Dear future graduates,
On the 11th November 2017, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Social Sciences) from Monash University. It has only been two months since I finished my degree (a bit later than usual because I had deferred an exam) and 1.5 months since I flew back to my home country (yes, only to come back again for the graduation ceremony). And a few days before graduation, I signed my first full-time employment contract.
How did it all happen so fast?
One of the greatest fears of future graduates is to not be able to land a job after their degree. We’ve all heard stories of unemployed and overqualified young adults. We’ve felt our parents’ empty words and pressure to get a great job. You’ve worked hard, so you deserve to be employed by a prestigious company, right?
Not having a job: this concept gave me nightmares. Having to pack my bags and go back home, instead of living the expat life: this possibility made me cry. For a whole year, I’ve been going to career fairs, getting freelance gigs here and there, going to interviews… only to be left with no future opportunities to work abroad. No work visas. No entry-level positions.
Working abroad is the dream of many of us, Mauritians and even Malaysians. It’s a dream our parents have instilled in our hearts ever since we learnt how to say ABC.
But maybe we shouldn’t think that way. Maybe we shouldn’t just limit ourselves to that one possibility.
I’ve seen friends transferring to Australia, with the same determination and awe in their eyes, hoping to settle there… but who didn’t succeed. Don’t get me wrong, the possibility to stay and work abroad is there, even for Mauritians in Malaysia, but not everyone gets to do it. Even after trying really hard. So they come home, devastated… yet, they get back up; they find a fulfilling job and a community that accepts them.
Another friend once noted that she was glad she came back. Because wherever else you will be, you will be a stranger. A foreigner. The locals may welcome you and treat you well, but deep down, you are the ‘other’. And she was right.
Thus, here’s my first advice: don’t limit your dreams. Be flexible, open-minded, and don’t be ashamed to turn back to where you started. Sometimes, what you’re looking for is right in front of you.
Yes, that’s your first step to a viable career.
As you may have guessed, I didn’t get a job in Malaysia. I got one in Mauritius. I have to move back in with my family. Does it feel like I’m going backwards? Maybe at first. But that was only when I was unemployed; I felt useless and dependent. Once I got to apply for jobs and go out to interviews, I felt better, because I was taking control of my life, just like I did abroad.
And once I landed the job I loved, I was completely recovered. It wasn’t so bad to move back in. I’d be able to save up towards buying a place I can call my own. I wouldn’t have to worry about food or rent (for now). Of course, I’d have to constantly hear my dad’s lecture on having a great career, but so far, I’ve been just fine on my own.
The key here, future graduates, is to apply for jobs you will enjoy. A decade ago, everyone was telling us to become doctors, but times have changed. And times are changing… way too quickly. There’s no such thing as a ‘stable’ career anymore. Uber drivers could be out of a job in no time.
So what should we do? It’s simple: do what you love. Okay, it’s not that simple but we might as well have a purposeful career than ‘follow the trend’. We may all be at risk of losing our jobs, so we might as well have fun while it lasts.
When I went back home, I was scared I wasn’t going to find a job. My experience lies in writing and some digital marketing, and Mauritius is not that much of a developed country. For example, PayPal is a pretty new concept there! So, out of fear, I started to apply for jobs that were ‘related’ to my Psychology degree, i.e., HR training jobs.
This plan failed miserably.
Then, I slowly started to shift towards communication and marketing jobs… jobs I knew I’d genuinely like until I found a job that dealt with writing and social media. As you know now, I got that job and declined the rest.
It’s hard to explain to older generations that you work on the internet and you’re paid to write (I mean, becoming a writer was supposed to leave me homeless; thanks, family). New jobs are constantly created… (like those of YouTubers!) and that even if you were kind of forced to take a degree you didn’t really want, it shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love on the side.
I’ve been writing stories since I was 8 and although I was constantly being put down for choosing literature and for wanting an arts degree, I didn’t let go that easily. Eventually, I did have my own doubts and I abandoned the idea of being a writer many times. But my interest always came back. And that interest grew into blogs and paying gigs… and now into a real job.
So what do you say?
How do you get a viable career today? Never give up on what you love to do. Keep doing it, even if it has to be on the side. You never know when people will need your skills. Your kind of job could be the next ‘doctor’ job.
Finally, find meaning in your chosen career. Work for a company you care about. Work for a cause that speaks to you. If the future is as unstable as futurists and tech experts predict, we might as well make it as enjoyable as we can.
It worked for me. I hope it works for you too.
All the best in your chosen path.
D. K. Waye.
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