How many times have you felt at a loss to come up with a hard answer when asked what you’ll do after your degree? How often do you get that sinking feeling that you really need to have a plan for the after-life of post grad studies? Why does everyone else ‘seem’ to have lots of ideas and pathways, to bridge this ‘gap’, but not you?

The truth is, most of us feel the need to convince ourselves and others that we have it all worked out when we just don’t.  This creates feelings of inadequacy, thoughts that question the point of your degree, and fear about the ever-approaching ‘real world’ that is waiting after that final assignment is handed in.

Let’s flip this around for a moment and consider someone who is out there – in the real world.

Let’s imagine that you know this person, and let’s call her Max.

She landed a job with a Fortune 500 company straight out of post-grad studies last year. No ‘gap’ for her….

She is earning extremely well, seems to have a never-ending series of projects & meetings and she travels regularly. Sure, the travel is ‘just’ interstate, but it’s a more exciting trip than the tram down Brunswick Street. She seems, well… really ‘grown up’.

 You can’t help by compare yourself and your circumstances to her, and you always seem to come up short. You know that you should be focusing on your study commitments, but you can’t stop worrying about whether you should be doing something else, something extra, something real: something, when it comes down to it, that Max would be doing.

You should be doing something to bridge that scary gap ahead of you, the post-post-grad gap.

Let’s pause a second and get back to Max.

Well – Max has actually told me something in confidence. She feels as though she has lost control over her life, that she has stepped into someone else’s plan for her. She knows that while the pressure to succeed at this plan takes up most of her time and energy, there is something else she feels she is missing that floats around the edges of her work day and nags at her from her subconscious.  She just doesn’t feel as happy as she expected to.

Max, just like you, was worried about the ‘gap’ during her post-grad studies. So, when she was targeted by a well-known company that offered a ready-made bridge into the real world, she didn’t hesitate.  She felt relieved and grateful that someone had noticed and valued her.

So, what’s the problem here you ask? Why should you feel luckier than Max?

My answer?

Because you still have a chance to plan. You have a chance to really consider pathways that interest you personally, to play with the big picture building blocks that lead to intrinsic motivation, sense of purpose, loving what you do, and sometimes more importantly, understanding what you don’t want to do.

You still have the liberty of not having to step into someone else’s plan for you.

Unlike Max, you have the chance to discover and plan how you want to be valued by a future employer. Think about it not so much as being able to “yes” to that job – but as being empowered to say “no thank you, or, it’s just not really my thing,” or, “yes, but can we include this in the plan, too?”

Because you still have the time and possibility to try out a whole host of different tools that will help you build a better bridge than Max’s: a bridge that leads to job satisfaction, not just relief.

You have time to find a bridge that demonstrates to a potential employer that you understand what makes you tick – and deliver results. For a potential employer, this self-awareness and empowerment translates as ‘here is a potential hire who presents as productive, proactive and motivated’.

So, lucky you!

Put that mirage of an actual job and that shimmering vision of a golden bridge spanning the gap to one side. Leave it firmly on the back burner. After you finish studying for the day, go out and find what makes you tick: what resonates for you beyond your immediate degree.

Ask your lecturer or tutor what their friends in their field do, and how they got there.  Go to networking and public speaking events to ask questions and find like-minded people who give you ideas and energy. Go and do volunteer work that gives you a buzz and that feel-good glow – even if it’s not directly related to your degree and importantly, jot down what ‘soft’ qualities generate this.

Earn money through temporary jobs and be mindful of the important soft skills that these develop: teamwork, leadership and responsibility. Embrace breadth subjects that give you extra dimension, and go and talk to people who are already doing a job that seems interesting. When you do, ask them about it.

You can do all this – because (although it might not feel like it) you still have the time.  Just make sure to write it all down so that you remember it for that CV that you’ll eventually be excited about submitting!

Take the time you have and use it well, because you can…

Lucky you!