bit isn't going so well, but I have learned how to say "Beer please!", which I suppose is a success in its own regard.

Finding a job abroad sounds like it might just be up your alley.
posted by astapasta24 at 5:54 PM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

How to find government jobs in Canada.

I also suggest looking through your school's course catalog and trying to find at least a few classes that teach skills that would help in getting a job. I'm all for a liberal arts / critical thinking skills curriculum, and at a good school, the kinds of classes I'm thinking of may still be that. But a few intro classes in things like technical writing, argumentation, statistics, programming, public speaking, team communication, operations research, accounting, graphic design, and so on may be within your reach and reasonable to pick up before the end of your fourth year.

Rather than work in a grocery store, walk into staff / administrative offices around campus and inquire about what jobs might be available or whether someone can point you in the direction of offices that hire students. You'd be surprised how many opportunities are never posted on your campus job board.

And make a point of becoming a wizard at one office skill that's fairly common but that most people around you nonetheless don't know the ins and outs of. It can be something fairly easy like developing complicated spreadsheets or doing project management for university social events using Gantt charts or whatever. Just aim to be doing something your peers aren't that resembles the kinds of things you often see listed as relevant skills on government job boards.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:00 PM on December 9, 2012

Are you in any clubs or student organizations? If not, join one. First, it's fun! But second, you might develop skills in a field you otherwise hadn't developed skills in. Third, there might be some kind of affiliation between that club/group and a job-giving entity — a specific internship? a well-connected alum? someone you met doing it who got a job in a related field? Just as an example, very very few of the working journalists I know, including me, majored in journalism or English – but damn near all of us worked at our college newspapers. (I just thought it sounded fun; it never occurred to me that I'd do this for a living, but here I am, and I love it.) So go work at the radio station, or the photography magazine, or a social justice action group, or the circus arts ensemble or whatever you think maybe sounds kind of cool. You might be surprised what you discover you're into.

And no, third year is not too late to join things. I promise.
posted by Charity Garfein at 7:05 PM on December 9, 2012

Maybe you could find an internship with a political blog or news site.
posted by Dansaman at 9:14 PM on December 9, 2012

Prepare before you graduate. Take classes / learn skills / build networks while you are still at school that will help you be more hirable.

Start at job listings for jobs you find interesting, and work backwards. Take the position's qualifications in one hand, and your resume in the other, and then work to start to fill in the gaps.
posted by victory_laser at 4:17 AM on December 10, 2012

If you don't know, I suggest you start applying to pretty much any job that will provide you with a decent salary until you figure it out. It smacks of privilage to believe that after faffing around in university for a while, that all you need to do is decide what it is you want to do with your life and then merely ask for it.

Get a part-time job now. Customer service, retail, fast food, bartending, whatever. Get in the habit of being someplace and doing whatever work it is that you'll be paid for. Most of life is showing up on time and being prepared to work.

Now, as far as deciding on a career, you'll find that you'll be doing that many, many, many times throughout your life. Most people change careers 3 or 4 times within their working life, and I suspect that your cohort will do so more often.

Now, that said, if you can get hired on by the federal government, well, hey! That's a start.

Here's the website.

A quick review shows that there's everything from Postal Carrier to opportunities in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Check that stuff out, you get your foot in the door in an entry level position, and work your way up.

Just graduating from university doesn't guarantee you the job of your dreams. Everyone has to start at the bottom and work up. Frequently we have to change direction and start new elsewhere. That's the nature of the beast.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:10 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ruthless Bunny: "If you don't know, I suggest you start applying to pretty much any job that will provide you with a decent salary until you figure it out."

I had a somewhat-similar situation, except I was jobless even when I graduated. What do I want to do with my life? Is my academic history enough to get me a sufficiently-good job / grad program? Fortunately for my sanity, I didn't wait around trying to figure out my life. I just got a job and figured it out as I went. My friend (see link below) did similarly, and while our paths diverged we're both glad we just got a job. So I'll echo my advice from another thread: you want the first job that'll hire you for a living wage. I think you should keep that option in mind rather than waiting, waiting, waiting until you find "OMG I am 100% sure this job / career / grad program is perfect."

If you can form an idea of what path you want to follow, get relevant experience right now, and end up on your chose path, great! But if you have no path, as many of us don't, then what you need is to just graduate and get a job while you seek your path. There's nothing that says you can't figure out your life while working. Working has some real benefits - you get money that can support you as you figure out your path (or as I did, figure out that there is no one "path" for you), you develop skills that can be used in a variety of situations (from jobs to academia), and you learn whether you like the industry / company you're in so you can stick around or choose a better situation next time. The only "downside" to working is if you refuse to leave a bad working situation, but that's just another skill you have to learn regardless of where you are (even academia sometimes requires making a big change).
posted by Tehhund at 7:36 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't waste your time staying behind to bump your GPA. The math is against you and for employment it barely matters. I have never been asked by an employer for my GPA. (Unless you are going to grad school.)

Canada probably has an equivalent to the vast ecosystem of think tanks in Washington, DC that snap up young policy wonks. Look into that: they're more concerned with whether you can write and know the material than piddly things like GPA.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:57 AM on December 10, 2012

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