Just finished college? Don’t know what to do?

Are you coming to the end of your college course and have no idea what to do next?

You might be thinking that you’re pushing on a bit because you’re 22.

You’re thinking: “I have no f*cking idea what I want to do with my life!”

Some people know what they want to do with their life when they are 15. Some people don’t know what they want out of life until they are 35, so don’t fret over it!

Should you continue studying and get yourself a Postgrad diploma or a Masters or pursue a PHD in order to arm yourself to the teeth?

Well, you could do those things if you wanted, but my advice here would be to think very carefully about it, as it’s a heavy workload to take on. Don’t do one just for the sake of doing one.

You could go straight into the working world if you’re lucky enough to get a job. Or you could go travelling. You probably have friends and relations in the UK, America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. There could be worse ways to spend a year or so in order to ponder on what was, and what is to be.

Or, you could kill a few birds with one stone. You could go to a non-English speaking country, learn a new language and experience something culturally different. That’s what I did.

Actually, my advice would be to go to see as much of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Asia, Africa, South America, North America, the North Pole and the South Pole as you can. Do the whole lot!

I decided I’d go to Italy for two reasons. To learn a new language, and to experience something very different to what I was used to.

I suppose it was safe enough in that I went to a European country, I could have really gone out on a limb and gone to Mongolia, but I didn’t so can only speak about what I have done.

I graduated from UL way back in 1999, back when people still said “w w w” when they were giving you a website address.

I studied European Studies with Irish and French, and wasn’t too sure what to do once I graduated.

I was thinking about doing a teaching diploma with the intention of becoming a language teacher, but I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to be a teacher or not.

I had spent some time in Belgium as part of the Erasmus programme, and lived with some Italians, so the seed was planted: “hmmm, maybe I could go to Italy, learn a new language, and experience something a bit different?”

It was one of the better moves I made. I had a TEFL qualification, which was a good start. I didn’t have much Italian. I took out a book from the library during the last few months of my final year and started learning the basics.

I went to Rome, got a job teaching English to adults, and ended up staying there for two years. It was something very new to me. I had to learn a new language, and more or less a new culture.

Italy was a fantastic experience in every way but after two years I knew that teaching wasn’t for me, so I applied for a postgraduate diploma in technical writing in UL. I came back with some good life experience and an extra feather to my bow.

I ended up getting a job as a technical writer with an Italian company because I spoke Italian as much as my technical writing qualification.

Mind you, my Italian never came in handy when trying my best to impress the ladies.

Lady trouble aside, my point is I got out in the world for a few years, met people, made some contacts, and tried figuring out what it is I’d like to do.

So, it’s something to bear in mind. Think outside the box.

At the very least you will learn a new language, which you could add to any qualification you already have or are likely to get in the future (if you don’t have it already), and at the very most, you will have some great experiences to look back on, and more importantly, you will have made contacts which result in free holidays as you get older. They will come in useful later in life, trust me.

You don’t have to go abroad though, you can get plenty of life experience in Ireland too, but from my own point of view, I would recommend travelling abroad if the opportunity arises.

I think it can actually be a good thing to go back to college at 25 or 30, because you have a different perspective on things, and you probably have an idea of what you would like to do in life. You might even know where you want to settle down. I think you’re that little bit more focused.

I’m “only” 37 now (I feel like David Brent saying that!) and when I look back, I could have stayed in bed for two years, grown a beard and long hair, then re-joined society, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Two years are nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Since I graduated in 1999, (and in no particular order), I have worked in a bar, as a TEFL teacher, drove a fruit truck for a few weeks, worked as a technical writer, played music, signed on, signed off, signed on again, worked in digital marketing, in a call centre, in a factory, as an Irish language DJ, and now find myself at the back end of a Masters in journalism ready to take on the world again.

I know what I don’t want to do, which is as important as knowing what I do want to do.

I’m now faced with the possibility of having to go abroad again, but it doesn’t bother me if I have to. It excites me and I see it as a new chapter I can’t wait to get stuck into. I don’t have any ties here other than family, so in a way, it’s easy for me to up sticks, but I don’t see emigration as a bad thing.

Ironically, I’d love to spend some time in Australia, New Zealand, the USA or Canada, but I’m too old for the working holiday visas.

That’s the way things are in the jobs market, and I have to accept that I may have to move abroad indefinitely. At 37, I am a bit fussier about the choices I make, but if you’re coming out of college at 22, you have plenty of time to do the wrong things, make the wrong choices, date the wrong people and live in the wrong places.

Go join a band, backpack around your country of choice, drop out of society, take loads of drugs if that’s your thing. I’m not advising you to take drugs, but it’s your choice, so go for it. Who knows, you might see the light in the middle of a field and find out what you want to do.

You might not want to use your college degree at all. You might want to become a plumber or a policeman, but take your time until you figure it out!

End up knowing what you don’t want to do, and you’ll be well set in life.


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