People are expected to change their jobs over 15 times in their lifetime, said Ed Surge, a LinkedIn executive. Now, more than ever, there is great uncertainty on what career to choose after graduation, so many people are taking an alternative path.
“Post-undergrad opportunities may take graduates abroad, the Fulbright and Peace Corps opportunities being cases in point. Interested students should also consider the “Princeton In…” options, programs that offer recent graduates English teaching and other kinds of placements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America,” said Pat Taylor, Graduate School and Fellowships advisor at Marist College. “Within the United States, the more commonly recognized programs are Teach for America and Americorps/Vista service opportunities. City Year is a specific program tied to Americorps which focuses on placing its corps members in high-need schools.”
In addition, many people will take a gap year to travel, work on an organic farm through WWOOF, find an internship, take a continuing education class, or volunteer. There is an alternative option for every type of person and interest. For example, “Report for America” places its members in local news organizations in regions that are considered “news deserts” to help with the coverage of local news. I think that it’s a good idea to do these things in place of your typical nine-to-five, full-time job. It is the only time in your life when you will be free from the “real” work world and may have the opportunity to do what you love without anything tying you down.
Danny Knoll, a recent Fulbright Grant recipient who will be teaching English in Indonesia in a few months said, “I wanted the opportunity to travel and live outside of the United States as I did not have that chance while at Marist being a two-semester student-athlete. What better time to travel than right after graduation?”
On top of being able to travel, participating in programs like the Peace Corps can help pay off student debt. Teach for America even pays for its teachers to enroll in graduate school. There are many perks to participating in these short term programs, one of the biggest being that many people claim it is life-changing.
“These programs immerse the participant in different kinds of communities, working to make a difference in the lives of those populations and equipping that student with an enduring respect for our common humanity along with the magnitude of the challenges we face. Such experiences can form the foundation or bedrock for future change agents and leaders,” said Taylor.
“Even though I do not plan on becoming a teacher long term, I believe the experience that I will receive through Teach For America will help me in my future endeavors in law and policy,” said Ryan Guzhnay. “I have a passion for helping those who do not have a voice or to help those voices be heard. Social justice for me is super important and children are part of that group of voices that are often not paid attention to.”
Whether you chose to partake in one of these opportunities or not, either way, it’s good to give yourself the chance to think about the types of activities you believe would be most engaging to you and to do something that you think taps into the issues you find most pressing.
“I know these alternative programs are not going to be easy or make us a lot of money, but I believe these types of programs challenge you and help you better understand yourself, what you are capable of, and potentially change what you thought your path was going to be in your career because of the exposure to different experiences,” said Guzhnay.
It’s important and imperative to take the time to breathe and really reflect on what you want to do and who you want to be after college. I think that these alternatives can lead to self-discovery and are beneficial to participate in at any time in your life.
Daniel Knoll, a future Fulbright Scholar traveling to teach English in Indonesia for a year.
Future and past Fulbright Scholars speaking at a scholarship panel at Marist College.