This is one of those inevitable questions that students get asked senior year. It is kind of like “how was your break?” No matter what college/major a student is from, he or she is going to take a next step. It may be graduate school, a service program, a year of travel, a job with the government or a company. Right away, it might not be any of those things. Even if you are not enrolled in a school or employed right after graduation, it is important to have a clear goal in mind. Not for the people asking you, but for yourself. Do yourself a favor and start moving toward that goal now.
If you have no idea what it is yet, great. There are too many opportunities to figure it out, and I mean that. The lists of on-campus events/information sessions in the Wildcat Newswire and the VSB Insider’s Edge are longer than the Table of Contents in a Harry Potter book. Just scan through them at the very least! My orientation counselor (who is now a Rhodes Scholar) told our group that the first week of school and I am sure glad she did. Attending some of those events is a key step toward figuring out what interests you. A good example happened my freshman year, when I was lucky enough to see Mr. Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, speak in the featured executive speaker series here at Villanova. I walked away saying, “I want to work for that guy!” Well, I am going to work for that guy. I will be entering GE’s Financial Management Program after school after completing an internship with them this past summer. About an hour and a half of my time to watch that speech taught me a lot of things about the kind of place I wanted to work and gave me a tangible, relevant story to share during my interview about how I was introduced to the company. In my mind, it was well worth it. To be fair, if you attend a good amount of events you will sit through some that you do not like at all. That is okay! My challenge to you would be to come away with one lesson from each session that you attend, good or bad. This ensures that you are making progress toward your post-graduation goal.
I want to quickly echo a suggestion that has appeared in some of the other blog posts, and that is to utilize the alumni network. Reach out to friends that recently graduated, or someone you found in an alumni directory. Just find out if they enjoy what they are doing and why. If something does not sound appealing, thank them for their time and sample some other options. Finding out where you do not fit is just as important as finding out where you do. It can help to keep you on track toward the goal of identifying a field of interest. When reaching out to anyone for a professional purpose, keep in mind that you really never know who can be a helpful resource down the road.
What about people on campus? In addition to testing the waters with current graduate students/volunteers/employees, look around in the immediate area. Set up a conversation with someone from the Career Center, your college’s office, another student that is in an organization you would like to join, or even a professor! Since our career interests are not something we necessarily evaluate on a day-to-day basis, setting aside this time to really think about them provides clarity and keeps them in the front of our minds. I was able to utilize several staff members at the Clay Center, as well as a couple professors and one person from the Career Center to help figure out what my goal was going to be and how to work toward it. Do not underestimate the value of each one of these meetings. I gained perspective and heard stories from professors who actually worked in different industries, was able to put into words a lot of things I was thinking, and hear about the options available to help me prepare myself. I still see some of these people around campus, and have been able to maintain those relationships and share my progress with them.
The common denominator in all of these options is YOU. Nobody is going to set this up for you if you do not take ownership of it. It helps to take some time to evaluate yourself, both on a professional and personal level. Are you good in interviews? Do you struggle with networking skills? What are you passionate about? If you have an answer to questions like these, you have something important: self-awareness. That has been one of my biggest takeaways from the process. If you know what you do well and what you need to improve on, you can be honest with yourself and find something that utilizes your strengths and helps improve your weaknesses.
You may follow a totally different process than I have, and I understand that what I described may not apply to every single person. However, it has worked for me and I hope that reading any one of the posts on this blog will help in your post-graduation search. It is not easy, but if you have the courage to get out to events and talk to several different people, it will go a long way in helping you figure out what to do after graduation.