Dear New Graduates:
Congratulations! You have earned yet another degree. This time, you have accomplished this goal during an unprecedented pandemic when lives are turned upside down across the globe. It takes incredible courage, resilience, and positivity to get to where you are.
As you embark on your new journey, I’d like to gift you 5 tips for career decision-making when graduating with a master’s degree. Five years ago, when I completed my MA degree, I was in your shoes. Looking back, here is the advice I wish I had:
Focus on your top priorities when choosing your first job. Your first job doesn’t have to be your dream job. Does it help pay off your loans or debts? Does it offer opportunities to grow with the company? Does it provide good networking opportunities in the industry? You can’t have it all, but you can have what matters to you most now.
Don’t take the first salary you are offered. It’s easy to be tempted to just say yes when you finally land an offer. Employers are always ready to give more, even to new grads. Living costs can be drastically different depending on where you live or work. Take into consideration tax and benefits if you have never earned a full-time paycheck in the US or any other country.
Do take risks. Move to a new city? Try out a new field? Work for a startup? Or start your own business? Every decision requires some level of risk. Bigger risks come with bigger rewards. My first job out of grad school took me far away from my boyfriend. I decided to go after what I really wanted. It turned out to be the most rewarding experience and positively impacted my relationship.
Ask questions. If you have a question in mind about the job, the employer, or the industry, somebody must know the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many people like me are dying to tell you “all the things I wish I knew about my job.” The more you know, the less surprise you will have entering a new role.
Don’t undermine your happiness. A good career is one that makes you happy, not miserable. Against common sense advice, many new grads choose a field or an employer that doesn’t fit with their values, lifestyle, and goals. Coming from an Asian family with traditional values, I understand the pressure from parents and society to fit into a certain mold, but job satisfaction or dissatisfaction lives with you even when you are not at work. Just like salary, you should always negotiate for more happiness!
Best wishes for your next adventure and please stay in touch,
Sonia Liang is Associate Director, Career Strategies MSBA Career Coach at Brandeis International Business School.