What’s next after graduation? There are many options to choose from. You may want to take a rest, or a long vacation. You may want to search for a job right away, or opt to study again.
All of these look like good choices, and like a multiple-choice question, we are asked to choose the best answer. Fortunately, our life is not an exam in college, and we can be coached while figuring it out.
One shouldn’t feel guilty resting after graduation. “I would advise rest for those who need it,” says Bong Austero, senior vice president of Philippine National Bank (PNB) and national president of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP).
Dr. Richard DLC Gonzales agrees. “I personally feel that with the four to five years of academic work and practicum in schools, and probably three to six months of review for board examinations, a fresh graduate needs a breather.”
Dr. Gonzales is an HR and education development consultant in the Philippines and in Asia-Pacific countries. He is a professorial lecturer at the graduate school of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and president and chairperson of the Philippine Educational Measurement and Evaluation Association (Pemea). He is a certified assessment and educational psychologist by the Psychological Association of the Philippines.
This recommended rest, however, should be used productively. It should be used to discover one’s self and what one wants to do in life, or to plan for a career. “Goal focusing and doing some self-assessment must preoccupy a fresh graduate during this ‘rest’ period after graduation,” says Dr. Gonzales.
According to Austero, one should be able to assess “where he wants to go.”
“Getting a job, or embarking on a career, is a logical option, but it’s not for everyone,” he says.
“Some people waste years following that route, only to end up as entrepreneurs. Others take up further studies. It should be a period of reflection—no point in rushing into something that one hasn’t really thought about,” he concludes.
Dr. Gonzales advises graduates to have a career goal and a vision for the next five to 10 years. “He must have a target career, a preferred company, and most of all, a salary goal. Having these would help a fresh graduate focus his application process. In doing this, he must become more aware of what he can offer, what his strengths and limitations are, before he applies for a targeted job,” he says.
And what’s the proper length for a break? “It’s relative—maybe one month to three months, or even just a few weeks, ” says Dr. Gonzales.
Andrew Wee, a BS Statistics magna cum laude graduate of De La Salle University-Manila and currently a professor in his alma mater, says his break took about three months. He discourages going above six months.
“If you do rest, seeing the world and learning more about life, do it only to acquire more maturity,” reminds Austero.
To those of you who are reading this in their third year of college, or even if you’re still in high school, I advise that you plan your career as early as possible to help you make good decisions.
The next step is to find the ideal job. If you’ve made some career plans, you’ll have an easier time sifting through the multitude of jobs and opportunities available.
The common advice of our three counselors runs along a similar thread. Choose a job that will let you grow in the career track you want to be in. Wee ranks the following, in order of importance: “God’s purposes in your life, career track, training and opportunities, connections, prestige and money.”
Austero gives a similar list: “Opportunities for career growth, fit between the company culture and one’s values, and the reputation of the company as an employer.”
Dr. Gonzales provides pointers: “The choice should be based primarily on the career goals. The graduate should be able to answer affirmatively whether this is the job that he really wants, the company that he really wants to work for, and whether his salary goal is given or not.”
A word of caution on jobs, though. “Of course, not every job offer is perfect,” Dr. Gonzales warns. “There are always drawbacks and disincentives. But at the end of the day, the fresh grad should consider whether his personal and career goals are met to some extent by the job offered to him.”
Going to school again?
Taking higher studies needs planning. “Make sure you have a reason to do so. Otherwise, you may just be wasting your time,” says Wee.
Wee’s advice is that if the graduate’s career track involves taking certification exams, he should take time to study for them. If, however, he plans on having a career track that doesn’t need it, then he doesn’t really need to take it.
It is recommended that MBAs be taken after some experience in the corporate world, “after one has acquired the corporate experience that would make graduate school case studies more meaningful. Without that kind of grounding, MBA school is an exercise in more theoretical swashbuckling,” says Austero.
Dr. Gonzales recommends at least two years’ experience in the corporate world before pursuing graduate studies.
A lot of planning is required every step of the way, from applying for a first job, to growing careers and choosing to study again. After you’ve marched with your toga and received your hugs from your beloved classmates, take time to rest and plan your career.
Happy Graduation, and Godspeed to all our graduates!