Assmus: Graduation Anxiety

Thoughtful Consideration

Abby Assmus, Columnist

Many students will be graduating at the end of this semester from graduate and undergraduate programs of various lengths. Some might not leave school and continue their education through graduate school. Many people will also be looking for jobs and trying to start their careers after spending much time, effort and money on their Case Western Reserve University education.

As someone who is graduating at the end of this semester, I am often asked, “Aren’t you excited? You’re finally done.”

I do feel somewhat happy, since it is probably time for me to move on after spending six years here. School is stressful. But I also feel anxious and nervous to start the process for interviewing for jobs and for the “real world” outside of academia.

Realistically, not everyone ends up in a job they want or like, because we all need money and security from a job. At a certain point, you need to take what you can get, especially for those of us with a humanities degree that might not be completely applicable to entry level jobs. Not to discourage anyone from this pathway, as I find extreme value in my background in history and English, but it is true that it can be stressful to find a job upon graduation unless you know exactly what you want to do and how to do it. Sure, I will have a lot of letters after my name upon commencement on May 21 and have had a decent amount of experience in the field, but I honestly am not completely confident in my ability to find a job that I will thoroughly enjoy for the rest of my life.

There are plenty of opportunities out there, and it is hard to figure out what exactly you think you will want to do. Since high school, I have felt like I have never truly been dedicated to one particular profession. Some people talk about how they went into college knowing that they wanted to be a doctor, nurse or lawyer and took the necessary classes and pathways to get to where they wanted to be. I have never felt that way and have always just stuck with what feels right at the moment and what I am interested in. Sure, I have worked hard for this graduate degree and am still interested in the field of social work, but that does not mean that I know exactly what kind of job I want, which makes it difficult to actually apply for jobs during the semester like many others are.

My peers can’t stop talking about graduation, applying for jobs and being excited to be done with school. But I find myself anxious and nervous to face graduation because of my uncertainty about a job and my career. Although it might seem like everyone else is better off with a job and a plan for post-graduation, it is important to choose your own path. I think that taking a couple weeks off after graduation will be beneficial for me, and also make my semester far less stressful. I won’t be applying for jobs during the semester while also trying to finish school. I can figure out what I exactly want to do with my career and find a job I will enjoy, rather than settling for a position just to have one.

It’s okay to be uncertain about life after graduation, especially if all you have known so far is school. I can’t tell if I like academia enough to pursue a career in it, or if I just feel comfortable in it because I have been in school for six straight years. My uncertainty about what I want to do upon graduation and what I will do after is something that I feel many students do feel, despite their excitement about finishing their degrees and about their accomplishments. Uncertainty is always going to be a part of life. Although it feels stressful in the moment, I think that it is good to not be completely complacent in order to fully evaluate your motivations and find a job or a career that you are truly passionate about and will enjoy doing.

Not everything turns out the way you might expect it to. I never thought that I would end up in social work and in this program, but here I am about to finish it and still am unsure of what the future holds for me. But I am learning to become okay with this and to enjoy my last semester of school, at least for right now. Who knows what I might decide to do in three, five or 10 years from now that might require more education? I am incredibly lucky to have this education and know that I will find something to do with my career and life at some point, but I need to be realistic about it and the fact that it might not be what I originally planned on doing.

Abby Assmus is a graduate bioethics and social work student.