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What to Do After Graduate School

Updated on May 21, 2014
What to Do After Graduate School
What to Do After Graduate School

You are not the only one who does not quite know what to do after graduate school. Just because you have reached a certain age or educational attainment does not mean that you will have all of the answers for your life's goals. But this hub will list some questions to help you decide what to do after graduate school.

Whether a grad student is 24 or 42, many of us don't really know what we want to do for a living. We know that we like to spend time at the library or coffee shop. We like being in an academic setting or with other students. Often times, graduate school has not given you enough time to think about what to do with your future because it filled up almost every waking moment with research, practice, or writing.

First, to take the pressure off of you, in the "real world," many people work simply to make money, and either do not have time to think about what they really would like to do for a career, or there simply isn't any way for them to make money doing what they like. If you ask people what they actually like to do, you might get answers like, "ride a bike," or "watch TV." So it is important to realize that many times making a living has nothing to do with anything we consider to be "fun." Even jobs that are enjoyable have extremely trying moments.

If you need to make money quickly while you figure out what to do for a career, take on a part-time job using a skill you know you already have, not worrying about the prestige of the job. For example, if you are good with people, look for a job that involves working with the public. If you are shy, look for a job where your head will usually be behind a computer. If you already have a part-time job, for example, waiting tables or washing dishes, feel free to keep that job for now.

After grad school, while you have that part-time job, you will have time to investigate what it is you will do for a living. That will be your job until you actually get your career going.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I introverted, extroverted, or a little of both? Knowing what setting you can handle goes a long way in feeling comfortable in your long-term career.
  • What am I really good at? Even if you do not have a lot of job experience, applying the skills that got you through grad school will be very helpful in knowing what kind of career you should look into. For example, you might have focused long and consistenly through your studies, wrote intensively and under pressure, assisted a professor with research, graded papers, and organized and indexed information, among other things.
  • What resources can help me pick a career? After having identified some of the skills you have, browse through the online Occupational Outlook Handbook to compare your skills with what people do on the job in various occupations. This government publication is useful for anyone who is pondering career ideas.
  • How much money do I really want/need? A high-powered career will give you a high income, but there might be other sacrifices you don't want to make. Find your balance.
  • Do I want a socially conscious job? Working at a non-profit does not traditionally pay much but can be emotionally satisfying.
  • Do I want to use the money just to fund specific non-career goals? For example, is traveling a major goal of yours? You could be a waiter or waitress for six months and then travel for three months staying in hostels, and so on.
  • Do I have to stay close to a certain city or region to take care of family responsibilities? This will help you decide how large of a scope you have for your decisions.

And finally, the most important question is:

  • When I am old and gray, what do I want to say I did with my life? Simply begin your journey towards this.

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