Graduation Fears

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on January 28, 2011


Earlier this week, I met with two inspiring women who work at my undergraduate university- the University of Guelph. They came across my blog and bakery and were interested in hearing my story and telling me about a project they are currently working on. We chatted a lot about making the career transition after graduation and finding something you enjoy. If you have read my ‘A Year Can Change A Lot’ series, you know that the topic of career enjoyment is a huge passion of mine, so I was quite excited to share my ideas and hear what they had to say.

One of the issues we discussed is that so many graduates and students are unsure what career will make them happy. I used to be one of them. I remember struggling with what I wanted to do and I felt like if I made the wrong decision my entire life would be ruined. Thankfully, that was not true, although there were some difficult times.

I personally feel that the system did not work for me. I was just 18 when I started university and I really had no idea what I wanted to do, let alone what career would make me happy. I felt so much pressure not to screw it all up. I’m all for planning and aspiring to achieve great things, but sometimes I feel like these decisions are rushed and just thrown at us when we are young. Looking back I wished that I had taken a year in between my highschool and undergrad degrees to figure things out and give myself more time. But all my other friends were going to university too, and I didn’t want to be left behind.

Then comes graduation, which is a happy time, however it can also be a time of great unease. I was excited to get my Master’s degree, but no one told me about the loss of identity that came with it. My student identity that I carried with me for almost my entire life was now over, at least in the physical sense. After graduating, I was just supposed to magically have a successful career. This made me anxious.

I would always look at my friends and think they were so lucky because they seemed to be able to find the perfect job almost instantly. The truth is, many students and graduates do struggle, but not many people talk about it. I realize this now because I have received countless emails from readers who have shared their own stories with me. I was blown away by how many of you have struggled with the same things that I did.

The job market is tough. Competition is stiff. Student loans add to the stress and there seems to be an expectation to immediately find our Dream Job after graduation. I was so scared about not being able to find a job with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I made it my mission to get into grad school. I worked my butt off to be sure that I would have a competitive application to the grad schools I wanted to go to. When I did get accepted into one of my schools of choice I was thrilled, but there was a tiny voice inside of me that said, ‘This might not be the right fit for you…’

I ignored the voice because I told myself I had no other option. While I wasn’t able to research the area that I was passionate about, I just figured I would learn to love it somehow.

During this time, I never really stopped to think about what I really wanted, only that I was now on my way to a bigger paycheck at the end. Lower down on my list was job satisfaction.  I grew up with the idea that you never truly love your day job- you just pay the bills and put your time in and you try to enjoy your weekends. I also watched for many years as my parents struggled with finding happiness in their own careers. Even though my parents always, always, always encouraged me to do what made me happy, the thought of actually doing this was a foreign concept to me. I often swept these thoughts under the rug while taking graduate exams, working to pay the bills, and writing a thesis. Life was busy and I just went through the motions of what I thought I was supposed to do.

I never thought that I could do something entirely different than what I went to school for, but that is exactly what I ended up doing. What we do with our lives does not have to be decided when we are 17 or 19 or even when we are 50. Just because we have a degree in the sciences does not mean that one day we can’t open up our own art studio. We also shouldn’t have to stick with the same career our entire lives.

So you are now 48 and you want to go back to school and become a Registered Dietitian? I say all the power to you. I used to have a lady in one of my courses who was over 75 years old and she was such an inspiration to me because she knew that Life should be a life long learning experience.

I guess we shouldn’t lose our student identity after all.

I didn’t know what would make me happy until I tried it out. Often, what we learn from a textbook and what we learn in the real world are often completely different experiences.

I believe:

You are not a failure for not knowing what you want to do with your life.

You are not a failure for changing your mind. Once, or twice, or eighteen times.

You are not a failure for getting your PhD and deciding that this is not what you want in life (I get these emails all the time).

You are not a failure for not yet finding your ‘dream job’.

You are not a failure. Period.

Here are some success quotes that I enjoy:

I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.
~Jonathan Winters

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
~Bill Cosby

I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.
~George Burns

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
~Michael Jordan

I’d love your thoughts on some of these questions- Did you (or do you) struggle with choosing what to study in school? Do you feel pressure to figure out what it is you want to do for a career or finding a way to make it a reality? Did you grow up with parents who were happy with their careers? Have you ever made a career change?


