There’s a fear, an uncertainty, that rages within kids coming out of high school that can hamper their undergraduate experience. It’s not social anxiety, tests or exams or moving to a new place. It’s not even the fear of getting caught sneaking into S-Club underage your first year. It’s at your next family gathering, seeing a family member beckoning you over from across the room.
“So what are your plans when you graduate?” they ask, cracking that comfortable smile as you feel your heart descend into the floor. You respond that you’re still not quite sure with a fake grin plastered on your face, and you push down the urge to smack the person.
The identity of the questioner is unimportant—could be a parent, grandparent, friend, professor or whoever. The important thing to note is that it’s a stupid question. Harsh perhaps, but truly consider the nature of the question.
How am I, a freshly graduated 17/18 year old, expected to know what job I’m going to have when I step out of this institution? I’m not even sure I chose the right degree program, the right university, even the right path out of high school, and people expect me to be confident about my future?
As well intentioned as they may be, it is still foolish. That’s easy enough to brush off—give a big smile, say, I haven’t the faintest clue and wander off in search of that one cousin you actually like.
The question remains though, nagging at you. Should it be something you personally worry about? Should it be something you're constantly striving to answer during your time in university?
Of course not! It’s easy to feel that way, but those aren’t the kind of thoughts that are productive. The question of what you’re going to do with your life after school is something to be aware of, not something to consume you, you of so little spare time to begin with.
The fact is that a lot of kids just don’t know what they want to do going into university. Changing your degree program halfway through the one you chose is not something to be worried about.
There’s so many different people at the university who you can talk to if you’re considering a move, among them: advisors, professors and counsellors.
Your program advisors are there for any school related questions and advisors in other programs are always willing to talk to prospective students. Professors have likely been standing right where you are now and can have valuable information. Counsellors can help you work through more personal feelings you may be having of doubt, insecurity or anything at all that’s troubling you.
Another great option are the many students who have made the switch recently, who are sure to give you an unbiased opinion.
Take a friend of mine, Sam Arsenault. Sam started university pursuing a Bachelor of Science and led that into Medicinal Chemistry before realizing it wasn’t what he wanted to do. So he transitioned out of Medicinal Chemistry and considered a possible switch into Business. After a little while of uncertainty he decided to remain in the Science program with a major in Economics, while pursuing minors in Chemistry and Business.
Pretty unpredictable wouldn’t you say? It’s a relatively eclectic combination of subjects that he pulled together. It’s important to remember that our university wants us around, both because they want our money, and because there are truly caring people working in the advising offices across all the faculties. They will help you accommodate your interests in whatever ways they can, and a lot more can be possible than you think.
And concerning Sam, wouldn’t you know it—this year he’s our Student Union’s Vice President of Finance & Operations. Let’s hope, for all of our sake, that he’s doing well in those Economics courses!
The important thing to remember is that you're not stuck. Our new global economy is shifting faster than ever, and statistics from the job finding site Workopolis say that you’ll likely end up holding 10 to 15 different jobs before you retire, and that number is still growing.
The number of workers who are completely shifting career paths is also growing, with more than 50% of those surveyed saying they have completely switched career paths one or two times.
All that is easy to say but tougher to put into practice. I got some of the best advice of my life when my world was in flux, after I’d been floundering my first year out of high school. I had been taking only two classes at UNB, unsure of what I wanted to go into and working a lot. My second semester math class went horribly and I was searching for answers.
My dad was seeing all this and he told me that I was too worried about the destination. Put in the work, day after day, do the best you can do at what you’re doing and things will work out. If you’re spending all your time worrying you won’t do well in what you’re doing, and you certainly won’t be able to enjoy your time doing it.
We all need to ride the wave a little more. Doing something, anything, is the important part. Don’t let yourself get bogged down.
Put your head down and do your best in the day to day of school and life—there’s plenty there to keep you busy. Take any opportunities that come your way and pursue avenues that you think may interest you.
If there’s no excitement in whatever you are doing anymore, no gleam in your eye for any aspect of it, then it might be time to consider a change. To each their own, but I see a lot more for all of us than working jobs we don’t like and counting down the years to retirement. Have some courage and have some faith. It might just change your life.