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David Morrison Lecture: Planning for life after Trent

It is perhaps typical to meet the end of a phase with both a feeling of uncertainty and excitement. The end of university is an anticipated moment that nonetheless proves to be a great source of anxiety.

On October 28, the annual David Morrison lecture took place at Market Hall. The lecture was titled “Dilemmas in Changemaking: Thoughts on Planning a Life Change” and was offered by Trent alumna Alison Van Rooy, a government official working for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

This lecture was complemented by a talk with International Development Studies Trent alumni about life after university and the different career paths they have taken.

Regardless of your major, the talk and the lecture were hugely inspiring in terms of thinking about what’s next.

It is in the context of great uncertainty that decisions about life after university have to be made. This brings enormous amounts of stress to students, who struggle to find out how to continue developing their passion while also finding a job and working towards starting a professional career.

The job market is not particularly encouraging, and neither is the financial support provided to students to continue into graduate studies.

Even the volunteering and non-governmental sector is bombarded with organizations that ‘sell’ volunteering experiences.

These experiences often involve going to the global south and allowing the participants to feel good about themselves while traveling at the same time.

Increasingly, this ‘volunteering business’ has been challenged. Students wishing to do meaningful internships or volunteering have to navigate through a plethora of businesses trying to commercialize them for profit.

However, one of the main conclusions from the lecture and the talk was that even when the future looks uncertain, there is always time to find our path.

We often struggle to make the decisions that would count towards the career that we have envisioned. Nevertheless, it is often the case that we will change our direction many times in the next few years, and that is not necessarily undesirable.

Another important conclusion from the talk and the lecture was the fact that after finishing undergraduate studies, most students have the opportunity to be flexible since they have not settled down in any particular place. This allows us to get out of our comfort zones and explore our personal goals.

Many students have been in school their whole life, and so their twenties provide the necessary flexibility to find new experiences that enable us to challenge ourselves outside the classroom.

Some would argue this would not count towards career building, however, I would disagree.

Exploring oneself through traveling or activities that force us to reach out of our comfort zone provide skills and vital experience for any future career.

Finding out what specific career one may take could also help. Graduate studies, for instance, offer a wide range of very specialized options. Students often feel unsure of their options, and so dedicating some time to exploring oneself internally could be helpful in deciding what career path to follow.

Furthermore, there are different phases in life that allow for different decisions. We live in a time where we do not have to stick to one career and we will most likely change jobs throughout our lives.

Right after university, we have the flexibility to involve ourselves in experiences that would imply leaving everything we know. Perhaps later in life, a job that offers more stability in a fixed place would be feasible, for someone looking to form a family, for instance.

Embracing this flexibility is a difficult skill, but would allow us to have the necessary experience to know how to change our careers according to our life stages.

It is the ability to transform what life brings into meaningful experience what will allow us to succeed in the future. In uncertain times, those who can be flexible enough to look for opportunities that enable them to get out of their comfort zones will be better equipped to materialize their passions into meaningful careers in the future.

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