PS- For my ‘A Year Can Change A Lot’ series, see these posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 (1 year later)

Let's get social! Follow Angela on Instagram @ohsheglows, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Google+

Previous Posts

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Page 4 of 4«1234
Cheryl January 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I have been struggling for as long as I can remember with the question of ‘what am I going to do about my job’? Literally, this question is in my head day in day out and has been for probably 13 years now. It’s exhausting. I feel terrified I’ll never find what I want and i’ll just be torturing myself with this never answered question for the rest of my life. However I do agree with you; it’s OK to change your mind, it’s ok and not unusual to be unsure of what you want, life isn’t a success or failure depending on what you are doing in your career. What matters most, I believe anyway, is finding happiness and often it can be frustrating whan that happiness seems so far away, out of reach. I’m sure i’m not the only one who finds this scary and hard to deal with at times. I take heart in the fact that I am not alone, that sometimes the most interesting lives are those that involve change, change and more change, and that it takes guts to keep searching, rather than settle for the obvious and ignore those ‘i’m not really that happy’ gut feelings. I feel there is a lot of pressure to be seen to be successful – to have ‘The Job’, The House, and all the trimmings. I am trying to focus my attention less on finding The Job and more on experiencing life and trying new things – and maybe, MAYBE I then might find where I belong. I try to encourage anyone I know, young or older, to focus on doing fun, happy things, rather than what they feel they ‘should’ be doing. Being passionate about something can be such a fulfilling experience, in ways that a big pay salary never could.


Natalia - a side of simple January 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm

After reading so many of these comments following up on your post, Angela, I realized that all these words, personal accounts, and inspirational encounters couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’m facing graduation in May for my undergrad education and naturally I’m thinking about my future, what job I’ll have, what my career will be, what life in general holds in store. What I’ve found truly comforting during this time is simply placing my trust in God. I firmly believe He created me to have a relationship with me, so I’m putting my faith in Him and praying that He gives me the strength to use the gifts He has given me. I know only through Him can I succeed, which gives me courage and heart. Sure, I may not know what lies around the corner, but I trust in Him. One of my favorite quotes is simply, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Thanks for this series, Angela!


Margaret January 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Hi Angela

Great post and amazing response from so many people. As parents we want to do the right thing or our children. Each generation seems to want their children to have more than they had or to achieve greater heights, so we tend to push our children as much as we can. We tend to forget that we were once in the very same spot, been there and done that and made our own decisions.

My oldest son went to university but in his second year decided that he was wasting his time and our (his parents) money and decided to quit school. He felt he really wasn’t learning the things he wanted to learn, and felt even if he did finish his degree, then he would still have to take courses and workshops to get the certification for what he did want to do. Fortunately for him, he knew what he wanted to do for work and set about starting his own company and taking the individual courses he needed to achieve his goal.

I will say, it was much to his fathers disappointment that he quit school. My son has not looked back a day since he made that decision and has been the happiest he has every been since he quit his university course.

Like a number of your responses, he also wanted to take a year to travel prior to going to university. His dad decided that was not an option – if he stayed in school we would foot the bill for his education, but if he quit – he would be on his own to fend for himself. Talk about putting pressure on your child. I feel if our son had stayed at school, then he would have finished his university degree. However, he might not be in the job he now has and loves with a passion, but could be stuck in a job that he doesn’t like. In saying that, I do however think he should have taken his year off school and done some travelling.

He was not a happy person and was not happy with his life when he finished high school and started university. He is now a very happy person with a wife and two beautiful children and working in a job he enjoys. I had to battle his dad and give him a lot of support when he did quit school, but some mom’s do that for their sons and daughters and try to give them as much support as possible. University is not for everybody and I felt at the time if he was meant to finish his degree, then he would figure it out and go back to school… so far, that hasn’t happened.

For the people who are out there taking degrees and not knowing what to do… I always wondered what somebody would do with a degree in history or geography and where would that get them in the business world – Like most of your readers parents, I came from a generation where you had to work to pay the bills. When questioning this at one time (a lot of years ago) someone told me, “It is not the subject that you decide to study in university that is so important – it is learning how to study and master a degree. If you can master one area, then you can learn anything else you put your mind to.

I did not go to university, I went to vocational school (in Ireland – in Canada this would be community college), after high school and learned typing and bookkeeping and became a secretary/bookkeeper. In at time when women were’t paid with equality, I was fortunate to have a boss who felt “if you can do a man’s job, then you should be paid the same salary” and I went on to become a general manager of an automotive company, before I quit work to have children. In my early 40’s when the youngest of my three children started school, I went back to school and became an Interior Designer. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had forgotten that that was one of the things I wanted to do when I came to Canada, but I had to take a job in an office and continue the work I knew, in order to pay my rent and put food on the table. I couldn’t afford to go to school at that time as I was now out in the world “on my own”. I have to say, I have loved this career with a passion. I read somewhere the other day… its not work if you love what you are doing… so true.

