Sunday 6 October 2013

Now a Graduate, What's Next!

Before I write further, I have to confess that I am going to write about something that I have not experienced myself. While I did pass my exams and obtained my degree, but I did not attend my graduation ceremony. 

I was in Perth at that time and just secured a job at an accounting firm. When I received the notification from my university with the choice of attending the graduation ceremony or them posting my degree to me, I went for the later option. Only much later I was told that my late mother was ready to fly to Perth to share the joyous moments, like other parents but that opportunity was not there. Would I do things differently? No. I believe what happens after graduation is more critical.

I am not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs who left university without bothering to complete their studies. Were they stupid? No. They were smart enough to understand that the university system will stifle their personal ambitions. These people are smart people who would like to see their ideas implemented rather than taking few more years to earn a piece of paper. Later, Steve Jobs went to Stanford and gave a very meaningful Commencement speech.

I met a person whose daughter had the choices of whether to complete her Master degree at one of the ivy league universities in the US or joining Larry Page when he was still struggling to make Google a viable business. Based on the advice of her father who is a successful Indian engineer at IBM, she decided to complete her studies. Had she joined Facebook, she would be a millionaire by now. She did consider sending her father an invoice for the missed opportunity!

Am I writing about not completing studies or not attending graduation? No. This is about achieving real meaning in life. Many of the graduating students would be pleased of completing their studies. Well, that was just a starting point. Now the real life begins.

The ones who fared well in their exams would be receiving offers from many good employers. Given the competition of talents nowadays, this is hardly a surprise. The more important question for the graduates at this juncture is about where would they go from here? Should they be looking at work which provides them with work-life balance, good pay and interesting colleagues? This could be on the wish list of all of them.

I believe that at this stage they should be looking at building careers rather than just looking for a job. It is about deciding what they would like to eventually be or achieve and figuring out the steps which lead them there. An offer with a good paying salary does not necessarily lead them to what they want to be eventually.

The other issue in building a career is about whether it requires further efforts in acquiring experience, skills and exposure? The bad news about graduating is that it is not the end of learning. It does not matter which discipline they are in, further learning and education are needed. So, if reflecting the pathways of their careers, please find out whether a professional qualification, for example, is necessary. If they are an accountancy graduates, this is a MUST!

Where they start their first employment could also influence their career progression. A small enterprise for example will provide them with a wider breath of experience although they may not be exposed to the depth of critical functions in the enterprise as it may lack sophistication due to its size. They may be exposed more to the personal traits of the entrepreneur and such entity may not be resourceful enough in supporting their further professional development.

In larger organisations, they tend to specialise more as every function could be a large operation. It will take time before they are exposed to the whole area of business and sometimes they need to deal with the politics of large organisations. Given their sizes, they tend to be more supportive to professional development of their employees. Further, their names may be a good thing for the resumes of young employees.

The key point here is for graduates to plan carefully before making their first move into the employment world. If they are not sure about what to do, having a conversation with people in the industry which interest them could be a good step. Nothing would replace the insights of the people who had gone through the process themselves.

So, congratulations for your achievements and welcome to the real world. Career development requires planning, hard work and persistency. Nothing is easy. However, if you a bigger and meaningful picture to pursue, they will be helpful in motivating you through your chosen path. 

* My first son followed my footstep and did not attend his graduation as well. However, I attended my first daughter's graduation and was pleasantly surprised to know that she was the top student in her course and faculty!