Photo Courtesy of Middle Tennessee State University
Story by Tim Jenkins / Staff Writer
“I’m pretty sure everybody’s lost at this point. They’re still trying to figure out what they’re trying to do,” said Zakk Sengaroun, who will be graduating with a degree in microbiology in May.
For many college students, graduation is the beginning of a long, unpleasant wake-up call. They receive their diplomas only to realize they have no idea what to do with them.
For some, like those going into medical or engineering fields, the path is pretty straight-forward. But for many graduates, it’s not as simple. They’ve worked for four (often more) years to graduate, only to realize they probably aren’t going to get a job in their major.
Some might say that these students should have planned ahead better, though recent graduates would disagree.
“It’s not that we don’t have a plan. It’s that our plan isn’t going to work,” explains Adam Moreno, who graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in theatre and made the Dean’s List almost every semester. “I was getting out knowing I wasn’t going into my field as a source of income. I didn’t know what I was going to do.” He spent several months after graduating working at Panera before finding a job at United Way of Anderson County in February.
Johnny Short, a Global Studies major who graduated in December 2016, agrees.
“I think most college students have some plan after graduation,” he says.
But like Moreno said, there’s no guarantee that plan will work. Theatre major Marina Phillips, for example, has a very specific plan for after she graduates in May 2017: She plans to go to grad school in January, working at a daycare and a Renaissance Faire until then. However, the only part of her plan that is guaranteed is the Renaissance faire.
So if the problem isn’t that college students aren’t planning ahead, what is it?
Many students come to school not knowing what they want to do, and once they graduate they get thrown into the world still unsure of what to do. They went to college because they felt obligated or because they thought they’d be able to figure out what they want to do once they got here.
Luckily for students that aren’t quite sure what to do, there are resources like the Career Development Center that can help them develop a plan.
“We spend the majority of our time in our strategic planning trying to catch students earlier in their college career so that they do not get to graduation without an internship or two and without a plan of action, because good economy, bad economy, in-between economy, it takes about three months to six months to do a job search,” says Bill Fletcher, the director of the Career Development Center.
Even if students aren’t sure if they want to pursue a career in their chosen major — or, like Moreno, they know that they definitely aren’t going to go into their field — it’s still important to look at internships or other ways of learning beyond the classroom.
“Usually, students through involvement on campus, through involvement with the faculty, through research projects and organizations, and through interning will figure out what it is that they want to do — or probably more importantly, what they don’t want to do,” Fletcher explains.
Many students might view realizing they don’t like their chosen field as a sign that they’ve wasted their time, but as long as they learned skills they can apply to a future career, it may be worth it.
For the students approaching graduation and don’t know what to do next, Fletcher has some advice:
“Come into the Career Center and see (your) career adviser to start getting a game plan in place — the sooner the better. Even if that’s after graduation, we’re here, and that’s (what) we’re here to help students do.”
Tim Jenkins is a journalism/ music student at Middle Tennessee State University. Follow him on Twitter at @timj8465.