So, don’t give up on any of the dreams you have. If they don’t happen today, then there is still tomorrow, next week, or next year to start working on those dreams again. Hang in there all of you who are struggling. Life WILL get better.



Kristen January 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I actually found your blog because of your career change. I am lucky that I knew my passions and stuck with them. I have a degree in Exercise Science, but after I graduated from undergrad, I couldn’t find a full time job. When I finally found a job I loved, it was part time, and when I was moved to full time status, it only lasted 6 months due to the economy. I decided that I would go BACK to school and get another degree in Physical Education since I loved working with kids and could still pursue my passion for exercise and health. It took me another 6 months after I graduated with my 2nd degree to finally find a full time job that I love, even though I am only an assistant and get paid hourly.

What really struck a chord with me in your post is that fact that the majority of my friends found jobs right after graduation and are happy with them. I feel like I am just as highly qualified for the jobs I am searching for, but just can’t seem to land that dream job – and I’ve been out of undergrad for 4 years now! That’s a long time to not have a “real” full time job. It’s frustrating, but I try to find the positives in all the jobs I’ve had – experience, meeting many new people, and finding other passions during my times of unemployment and parttime jobs!

Thank you for your passions! You are always so inspiring and your blog has really helped me through my times of unemployment and career change. I can’t thank you enough for your positivity, and of course, the delicious healthy recipes! (BTW, I made the chocolate pecan nut butter today… to.die.for!)


Allison January 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I definitely experienced the overwhelm of not knowing what I wanted to “be” when I “grew up”. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration and graduated from college thinking that I would enter the working world as someone who traveled and hiked and enjoyed being active in the outdoors…for a living. I soon came to the harsh realization that I had no idea what to do next and that I needed to make some money to survive as a “grown up”.
I ended up cubicle-bound and working in corporate information technology jobs for 12 years before quitting to be home with my kids in 2009. Now, while spending my days with my boys, I also do some work with a business that does bootcamps and triathlon training for women in Northern California and I write a healthy living blog ( I feel like I’m finally free to listen to my heart and follow its lead to finding work that is tremendously fulfilling. The coolest part is that what I do now is equal parts skills and passion- the skills I have gained through the past work that I have done and the passion just comes naturally if you listen closely enough to your heart. :-)


Lesley January 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Angela, this post really spoke to me. I am in my last semester of law school and I don’t have a job waiting for me. Honestly, some days I question even wanting to be a lawyer. It is a super confusing time for me, which causes me lots of stress, especially when I see my peers, one by one, getting decent jobs.
It is frustrating and hard when my future ‘career’ is so unknown.


Kate January 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I think that part of the problem with post-high school stress lies with the universities. Universities USE to be about learning and knowledge not about careers. Nowadays they are far more career focused. In many undergrad courses are taught to allow you to pass the exams, rather than for the sake of the knowledge itself. But I think in many ways we can combat that by loving learning for learnings sake.

I don’t think any degree is a waste. You always, always, always gain invaluable skills and knowledge that allow you to better yourself and further yourself in whatever career you decided to pursue.

I’m 30. I’ve done two degrees (BA in Philosophy (Hons) and a JD (Law) – which I finish in 4 mths). I took time off between school and university and between the degrees and travelled and just lived. I still am unsure of what I want to do. It use to cause me great anxiety (and if I’m honest, still does on occasion), but now I just look at it as a learning process. I’m eliminating the things I’m not interested in and refining the things I am interested in.

I’m really excited (and a little bit scared) about my life. I think this is a good thing.


Angela (Oh She Glows) January 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm

I always say a little bit of fear is a good thing…means that you are pushing yourself and your limits, right? :) Goodluck with everything!


Ryan January 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Angela, this is such a great post that so many people need to hear, including myself. People have always scoffed at me when I’ve said I want a variety in my career: psychologist, photographer, hiking tour guide, etc. The one-track path seems way too strict and I hope in the future it will change, so that people will not feel so apprehensive about what they are “supposed” to do in their lives.


[email protected] Hungry Mess January 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm

You are truly inspiring, as per usual, and I couldn’t agree more!

