Happiness is All about Having Choices, and Graduating is Just the First Step
How will you find a career path that gives you options to explore?
By Hannah Heine, University of Dayton
“What are you going to do with that degree?” Every college senior dreads and loathes these very nine words strung together so innocently. However, that question can create such intense grief in the hearts of those soon to be graduates who don’t know just exactly what their degree will lead them to do.
Life changes in the blink of an eye. One second a medical student wants to be a pediatrician, interacting with kids day in and day out, and the next second that student’s mind changes to being a radiologist, studying x-rays and for the most part having little interaction with patients. Those two career paths couldn’t be more different. Furthermore, a political science major could pursue life on Capitol Hill for two years and then realize “I am sooooo not into this,” and become a poet. Clearly that student’s degree didn’t indicate the lifelong career that was anticipated. Doesn’t it seem like our parent’s generation don’t understand that concept when they ask the question, “What are you going to do with that degree?”
Take a deep breath and reevaluate. The goal here is not to have a direct answer, but to simply have choices. That is where happiness comes from, having choices. Soon-to-be-graduates should be thrilled because of the copious amounts of choices that are at their fingertips. The foundation to being successful is to have an education, and these students (myself included) are so close to achieving that! (WOOHOO!) Yet, so often graduating causes an increased sense of anxiety and discontent.
Students should not settle on accepting a job offer simply to be able to say, “Yes I will be employed when I walk across that stage and grab my diploma.” Students should accept an offer because that position is one believed to help her/him to have more choices in the long run.
But how do students find those positions? Visualize them. Women are already on the right path by creating visual representations of what they want their future home, kitchen, wedding, fashion style, and dog to look like on their Pinterest pages. However, these visualizations of goals and aspirations should be out in the open so that there isn’t an option of missing them day to day. If our goals are only visualized when we are actively thinking about our future, then that throughout process will only happen once a year on New Years Eve. Print out a picture of Thailand and tape it to your mirror if your goal is to make it to Thailand in the near future. Cut out a picture of your role model and glue it into your daily agenda so that each day you are reminded of what this day has to offer; 24 hours of opportunities to better yourself and better emulate your role model.
What if these were some new responses to that nine worded question: “I am not exactly sure what my degree will lead to in life, but I do know that I plan on traveling to all 50 states within the next five years.” Or how about, “I am going to utilize the confidence this degree has given me to put my life-long dream of learning to sail into action and take sailing lessons this summer.” Another option, “My role model is Oprah Winfrey and I hope to one day be able to give back to charity and my community as she has.”
Furthermore, during our parents’ generation it was far more common for students to take a year off in between high school and college. Today, that doesn’t happen as often. Students are forced, err.. encouraged, to go straight through educationally forcing them to make decisions on careers and majors as a 17 or 18 year old who only knows about being in a classroom. Those decisions will be hard to make. (They were for me.) Not saying that it is a bad thing to go straight through, but maybe we should re-think things and if students don’t take advantage of the opportunity to work or travel for a year in between high school and college, then maybe that year should come after students graduate.
Realistically once you start working, you most likely aren’t going to step off of the “working world” treadmill to take a little jaunt trying to better connect with your true aspirations. Once that big fat paycheck starts coming in, it will be difficult to part with it and then dig into your savings. So before graduates have other people depending on them, whether it be a landlord, child, spouse, or employer, go out and align your goals and aspirations so that you don’t wake up when you are 40 years old asking what in the world you have gotten yourself into, and without any room for choices.
Happiness is all about having choices, and graduating is the first step into making decisions on the many choices that life has to offer.