Sibongile Mafu

I’m qualified. Now what?

2013-01-24 07:50

It's pretty much the best day of your life. You've worked for it for a number of years. Others have taken the more scenic route, but they get there. You’ve taken student loan after student loan and you are certain that once you graduate, a shiny job opportunity will be waiting on the other side. This is your graduation day.

The world is your oyster, right?

You're nervous and excited for what the future holds for you. You feel as though you have done everything you can to prepare for the working world, or at least everything you believe you could do, and now the tedious task of job hunting begins. You're proud of the institution you went, you're proud of the degree you have, and you're fairly happy that the path you choose and the job you find will make you happy. Everything is on track.

I remember the day I graduated. I knew the world was open for me. That's how universities sell themselves. Graduates get rewarded at the end of it all, right? You slaved away at it, dodging every obstacle that was thrown your way and the world should happily accommodate you in the next phase of life.

I still believe that there's something about graduation day that makes graduates particularly, incredibly optimistic about entering the working world. How is it then that we have thousands of highly qualified people, sitting at home, not working? Are people studying in the wrong fields? Have people chosen the line of work that will make them employable? Are there just too many people following their passion and not enough plugging the gaps?

That trade-off

I've read enough motivational books and seen enough of Oprah to know that the first step is to always do what you love and "follow your passion". That is perhaps a luxury that the considerable percentage of unemployed people in this country cannot afford to pursue. Families need to be looked after, bills need to be paid, life needs to happen and unfortunately, it often doesn't allow for you do that.

Perhaps career guidance now is about telling our children about the kinds of degrees and training that will make them employable and those that will maybe give them an adequate amount of happiness. I've always been fascinated by the trade-off that many people make. The desire to be stable and "okay" is perhaps greater than the desire to be happy, or the desire to pursue what makes you happy. And being able to do what you want to do, will take a little more time and energy than doing what will guarantee you a job.

Go for it

There are those fortunate and privileged people who can merge these two things. A lot needs to happen for you to be able to be comfortable and allow what you love, what you studied as well as what will make you happy work for you. This usually has to do with the resources and support available to you in order to have these options, something that many people just do not have.

There is a point where I think frustration does reach a level where doing what will feed and clothe you is no longer sustainable. Or maybe being an adult is just being able to do the same thing every day, really well, even if you don’t love it. But I would like to believe, more often than not, people do eventually decide to go for they want to do.

Mr Maslow from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (drilled into every student that all around the world) would have something to say about that. You can only really begin the self-fulfilment path on a full stomach.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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