Journey’s end. I have finished my degree or postgraduate qualification. No more studying for me. A huge sigh of relief. Now I need a job, or am I after a career? If truth be told I just need to start earning and start living my life. Does all this sound familiar? It does to me, with one graduate, or post-graduate, after another expressing the same sentiments in one form or another as they transition from studying into the work place.
First, let us sort out a principal difference between a job and a career. A job is typically something that we do to pay the bills and to finance those things that you really want to do and/or need to do. Often progressing up the corporate ladder is not the main goal. In contrast, a career is working specifically to develop skills and competencies that you will use as leverage to climb the corporate ladder. This includes working to acquire the necessary contacts, skills and experiences before branching out on your own. I am sure that it is possible to develop more technically sounding definitions but these will suffice.
So you studied medicine at university and now spread out before you is the prospects of working in medicine. Perhaps you will join a medical practice becoming a GP, working as a junior doctor in A&E. It stands for reason that after so many years of studying and sacrifice you should practise your profession. Similarly, dentist, engineers, architecture and veterinarian graduates, the journey to where you are today has been long and arduous. The pressure to work in your predetermined profession is significant.
Let us consider graduates from other disciplines; English, history, classics, natural science. In these cases the post university work options are in many respect more narrow, and the pressure to follow any one in particular much less.
Whilst there are obvious professions that graduates typically migrate to such as consultancy, various forms of banking, there are many others that are equally or better paid but are little known about. For example, what about becoming a Cool Hunter, Sewer Flusher or Tea Taster.
One major complaint from graduates who have been working for a few years that I regularly address stems from their realisation that working life is so different from studying. Even those students who gained work experience or a summer internship, the intellectual, political, and physical demands are significantly different. Having said this, working in research and development in industry or in academia can provide the intellectual stimulus that some graduates crave.
How much do graduates really understand and appreciate the idiosyncrasies of the world of work? Yes, we all know in broad terms what different professions do, and if we don’t our new best friend ‘google’ will put us straight. But there is a saying that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. Well I have eaten many puddings and without doubt prefer apple and blackberry crumble with a thick crust and base!
Over the next few months we will be reporting back on the grass root experiences of seasoned professionals from well-known and some less well-known professions. Graduates and post-graduates really need to know the reality of the profession they are going into, warts and all. If only such that they can decide whether to make it a job, a career or neither.