After 3 years of going to school for business, I transfered to culinary school. I always thought I had to get a “legit degree” in order to be successful and save my passions and interests for my after-work hobbies. Life is simply too short.


Annette January 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I totally needed this post today. I just finished my Master’s degree and have no job offer yet :( I am completely sad about this because I AM passionate about my field! I just got my Master’s in EXercise Science : Health Promotion. I can’t wait to share my passion of health and fitness and good nutrition with others and it is extremely nerve-wracking to not know where we’re going to move, WHICH job I will be working, and WHEN!!!? I am having faith that everything will work out- but I totally appreciated this post tonight. Thanks a ton (it is oddly good to hear that I am not alone!!!)


Erin January 29, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Great topic! I went to university straight out of high school not knowing what I really wanted to do. I ended up taking a year off after my first year, which turned into 4 because I met my future hubby that year and ended up following him for his work. During that time I did a number of things including a diploma in Resort and Hotel Admin, worked for a grocery store and a bank, and took an entrepreneurship training course where I learned to develop a business plan. Entrepreneurship runs in my family, and I really caught the bug at that time but felt I should finish university.

I eventually got a degree in International Relations focusing on mediation and conflict resolution. I always hoped to work abroad, but by that time I was married and it would have been very difficult for my husband to follow in his line of work (he’s a cabinetmaker). I considered grad school, but wasn’t ready to commit and took a job running an interntional education and research program at the University of Calgary. It was a great job, but I really hated the bureaucracy of working for a large institution. I was also the only paid employee of a program that relied on a volunteer board of directors, which proved to be a huge obstacle to getting anything accomplished. It was extremely frustrating.

After a few years, I was looking for a way out and yearned for a baby so maternity leave seemed the perfect solution. When my older one was 10 months old, we had the opportunity to buy the cabinet company my husband had been working for, and I jumped at the chance to fulfill my entrepreneurial dreams. It was a departure from my formal education, but my business courses and project management experience were the perfect compliment to my husband’s hands-on skills. It was a major leap of faith and has been extremely challenging at times (I was back at work when my 2nd son was 10 days old, and brought him to the office with me for the first 7 months). However, it’s been way more rewarding than working for someone else in a job I didn’t love.

It’s been almost 5 years and we absolutely love working for ourselves! I’m definitely a born entrepreneur and couldn’t see myself working for anyone else ever again. I’m so glad we had the courage to follow our dreams and we haven’t looked back.


Jenna January 29, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Thank you so much for this Angela! I’m a first year University student and even though I took a couple of years off between high school and college I still feel lost a lot of the time. I struggle with what classes I should be taking, if I should pursue a Master’s, how I’ll pay off my student loans when I’m done. Reading your blog and hearing your personal story makes me hopeful for my future.


Roz January 29, 2011 at 11:50 pm

OMG, what an amazing post. I went to university at 26, graduated at 30, and have YET to feel it was worthwhile. I just didn’t get the career I expected. That said, I’m not sorry I did it, it’s now paid off, but I’m still looking at “what I want to do when I grow up”. Thank you for your comment “you are not a failure for not knowing what I want to do”. I really need to remember that sometimes. As always, thanks for your wonderful (and today very thought provoking and reassuring) posts. Have a great weekend.


Jess January 30, 2011 at 12:02 am

I don’t often comment but I just had to on this. Wow, thank you for this post. I’m currently in my 4th year of graduate school going for my PhD in Biochemistry in upstate NY and I really struggle with this kind of stuff every day. The more and more time I spend here, the more I realize I don’t want to do research for the rest of my life. But, I don’t think my school does a good job of training us for anything other than staying in academia and becoming professors–which is something I 100% know I do not want to do. So I’ve been trying to do some research on my own to figure out what I want to do with my life after my PhD…so far, I’m not too sure. I routinely play with the idea of not doing anything science related for a little while at least since I’m kind of burnt out from research. This post really spoke to me and I just wanted to thank you for putting your thoughts into words on this…I’m going to save this so I can read it over when I’m having “one of those days” :)


