The closer I’ve gotten to graduation, the less certain I’ve been of what I wanted to do with my life. However, I’ve also begun to make peace with that uncertainty. On January 1 this year, I decided to no longer apply to graduate school and instead to take a gap year. Since then, I’ve been excitedly looking up work and volunteer opportunities, browsing grad programs with a clear mind, and planning out fun projects that I can finally realistically take on. In short, this decision — while scary to make — feels amazing.
Among the various things that I want to devote more time to from now onwards is using the services at the Career Centre, which are available to students and alumni up to two years after graduation. Last year, I attended the Next Steps Conference, which I found helpful especially in reframing my idea of networking. As an introvert, I always found networking to not only be intimidating but also disingenuous. The conference helped me see it more as just meeting people and forming friendships with those you truly get along with and enjoy talking to — not just fake smiling and collecting Linkedin contacts.
I also intend to check out the many career fairs taking place throughout the year, and even throughout Toronto. Last year, I attended the Go Global Expo and learned a lot about options for teaching English abroad, something I’ve been interested in for a while. My friend has also gone to a number of these fairs at U of T St. George and UTM and always had great things to say about her experiences.
Another program that has always interested me is the extern placement program, in which students can shadow a professional in their workplace for a day. I was too late to register for this semester, but again, my friend who participated in the program last year found it to be quite valuable. Other helpful career services include workshops such as resume building and interviewing techniques. I’ve especially found that my resume and cover letter writing skills have improved enormously with professional guidance.
Throughout this daunting and at times disappointing job search process, seeking moral support is also essential. Until this year, I had been convinced that I could not give a successful interview. Even for customer service jobs that I felt overqualified for, I’d always make it to the interview stage, but so rarely went past that. In those instances, I would’ve really appreciated some one-on-one guidance.
This week, I’m planning to book an appointment with a career counsellor for exactly that. At Vic, embedded counsellors are available for a couple hours a week onsite. The same is true for St. Mike’s and several other colleges and departments. On top of that, counsellors are always available to everyone at the Career Centre itself. I’m hoping the discussion will open up possibilities for next year as well as provide some always-welcome reassurance.
In thinking of this question, I also find it helpful to remind myself that most people will not be doing one job their entire lives. Many, including my mother, go down paths they never intended and are perfectly happy with where their life trajectories lead them. What’s more, we are still so young. Taking time to explore now will save time and energy later on, and I can definitely say that I’m happier for the breathing room in this moment.