Stop asking recent graduates about their futures

Jodie Grieve
Photo: 

Graduates already face pressure from an uncertain job market; they don’t need you to ask them about their plans for the future.

Graduating should be a celebration, but a diploma isn’t enough anymore—only a detailed life plan marks whether or not you’re going places.

Some degrees have less defined career paths, so the question of what an upcoming graduate's future plans are can be a reminder their degree doesn’t open as many doors. Those doors are made even less accessible due to the current job market in Canada being at the whim of lockdowns and closures.

As the numbers of Canadians with a university or college education go up, COVID-19 is causing unemployment rates to grow daily. We’re creating more educated people, but with fewer jobs for them to fill. 

We’re in the middle of what everyone is calling uncertain times. Yet, recent graduates are still met with the same question of, “What are your plans after graduation?”

Fielding this question from parents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, and family friends about exactly what a recent or upcoming graduate's plans are for the next 50 plus years of their life can add to the high levels of anxiety that recent graduates are already feeling.

But coronavirus isn’t the only reason this line of questioning needs to stop.

For some reason, society has decided that we define success by how quickly you progress toward a full-time job. If you can answer a question about your hopes and dreams with a clear path toward becoming a doctor, lawyer, or business mogul, you’re successful.

Joining the white-collar workforce right after graduation is expected, even though an undergraduate university degree has become so common it’s no longer special.

Taking time to find out what you want to do is no longer an option. We’ve moved on from the idea of a gap year, of finding yourself and contentment with a lack of grandeur, and of working a few dead-end jobs to make rent while you figure everything else out. 

Not having an exact plan post-graduation might seem scary, but considering the average Canadian doesn’t retire until they’re 63, you’ve got lots of time to find a job.  Testing out different career paths just means you’ll be more certain when you pick a long-term career.

Try asking recent graduates about their passions or what excites them about post-grad life. For most of us, this is the first time in 21 years we might not have a plan, and while exciting, the anxiety of uncertainty doesn’t need to come from those around us as well.

Jodie is a fourth-year English student and The Journal’s Photo Editor.

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