Kathy January 30, 2011 at 12:13 am

Thanks so much for writing this Angela – I can relate to many of the same emotions for my current job though I did not go to grad school. All these comments above have made me realized that I am not alone in my struggles and have inspired me to write about it too. I really don’t even care if anyone reads what I write, but I’ve found that writing is a wonderful outlet to express oneself. I think it’s amazing that you’ve been able to turn something you love into your own business/career, but your posts have also taught me that landing something you truly love is not always quick or easy.. there can be a struggle at first, but it is possible to find/do something one loves. It just may be a journey :)


azo January 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH FOR THIS POST!!!!!!!!! I just graduated out of college with a degree in Economics and I have nooo idea what I want to do with my life. I realized in my senior year in college that the field of work for economics is not for me and have been trying to figure out what I want. I was feeling so desperate and lost lately, like a total failure. Everybody around me seems to be so focused and ambitious. Then I read this and it assured me that I don’t have to be like that, it is more important to find the thing that really makes you happy, that inspires you. Again thank you very much, you made me realize that I’m not the only one struggling and put a smile on my face.
ps: I love your blog!! I recently became vegeterian and I’m from Turkey and it’s kind of difficult to be vegeterian here. Blogs like yours really help :)


Laura January 30, 2011 at 8:48 am

I’m struggling with this now so thanks for writing this post!!!


Anna January 30, 2011 at 11:36 am

I chose my university because they had a wide range of degree options and I did not want to transfer if I changed my major. I ended up keeping my double option in choral music education and piano performance but there were a few semesters that I almost dropped one of my options. As I am finishing up my student teaching this semester I am glad I kept both options. I feel like they have made me a more well rounded individual. I don’t know where I will end up but for now I am fairly confidant that I will be teaching music someplace. I just don’t know if it will be in a public or private school or teaching private piano lessons again. I also have looked into teaching English in Korea for a year or finding a church music internship if I can’t find a teaching job or I decide I need a break. I am a little worried about finding a job but for now I am focusing on ending strong and realizing that I have many different options that I can use if something doesn’t turn out.Thank you so much for sharing your story!


Jenna January 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for the post… and the discussion is amazing.

I used to be an academic overachiever and I felt like I needed to be at the top of my class doing impressive things all the time. I went into engineering and had several amazing research experiences… including one where I was away from home and working by myself in an empty lab every day. I just couldn’t make myself do it again.

I’ve branched out from science and research to more people oriented things. I’ve experimented with business, entrepreneurship, and nutrition. I’m really not sure where things will end up.

When I graduate in May, I’m moving to join my boyfriend as we’ve been doing the long distance thing since August… and after that… I don’t know. I just want to take the time to relax and really think about what I want. At the same time, I am really afraid that I will get complacent or fall behind and never really figure out something that I enjoy and make enough money to live off of.

We’ll see… it will be an adventure!


Heidi January 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I was in a similiar situation. My dad was a fish biologist for the DNR and I always thought that would be the greatest job. He loved it, I loved him and wanted to be just like him. So when I went to college I studied biology and environmental science, graduated with a degree in that only to find out that I hate mosquitos and bugs that come with working in nature, I don’t like being hot and sweaty unless it’s on a beach with a tropical drink. I took a job out of college that I thought would be great and, well, it was awful. I cried myself to sleep every night and the best day of my life was when I had my daughter b/c that was the last day I worked at that awful, mind numbing job. Fast forward through 5 years of being a stay at home mom with a BS in Biology and I fell into the best job I never even knew about. While staying home, I worked retail on the weekends to get out of the house and have some adult interaction. A job posted in our store for a loss prevention associate and I thought what the heck, might as well try for it. I got the job and I catch shoplifters for a living. It is the most awesome job I’ve ever had, I don’t use my biology degree, ever, at all but I couldn’t be happier. I’ll never do anything else. Never in a million years did I see myself doing a job like this, but it was a matter of going outside my comfort zone and taking a chance. I couldn’t hate it anymore than I did my first job! It’s the best decision I ever made!


Sarah January 30, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I love this post so much! I think so many of us can relate to it, either now, or at some point in our lives. For myself, I grew up with a love of math and the sciences, and I was supposed to be a doctor or a vet or something. When I started college, I declared my major as chemistry, and then changed it shortly afterwards to physics. I had decided that I was either going into physics or engineering, but after getting further into college, I realized that even though that was something I loved, I was miserable thinking of that being the career path I followed.
It’s amazing to me how something that we have such a passion for in school can become the most miserable career choice we can imagine. So I took an education class, just to see if it was a better fit, and I fell in love with it. My whole family argued with me that I would be miserable, I wouldn’t stay in it more than a couple of years, and that I should change my major back. My mom even went as far as to tell her coworkers that I had a physics degree (my associates) because she was apparently embarassed that I had decided to become a teacher. It was then that I realized that I had never wanted to be all of those things for myself – I loved the study of the subject, but the seeing myself in that career path… that was never what I had wanted for myself. And I couldn’t imagine being happier with what I do now. Sometimes your heart knows something long before your mind will accept it.


