The end of the fall semester can be an unsettling time for Trent students, especially those in their third, fourth, or even fifth or sixth years of their undergrad.
With graduation on the horizon sharing a meal with loved ones over the holiday season also means facing “The Conversation”: the inevitable and downright uncomfortable barrage of questions about life plans, career options, and money (and the lack there-of).
As hard as it can for first-years and second-year students to believe, an increasing number of undergraduate students are uncomfortable and even afraid of the thought of leaving university.
It seems that coming to terms with graduation is difficult because graduating itself has become difficult. For many, especially for students in liberal arts and humanities, the prospect of stepping out from the shelter of undergraduate classroom now seems like a daunting, if not impossible, task.
Now, there are number of legitimate reasons this phenomenon: the youth job market is no longer as good as it once was; employers are demanding extra credentials that require post-post-secondary education; graduates are further in debt than they’ve ever been; and they’re facing a rapidly changing world in which technology has radically altered entire professions, or in some cases, rendered them extinct.
However, while these things are all undoubtedly true to a certain extent, I question whether or not the situation has been blown out of proportion by the seemingly omnipresent pessimism that surrounds university graduation nowadays.
Speaking with many of my friends and peers throughout my final year of undergrad here at Trent I was amazed at how the ingrained the rhetoric of “Generation Jobless” has become in our collective mindset.
Graduating university by no means easy. As a recent grad, I can attest that the stress and uncertainty that comes with no longer having a clearly defined life goal to work towards is real and it can be frightening.
In the past six months alone I’ve burned through more career options than I care to mention: from teaching to lawyering, to paralegal, to journalism, to academia, to brewmaster, back to journalism, to editing, and finally back to teaching.
The thing is, though, this type of existential confusion and anxiety is natural for recent or upcoming graduates. In fact, I would argue that its necessary in order to be sure that you’re making an informed decision about your future.
After pushing yourself to the limit with three or more years of full time study you owe it to yourself to hit the pause button on your life while you reevaluate your preconceived goals, plans, and aspirations.
The important thing is to not let the dark clouds and defeatism of today’s media narratives get you down, or worse, push you down some path you’ll regret later on.
Graduating university has always been scary. It was scary back in the ‘60s with that decade’s massive social and political upheaval, it was even scarier in the ‘80s (sequins, mullets, and pantsuits anyone?), and it remains scary today in the wake of the so-called Great Recession.
So my advice for any upper year students worrying about having “The Conversation” with family and friends this holiday season is just to look them in dead in the eye, smile, and say: “Nope. I’m not thinking about my future right now. In fact, I won’t be thinking about it until after I cross the podium. Now can you pass me a second helping of turkey?”