For many of us, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are working on final presentations and papers, finishing up with clients, and sending out resumes and cover letters to every position we find. We are ordering our caps and gowns, sending out announcements, and making plans for the day that we have worked so hard for. The busyness of this moment in which we find ourselves is the perfect combination of excitement and anxiousness. And to top it all off, it seems that every day – sometimes several times a day – someone asks you the question. You know the question:
“So, what are your plans after graduation?”
Don’t you just LOVE that question? Whether in a Bachelors, Masters, or a PhD program, we’ve all heard this question or some form of it. And as May draws closer, I’m sure most of us have memorized our response after having said it so much. While it is expected that our families, friends, and peers are happy for us and curious to know what great things we will do next, for many of us, this question brings attention to the reality that we don’t have a clear answer. Simply put, we don’t know.
We’ve applied for jobs. We’ve been on interviews. We’re hanging in the lobby of life, waiting to hear if we will land that dream job (or the job that will lead to our dream job). Some of us know exactly where we’d like to work and in what capacity. Some of us would be happy working in a variety of settings. However, if you asked us what we will be doing 12, 6, or even 3 months from now, many of us could not tell you with complete specificity. Ultimately, most of us know what we desire, but unless the job offer is already on the table (by the way, congrats to those who’ve already landed jobs!!), we can’t always give you a neat answer to the infamous question.
If you’re anything like me, this stage of “not knowing” can be scary. As a planner (utilizing one of my community practice skills 🙂 ), I like to have everything figured out. Not doing so can result in much (unnecessary) stress. However, in this stage I am learning a few important lessons:
- Toss your timeline. Okay, well maybe not literally, but don’t get too stuck on it. At a recent job interviewing workshop held at the School of Social Work, a panel of recent graduates spoke to us about the job search process. Though they shared several helpful tips, the one thing that stood out to me was that they stated that much of their cohort landed positions that Fall after graduation. For those who held out for their ideal job, they waited longer. At the time, one of the panelists was currently searching for another position. A few weeks later, she was hired by my current field placement!
- Keep preparing. While I am encouraging you to not place too much pressure on having it all figured out by a certain date, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t put forth our best effort. As the saying goes, good luck comes to those who are prepared. As we approach graduation, let’s continue sending out those CVs and cover letters, attending workshops and job fairs, and reaching out to networks old and new. Even after landing the position, keep it up! As social workers, we know that learning is a lifelong journey.
- Chill out. Yes, breathe. I know the gears in our minds are turning at a thousand rotations per second, but we must remind ourselves to slow down. With all of the assignments and responsibilities we are wrapping up, reserve that mental energy for things BEFORE May 9. If you need to exercise, pray, meditate, or simply take a walk around the TTK once or twice, do what you need to do to stay mindful so that you can devote your strength to finishing the program on top.
So, to my fellow SSW students and prospective students: next time someone asks you “the question,” let’s answer them with confidence – whether we have it all planned out or not.
40 DAYS until graduation!!! 🙂