Tamara Lea January 30, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I dropped out of college when I was in my early 20s. I went back intermittently to junior college. Eventually I realized that not having a degree would hold me back so I decided to go back to school full time and crank it out til I was done. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I decided to study something I enjoyed – psychology. I knew I didn’t want to make a career out of it but I thought it might help me from a personal growth perspective, and it did.

Through my work in school, I realized I wanted to work in HR. I made the transition and am in a job I love! Now I’m getting my MBA,which is not as interesting as psych was but will serve my career well. Knowing I’m in a career that makes me fulfilled and happy makes it tolerable to study a topic I find a little boring.

The long and short of it is, I’ve learned to enjoy the journey, which is what life is all about!


Paulina January 30, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Oh man.. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one struggling with this. I have to choose a major for next year and I honestly I have no clue what I want to do. Everyone expects me to know already. I want to be happy with my job whatever it is, but I feel frustrated like I’m supposed to do what everyone expects me to do. The student identity thing really freaks me out too. Thank you so much for this post! Oh and also I’m a pretty new read and your blog has been really inspirational to me. Thanks!!


schmei January 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I think I’m going to bookmark this post and come back to it and the comments again and again. Both my husband and I are in what we’re calling a transitional phase: we’re both finishing graduate degrees this spring. We’re getting all these questions about when he’ll jump in to the ratrace for his career track and when we’ll start moving every year to different interim jobs, etc, etc…

And we’re realizing that’s not what we want at all.

We both enjoyed our graduate programs, and I have no regrets about doing this, but we know ourselves better now, we know each other better, and we want something else out of life. It’s good to live with someone who “gets” it, but then it’s awkward to interact with our well-meaning families who just think they know what we’re doing because our degrees come with this expected trajectory.

It’s going to be an interesting year. But we’re just going to have to weather the looks, the confusion, the “but what about your CAREER?” questions.

It’s good to know there are many of us feeling this way.


Marit January 31, 2011 at 8:06 am

Hi you clever one!
Thanx for making this a non-taboo!
I actually have the oposite problem.
I graduated in 2001 with a BA in TV and film making. I loved every single second and truly wish i had applied myself and participated even more.
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE a job in my area of education but i have not been able to find a job. There are waaayy too many Indians and not near enough Chiefs.
But film making, the dynamics of the crew, the energy on set, the anticipation of seeing soomething I have made on the big screen…. that is where my heart is…
I’ve done a lot of different jobs, warehouse, advertising, sales… you name it!
i’m at the moment in a series of secretary-jobs and other Admin positions through the temp-agency Adecco, and i’m loving it! There is variation, there are lovely people to get to know and there are challenges…
But i miss the moving image and using my skills which now after 10 years – and so much going on in the film industry – are technologically totally outdated…
I am considering an MA but can’t afford the living expenses if i do.

Doing what you love isn’t always a possibility. :(
Thus I will work and i am determined to enjoy my work regardless of what it is that i’ll be doing.


Nadia January 31, 2011 at 11:45 am

What a great topic! It’s really neat to hear other people’s stories! I have a degree in English Literature, and loved (on the whole) every minute of it. I don’t want to teach, and have no idea quite what I’m going to do, but hoping things will work out. It’s often the things we don’t think about and the paths we wouldn’t usually take that end up being the best for us. At the moment I’m living on the other side of the world for two years, enjoying the history I love and working in tourism. Yes, I may just be ‘working in a shop’ as other people may see it, but I adore my job and it is just the right thing for me at the moment. I need to head back home shortly and don’t have much of an idea of what I want to do when I get there, but I’m hopeful that something will jump out and give me a chance to learn some more in the next phase of my life.

Thank you so much for the inspiration, Angela, and to everyone for sharing their stories!



Gas January 31, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I think there are a number of things operating here.

I think college has turned into a means of extending adolescence and grad school has become an extension of the extension. I think that in part is why people feel like a fraud in these programs. Sometimes you are just ready to progress into full adulthood and continuing to be a student impedes the natural progression into full adulthood.

