You’ve just emerged from your Masters graduation with a shiny new diploma. You’re armed with confidence, credibility, and a desire to put your advanced knowledge and skills to use. So what now?
At few times in your life will the doors of opportunity and possibility be as open as they are upon graduating from a university. Many options can be considered at this junction, depending on your own unique situation, needs, or wishes. The following suggestions range from safe to risky, free to costly, and outside to inside of the proverbial box.
Find a Job
Immediately commencing a job search is perhaps the most conservative option for you, and the most common. This option means you can begin earning income – and paying off those student loans – right away, not to mention launching your professional career. A fair warning, though, that if you take this road, there are usually few ideal opportunities for a prolonged break in work or study until retirement.
For many, the job search begins long before the diploma is printed. Reputable universities typically offer great job placement services that can connect you with recruiters, and your professors or administrators often can assist you, either by connecting you with some elite contacts in your particular industry or by serving as referrals for prospective employers. Online job boards advertise positions ranging from common to highly specialised, and you can research top companies in your field without leaving your wifi connection. So-called headhunters can serve as your agents in the field, helping you find the perfect position in exchange for a fee that either you agree to pay or your new employer will absorb.
A temporary internship may serve to get you in the front door of a particular company or non-profit for which you dream of working. That opening can pay off well in the long run, sometimes far more than the rate at which the internship will.
Continue Your Studies
For some, a Masters degree is not the end of their educational pursuits. You may desire to set yourself even further apart from the mass of emerging graduates competing for positions, or you may have chosen a field for which a minimum of a PhD is required to be eligible for consideration. The cost of doctoral programmes is even higher than that of Masters programmes, so you may not be able to afford this option, but don’t count it out completely. If you desire those letters behind your name, you can easily work this into your five- or ten-year life plan. You may also opt for a combined approach: working part-time or at an internship, gaining practical and beneficial experience, and continuing your studies on a part-time basis.
Tap Your Inner Entrepreneur
If the call of entrepreneurship rings in your ears, and you know if it does, you may not be cut out for a job that reports to someone else. You could take this time to explore a few of your greatest passions, see where gaps exist in the market, and take your skills straight to the marketplace. If yoga is your thing, find out what it takes to become a certified instructor. If you like to cook, you may want to explore the possibility of opening a restaurant or becoming a personal chef. In this arena, you are not limited to what an employer wants to pay you to do, but what you want to do yourself.
After graduating from the Masters programme, you are no longer tied to the university and you are not yet bound to an employer’s expectations for you to show up to work. So there is possibly no greater time to do a bit of globe-trotting. Take advantage of the temporary freedom you have earned to visit one or more of the places you have always wanted to see. This option is not as expensive as it might seem. Hostels are a very inexpensive and quite adventurous way to experience different cultures and still have a safe place to lay your head at night.
If you want your travels to be even more fruitful, consider taking a great camera with you. Later, you can publish your photographs online, sell prints, or turn them into a set of note cards rich with culture. If you enjoy journalism, interview some locals wherever you go and publish an online blog. Rediscover some of your passions, and you just might carve yourself a unique niche in the blogosphere. Then you can, as the saying goes, do what you love, and never work another day in your life.
“Gap year” programmes traditionally have referred to volunteer assignments between secondary schools and post-graduate studies, but now the term can refer to the time between Bachelors and Masters degree programmes. Many of these can be quite expensive, but some highly sought-after service-oriented assignments can provide a stipend or financial assistance toward further education. The United Nations has a strong volunteer programme offering one- to four-year assignments globally with a minimum age of 25. A certification to teach English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) can also afford you great opportunities to serve and experience other cultures, both now and in the future.
Take a Break
Finally, if you can afford to do so, do not be afraid to relax a bit and reward yourself for a job well done. You are untethered right now. Enjoy it while you can!