After four wonderful – at times, stressful – years at University, Graduation day is slowly but steadily approaching. What should be pure relief paired with a ‘come what may’ attitude is mixed with something else, however. Something far more unpleasant. The dreaded ‘now what?’.

“So what are you going to do with your degree?”

Of course, the question of what to do after graduating is not one exclusively asked to students of the Humanities. In their case, the question is more often accompanied by raised eyebrows than it is when asked to students of more vocational degrees.

Once I have assured whoever asks me that, no, I don’t want to be a teacher, and no, I definitely don’t want to be a translator either, I see the look on their face turn from surprise and bemusement to serious doubt.

Am I even studying the right thing?

Quite a few students will ask this of themselves at some point during their degree. After having a meltdown halfway through second year and doubting my life choices, I was seriously asking myself if it would have been a better idea to have chosen a different degree course.

That was, of course, nonsense. It took time for me to realise that. I know now that it’s not just about what you study, but about how you use your skills and apply yourself.

Will there be people doubting the worth of your degree? Probably. Will they be right? Maybe, but only if you let them be right. When people keep telling you the same thing over and over again, you might just start believing it.

Not knowing what to do is OK. A little doubt is normal, as is the occasional panic about your future. It’s nothing you should worry about too much.

Woman walking down aisle after Graduation at University of Stirling

It’s OK to not know your plans for after Graduation.

Try something new

Now just to make this clear: I am not telling you to put your feet up after you’ve graduated (at least not for too long). Don’t become passive just because you don’t know what to do.

I really feel like trying different things through internships, volunteering and part-time work has helped me a lot. Chances are that you at least have an idea of what you want to do – and that is already a great start.

It often helps to talk about your ideas, no matter how vague and abstract they may seem to you. The Careers and Employability Service offers 15 minute drop-in sessions and 45 minute guidance appointments where you can have a chat about all the different ideas going through your head. Their input will definitely give you more ideas to work with!

Be open

Don’t be too worried about not having enough time to focus on your studies if you decide to get a part-time job. I often felt that working part-time actually helped me with my time management and made me more confident and less anxious about the future.

So, after trying out different jobs and studying for four years, do I know what I want to do with my life? No, I honestly don’t.

But I also don’t feel like I have to just yet.


Melissa Walker studied English Studies and Spanish and graduated in 2017.