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Study, study, study… but then what?

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I’m not sure about you but whilst growing up I was always told that education is the most important thing.

laptop, woman, education

Throughout my academic career, teachers wanted us to get the best grades possible to help us get into the best universities possible. Likewise, in college, the only thing ever pushed was; What University are you going to? What grades do you need to obtain for University? Have you written your personal statement for University yet?

I understand the importance of pushing and showing an abundance of passion, goal setting and dedication by both parents and teachers. However, there was a failure to explore the different possibilities in life after university and the fact that not all of us go on to do what we first had our mind set on doing, but that is okay. It is worth mentioning that recent statistics illustrate that graduates and post graduates are more likely to obtain higher skilled jobs than non-graduates. Nonetheless, this should not overshadow the percentage of students who spend thousands on their degrees and then pursue a career in a completely different field.

When exploring career options, there are many questions to be considered. What if someone is unsure about what they want to do until it is ‘too late’? What happens if you graduate and have a change of heart? What if you want to switch fields or consider a whole new path?

The solutions seem limited: do you do another degree? If so, in many cases that would be another three or four years of education and more student debt. We are often told that our twenties are for discovering ourselves yet we make a decision about what University we wish to attend at age 18 and by the time one graduates at around 21 or 22, we are a whole new person and sometimes with new ambitions. So, what then?

graduation, graduation day, college graduation

Many graduates branch out into roles which have no correlation to their degree. This is usually for one of two reasons; firstly, there are limited job opportunities in their chosen profession and secondly, they no longer have a passion for what they once thought would be a suitable career path. Either way, it puts into question whether or not it is worth going through years of education to then completely switch.

A common question is whether a degree is better or do employers prefer experience. What graduates soon realise after education is that employers expect experience and this can be difficult to provide especially when an individual has come straight out of education. Perhaps apprenticeships are now a more suitable path to obtaining experience and the knowledge desired by employers rather than the traditional means of full-time higher education.

The answer rests on where you see your future heading. If you see yourself going down the route of medicine, a degree is mandatory. However, if you wish to go down a business or IT route, often experience over a degree is needed; the desired option would be to choose a sandwich course that way you have the best of both. Apprenticeships where employers allow you to study whilst working for them are also beneficial. Which ever path you choose, it is recommended that you do adequate research in order to make the best choice for you.

Today, 58% of leading employers value experience over grades or the name of the University the individual is from. So has the relevance and importance of a degree wavered in recent years? Is it then worth aiming for ‘red brick’ Universities or is it more valuable to accept Universities with lower grade requirements because the end result of a certificate will be the same regardless? Again, the best thing to do is to sit down and contemplate where you genuinely see yourself in years to come. Alongside what University can aid you in your future profession but also offer you the flexibility to enter another field.

Do not be mistaken, this article is not to say that a degree has no relevance. Even when switching careers a degree will always illustrate to an employer that you have key transferable skills such as time management, research or good organisation skills. However, experience is still key and you must always keep in mind that you may wish to change your career path later on in life.

A recommendation put forward by several academics and employers is to not rush such a decision; if you are leaving college or selecting Universities, think it through. There is no rush to go straight into further education and it is okay to take a year out just to discover who you are as an individual and what you truly desire in life. 48% of employers select individuals due to their personality therefore being book smart is not the only factor you have to consider. Work on being the best version of you because you can go back into education at any time and there is no rush for it.

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Network! Networking could open up doors and opportunities which you would have never even contemplated. It is a vital aid especially if you wish to change career paths later on. If you have friends or contacts working in professions which you find more attractive than your own, it can make it easier to transition into that field.

Therefore, always consider external factors instead of following the crowd and leaping straight from school to college to university. It is okay to not know what you want to do and all you can ever do is keep an open mind. University is not always the path designed for everyone and other opportunities may present themselves. It is all a matter of discovering who you are as a person, what you really desire and set goals in order to achieve that.

By Ammarah Kabir

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