As a fresh graduate, your heart may be set on a specific career. But what if your choices are limited by your circumstances? What if financial or personal considerations push you into accepting the next best job offer—will you have to abandon your dreams? Let me share with you what I would consider the biggest graduate career mistake.
When you finish university, many people will tell you ‘the world is your oyster’, meaning you can do whatever you want to do. Very nice, but this ‘no barriers’ pep talk often doesn’t take into account that, as a fresh graduate, you may have serious considerations that impact your career choices.
In order to enter your chosen career field, you may need to complete another qualification or an unpaid internship/volunteering experience. But what if you don’t have the financial support to do it? Or, your student debt is weighing heavily on your shoulders and you need to start earning an income right away? What if your parents, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife have expectations of you that clash with your career ambitions? And what if you don’t live in a city that offers good opportunities in your chosen field?
Sometimes it can rightly seem that the world is the oyster of only the lucky and the privileged.
But I dare say it’s also the oyster of the determined.
Here’s my graduate career tip of the day.
Don’t let the start of your career determine your entire career.
As unfair and frustrating as it can seem, we all have to make sacrifices sometimes. For you right now, this may mean borrowing more money, living on very little income, disagreeing with the people you love and value, or moving away to a place with better work opportunities.
These challenges and hurdles are not impossible to overcome and they’re also short-term compared to the 40+ year career you have ahead of you. Facing them may be the price you have to pay so you can put the right conditions in place in order to have the career you want.
Or you may decide to take a job that suits your situation right now. Taking a job out of necessity is not the biggest graduate career mistake you can make. But allowing it to determine your entire career would be.
Just like the difficulties you’re facing, this job, too, is short-term. It’s temporary. A stopgap. Don’t get stuck in it saying “Oh, it’s an okay job. It pays the bills, the commute is short, everyone is nice.” Previous generations had to adjust their expectations like that. Today, you have a choice.
While you’re earning money and learning new skills, develop a concrete plan for switching within a year to the job you want. In the meantime, do and be the best in your current job. Don’t see it as a dead-end but as your opportunity to excel and learn new skills. It’s your chance to prove yourself and your abilities, and to give yourself more time to get to where you want to be. In order words, you’re not abandoning your aspirations—you’re just taking a different route for fulfilling them.
A final thought…
Attitudes to work and employment are changing very fast. In many countries around the world, it is becoming increasingly normal for graduates to change jobs frequently at the start of their career. I appreciate this won’t be the same everywhere. If attitudes in your country are less flexible, consider carefully what you could do now (i.e. what sacrifices you can make) to avoid getting into the wrong job and then not finding a way out of it.
Good luck with your plans, and, as always, send me your comments or questions.
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