“So, what’s the plan after you graduate?”
I’ve got this question directed to me four times during Chinese New Year. I also got three lecturers asking me the same thing this semester. A lot of my friends have also asked and trust me, I’m also asking this question to myself every night before I sleep.
As a senior student who will graduate this year, my friends and I face tons of dilemmas, especially when it comes to our chosen career path.
What kind of industry should we go for?
What function or position?
How much is the base salary should we expect?
Chunks of questions that all mess with our heads, that if we care enough to gather and mold into one, forms the question we’re all asked about ever since our freshman year.
What is my career goal?
The tricky part is, more often than not, we don’t have that much clarity on our goal as a fresh graduate with little to no experience in the work place. Hence, as senior students, we’re stuck in a moment where we’re frustrated because we don’t know where to go, but the moving walls are haunting us to keep moving — where exactly? Only God knows!
The topic about career choice and job-seeking plan has become an inevitable conversation topic among my peers. Some have it easy, being clear with their passion and equipped with networks of opportunities. Some others are not as lucky, as they still rely on the words “I don’t know” as their answers.
I have a lot of friends who do not have any specific career goals (by specific, I mean industry, company, or function). A lot just simply want to be successful (without defining the word “success”) or earn money (how much? They too, are not sure).
I haven’t done a legitimate survey, but most of which I ask have difficulties in determining their prospective jobs because either: 1) They don’t know what they are passionate about, 2) They lack of working experiences to compare and decide, or 3) Both.
So, as someone who has an adequate amount of internship experiences and knows exactly what she likes, is it any easier for me to decide my career choice?
Because of a simple reason. The more choices you are offered, the harder it is to choose.
Imagine a table filled with various foods, and you’re asked to choose only one menu for your dinner.
It’ll be easy if some of the foods are the ones you absolutely hate. Or if you have an absolute favorite food you’ll choose over any other foods.
But what if, each food has its own pros and cons — the potato will make you full, but it’s a little bland. You’d love to get the meat, but it’s not very healthy. The dimsum looks appetizing, but there are only 3 pieces.
This shouldn’t be that difficult, because you’re only choosing for dinner. If you feel like trying another menu, you can get it for breakfast or lunch tomorrow.
Imagine having to choose a menu for the next 3 months (typical probation period), or ideally, one until two years. You cannot change your menu during this time. And very possibly, the menu you choose today will decide the next menu you can choose afterwards.
Just like how the table is served with plenty of different kinds of foods, I’ve filled my table of four years of university life with plenty of different kinds of working experiences.
I’ve interned five times in four different companies, become a tutor in 3 different institutions, as well as juggling between being a freelance content writer and a freelance consultant’s associate. (P.S. If you think I can do all these because my courses are super lenient and all, trust me, you’re wrong) (P.S.S. Also, I hope this won’t come out sounding like a humble brag)
I’ve experienced big corporates, a big tech start-up, and a very small freshly-built start-up. I’ve experienced freelancing, dealing with consulting jobs, and doing what I’m most passionate about — writing.
I know exactly what I want in my career. Challenging tasks. Impactful roles. I’m interested in marketing, branding, and people management. I love writing and presenting my ideas. I excel at public speaking.
Although this clarity of what I want and the decent number of working experiences do give me a brief overview of what I picture my career path to be in the future, it does not make me any more decisive about it compared to my friends.
Why, you might wonder?
It’s because the job market is getting more competitive, and not only for the job-seekers, but also among the employers. Companies nowadays cater more to the needs of the millennials as the job and market drivers. Organizations become flatter, accelerated career path programs like management trainee are more available, perks and benefits are adjusted to the interests of the current job seekers, and so on.
Even as an intern, you do not only print papers or make coffee like what the old-fashioned media always tried to suggest. As an intern, I create and do projects that have real business impacts. I present my ideas to the head of departments and even to the C-levels.
And of course, each job I have my eyes on has its own pros and cons. More often than not, they are so so balanced that it drives me insane trying to weigh and compare both of them. My friend told me to flip a coin, because when the coin’s mid-air, you suddenly know which choice you wish the coin will show.
I tried it. Once. And honestly? When I watched the coin flipped mid-air… My mind’s blank. As if I’ve given in to the Universe to decide on my career.
Now, knowing this dilemma, will I stop hunting for more working experiences to keep my number of choices as they are now and prevent me from getting even more confused? Unfortunately, no.
Because maybe, just maybe, that rightest choice that I wish the coin will show me might show up along the way. And I will never know it if I stop.