The other problem I think is in our system of schooling. It in large part is based on a conspiratorial lie. The lie is: you pretend to learn, and I will pretend to teach. You will get a “degree” and I will get a pension and we both will have appeared to do our jobs. The hallmark of this conspiracy is: just teach me what is on the test. If that’s all you care about then you will feel like a fraud. Engage school in a way to actually learn what you are studying to the level of KNOWING it.

My experience is degrees that get “used” are degrees that lead to licensure like MD JD CPA PE etc. otherwise what you study is not necessarily related to what you wind up doing. It would seem a BA in anthropology won’t get you very far in that field BUT in general people who get a BA will earn 1 million more in their lifetimes so completing that degree no matter what will be to your advantage.

Learn everything you can and don’t just stay in one area. You can learn things in parallel not just serially. When I was an undergrad I studied psychology, chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering. I did grad work in biophysics. For jobs I was a janitor, drove a truck, delivered pizza, taught physics and electronics and worked as an electrical engineer. I did further grad work in physiology, and at some point got bored with engineering and went to 8 years of med school and residency. Once I was out of training I had to learn how to be a small business man in order to run my practice and how to invest in order to retire and be able to send my kids to college. I also have to do 120 hours per year of continuing education. This is the great thing about America, you get to be who you want. No one will stop you.

One way you figure this out, is ask yourself: who do I want to be at 60. If you can’t answer that then ask yourself: who don’t I want to be at 60. What you are at 60 will entirely based on what you do every decade before you get there. I asked myself that question at 29 and the answer was not an old engineer. Today is my birthday and I am 59. I have largely become who I want to be and I have largely avoided becoming who I do not want to be based on asking these questions. NO ONE IS GOING TO DO THIS FOR YOU. NOT YOUR PARENTS, NOT YOUR SPOUSE (SPOUSES) AND CERTAINLY NOT YOUR GOVERNMENT. No one is going to make this easy for you. The only way into the future is through the present. One last thing, try and avoid debt as much as possible. It is debt that will make you a slave and unable to make a lateral move like going to med school at 29.

If you are proactive in your life instead of reactive you will loose the sense of being a fraud and be empowered in the pursuit of your future. Life if you don’t engage is scary. Life if you do engage is a GAS.


Angela (Oh She Glows) January 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Happy Birthday! Thanks so much for contributing to this discussion. It is fascinating to hear your story. All the best!


Amy February 1, 2011 at 1:06 am


I just wanted to say how much I love reading your blog–I struggle with eating well and exercising, and your absolute joy in both, as well as in your life, is so inspiring to me! I love that you show how to eat well, but eat delicious too!
In relation to this post, I just finished my undergraduate degree and am getting pressure to find a serious job or go to grad school–I put that off for awhile and ran away to Asia, but real life is catching up! It’s so great to read this and know that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily have it figured out, even if they may seem like it!
So, this is a long-winded way of saying THANKS and keep it up! :)


Lisa February 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

Wow, thanks for this post! (And the resulting comments, which have also be great!) I relate SO much! I am a professional violinist and have played since I was 8 years old. I was practicing pretty seriously from age 10 and up, and started college when I was barely 16. (Graduated high school young.) I got both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in violin performance and now teach private violin lessons and freelance throughout the region. So many people envy my job, since I’ve “Made it” as a professional violinist, but the reality of my job is that I work 7 days a week, 3-15 hours a day (still making WAY less than anyone else with a different master’s degree would) and I will NEVER see a paid sick or vacation day. I pay for private practically useless (high deductible) health insurance (don’t have vision or dental benefits), I pay 35% of my income in self-employment tax, I haven’t seen my parents in over 2 years because I can’t afford to take a vacation (they live 2000 miles away) AND to top it off, I don’t even like what I do anymore. I literally teach BASIC violin skills to 45 kids each week, the vast majority of whom don’t care and don’t practice. We go over the same stuff every week; I could teach it in my sleep. I try to encourage and inspire them to practice, but they still don’t, so I get discouraged and then am so burnt out that I never really even practice on my own anymore.

**Last year I decided to make a change!!!**

I realized that I have a huge passion for health, nutrition, and helping people struggling with eating disorders. (I was anorexic then bulimic for several of my teenage years, but am thankfully 100% physically AND emotionally recovered!) I realized that it is my dream to become a registered dietician and to work with people who have eating disorders. There would be nothing more fulfilling for me than to see someone gain their health back after an eating disorder. I would adore working in either a hospital or outpatient treatment facility.

