Post-Graduation Unsureness?

I’ve known a lot of people who after finishing undergraduate school and getting a degree they switch fields completely from what their area of study was. I was just wondering, how much have you done this, even if only to a small degree, or how much have you stayed loyal to your original interests?I guess part of my concern is from the fact that I’m graduating in December, but I’m not 100% sure I want to continue in my field, though that is the plan for now…

8 Responses to “Post-Graduation Unsureness?”

Flee! Flee the reality! It’s *evil*!!

Mallorn - September 7th, 2005 at 3:57 pm

I graduated with a physics degree, became a bike courier for 8 months, and am now hopefully headed back to school for environmental studies, and I’m sure when I finish that I’ll do something completely unrelated.

I personally couldn’t imagine having the same “career” for my entire working life, there are too many things out there to learn/explore.

Eszter - September 7th, 2005 at 6:36 pm

I have larnded in the not so cushy, but quite stable net of grad school, meaning that I graduated with a degree in physics and astronomy and know I will continue to do astronomy for the next 4 years unless I run screaming.

But my advice is to not worry so much about what the actual subject you are working in… I think the way to maximize happiness is to find what activities you enjoy spending your time doing. I’ve spent the last week reading weather journal articles for help with my planet formation code, and they are really neat! I think I would be happy studying any subject as long as I got to problem solve an do most of my work independently. We’ll see where that takes me once I get my degree.

My one worry with this philosophy… an ex-student of my current advisor is now designing nuclear weapons. While the actual codes that he’s working with are awesome, I don’t know if I could deal with having that as my job.

Laika - September 8th, 2005 at 12:09 pm

The idea of “original interests” is a tricky one. I basically chose my undergraduate major out of a hat (which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy it– I do quite a bit!). I think everyone has more than one ideal career, and especially more than one major topic of interest. Something important to keep in mind is that no decision you can make is the wrong one (well, as long as you aren’t selling your body for crack or something similar). I could easily have pursued a college career in, say, technical theatre, or computer science, or literature, or philosophy. I’m sure everyone who has posted so far has had moments when they felt the same– heck, I know that Eszter has jumped through more majors than I can easily count.

The goal shouldn’t be to find your capital-T “True interest”, but rather to just always do something that interests you. That, and to retain the flexibility of mind to recognize what you do find interesting, and not have mental blocks about what “should” interest you. My sister, for example, got a college degree and then enjoyed being a waitress for years– and there’s no shame in that (hell, she made Good money, kept in shape, and met some really neat people).

While I still have several years of graduate school ahead (and I’m pretty fairly convinced I’ll stick with it until my PhD), I can see a similar choice ahead for me– once I graduate (again), will I stick with my current interest, or try something else entirely? Which is but one example of the fact that these sorts of questions will be with you your whole life, everytime you wake up. It’s a self-reflexive action to question the “goodness” of where you are now, and where you’re headed; it’s a central facet of being sentient. Get used to not being sure. 😉

All that advice aside (hey, you asked for it)… The real world is kind of scary, like Mallorn says. Some days I long for the imagined halcyon days of my youth, when I didn’t worry about money every time that I bought a candy bar or took a drive; and oversleeping meant nothing more than getting the assignment from a buddy who didn’t oversleep, rather than a potentially dangerous tardiness at the workplace.

And Teisha– whatever path you choose, I’ll be by your side. 🙂

Paradoxdruid - September 8th, 2005 at 1:43 pm

MCDB, physics, biochemistry, chemisty, chemical engineering, engineering physics…man, I did good. And my favorite class out of them all was from the kinesiology department. Go figure.

Eszter - September 8th, 2005 at 6:19 pm

I find it hard that out of all the post-grads who read this site, none of the rest of you have insight to share. Come on, pipe up!

Paradoxdruid - September 12th, 2005 at 7:13 pm

aah…looks like the word ‘post grads’ refers to people like me. Over the years, i figured out that numbers make me happy but so does playing with biological systems. I did undergrad in chemical engineering, but research during those yrs in biochemical engineering. Masters was again in chemical engineering but research in protein aggregation. I really don’t have a strong liking for chemical engineering (its more like jack of all trades….but master of none).
When i joined phd here @UCSB along with Andrew et al, I wanted to get rid of my tag of being an engineer and land into an ‘interdisciplinary’ lab which will do good research at the interface of biology and engineering (read as go more into biology). However, it so happened that the labs which suited my interest otherwise don’t do much quantification. So, now I am into a lab in chemical engineering with research focused on drug delivery and I like it.
So yeah, its more important to do what you like and with people you like. Its really hard to visualize the end goal so early in life for most people. What is important is to make decisions which you think are right at this point (preferably with some sort of career in mind).

Anu - September 19th, 2005 at 3:39 pm

Hey, Anu! Wow, I actually didn’t know you had a Masters. What made you decide to go on to get your PhD? It’s really nice that you figured out what you want to do, at least for now.

You’re right about it being difficult to visualize the end goal — so many times people go to a university to be in a specific lab, but after some rotations figure that that’s really not what they want to do. I’ve always thought one of the best factors in deciding what you think is right at the present is what gives you the most options for the future (i.e. if you have a PhD you are much more qualified for a wide variety of jobs). However, then you can find that (1) you’re not sure what you want to do exactly in the future and/or (2) you’ve become a generalist and not a specialist, which is a problem for many seeking jobs now a days. Fortunately, there are ways to address these “problems,” but they do require a lot of careful consideration…

Teisha - September 20th, 2005 at 1:39 pm

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