And so, I have started the long journey to the life that I want! I have taken 3 classes (and working on the 4th) toward the prerequisites for the 2 year master’s degree in dietetics. Of course, the first time around I essentially didn’t take any science classes, so I have a lot of catching up to do! But I talked to my local university (University of Pittsburgh) and they have a 1 year post-baccalaureate program that feeds into the 2 year master’s degree that I want. They said they had designed it for students just like me, who are returning to school for a career change.

Of course this is hard for several reasons: 1) It’s expensive, as I don’t qualify for ANY grants (I have looked!) due to already having a master’s degree, 2) I need to work as much as I can to pay for school so I can’t let anyone in the music work know or they wouldn’t take me seriously as a violinist and 3) it’s quite time-consuming. But I am absolutely determined that I WILL do this! My motto is from a Kutless song: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard. Impossible is not a word; it’s just a reason for someone not to try!” Thanks again for this post! I especially loved the “you are not a failure if…” list!! :)


Joy February 2, 2011 at 4:33 am

What a great post! I am currently unemployed and saying to myself “what do you want to do for the rest of your life? What is your passion?” And honestly I don’t know! I know I need to figure it out though because having another miserable job just isn’t ir


Kat February 2, 2011 at 10:04 am

This is me right now at this very moment at the age of 24, I’m panicking. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Photography. I thought something amazing would happen once I graduated college. But the only unamazing thing that happened was depression and anxiety of not knowing where I was going with my life. You’re so right in saying that you lost your “student identity”, I felt like someone had kicked me out of the club on unfair grounds. All I wanted was to be back in the comfort of my college courses and not facing the reality that maybe I made a mistake going to school for the arts. I keep trying to push my way into the art world, but the give is pretty elastic and only flings me backward. It’s frustrating and the more I sit and ask myself what I’d like to do with my life, the more I hear myself saying “go back to school”. I love being active, I love having nutritional knowledge, I feel myself drifting in that direction more than Photography, but I still have a strong desire for photography to work for me. I love art, I love photographing. I just feel like I am stuck in an awkward position and it is so so very nice to vent and read someone’s blog who expresses having gone through the same exact emotions as I have and am going through presently.
I discovered this blog on Fitsugar and I’m hooked, hooked, hooked!
On a much lighter note I have already made the Chocolate Rice Crispies with PB fudge and I will be making the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad as well as the Pasta with Avocado Sauce. Cannot wait to try them and try other recipes!


Ashleigh February 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I guess I’m reading this a little late, but I NEEDED this post. I love your blog and all the different topics you discuss (um, and the food.) I graduated in 2007 with BA’s in political science and history. I got a job as a paralegal, took my lsat and thought I was going to law school. It’s 2011 and I’m still a paralegal. I’m applying to law school and I still have no idea if I even like this line of work. I’m terrified of wasting time and money or ultimately hating my future job as an attorney. I keep thinking “I’ll learn to love it.” I’m paralyzed with indecision and so confused about my future. I came home from work one day last week and just laid on the couch and cried “I’m a failure” over and over again. Then I look at the other areas of my life…I’m running Boston in 2 1/2 months. I ran 2 marathons last fall and both were BQ’s. I volunteer with an awesome organization, have a loving boyfriend, and have a wonderful group of friends. I feel like for the past 3 years I’ve given up on my liking my job and learned to make the most of my weekend. Going to law school is necessary to get a bigger paycheck, but I do have the nagging feeling that “this might not be right for me.” I guess I’m still trying to figure out my identity, but this post let me know I’m not alone, nor am I a failure for not having it all figured out.


Kasey @ thisbodyismyhome February 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I keep coming back to this post. I’m finishing up my BAH at Queen’s in the next couple weeks and haven’t got a clue what I’m going to do. The one thing I’ve decided though, is I’m going to make the decision for me and not based on what other people want to see me do.


Nicole February 10, 2011 at 1:48 am

I am so happy that I just stumbled upon this post! I am graduating in May with a degree in the mental health field and I was supposed to be applying to grad schools for the fall. But it just doesn’t feel right to me at this time. Except I feel like I’m going to put myself behind if I just hold off on my education. Plus, I’ve already told people that I’m applying and have even asked for letters of rec to be sent off! It feels like a stressful catch 22 and I don’t feel like anyone around me gets it. It felt really peaceful to hear it from someone else that hello just because you turn an age or get a piece of paper (degree) that you magically get it all figured out. Because those things don’t mean I have it all figured out and I need to be OK with that.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: