Embrace Uncertainty: Some Advice for Spring 2021 Graduates

As spring 2021 convocation nears you might be experiencing a mix of emotions. Here are some things you can do to manage them.

 

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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

In March 2020 I was scheduled to fly to Toronto for a case presentation, but on my way to the airport the event was cancelled because of the rising number of cases of COVID-19. I remember sitting in the taxi feeling flustered about the missed opportunity, but also relieved that I would have time to catch up on schoolwork and other commitments. A few days later, all events and in-person classes were cancelled and the effects on the pandemic on our everyday lives began to become apparent.

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My co-workers and I during my pharmacy internship

A year later, we’re still affected by the pandemic every single day and graduation might not look the way you expected. As spring 2021 convocation nears, you like me, might be experiencing a mix of emotions. Here are some things you can do to manage and make the most of these feelings:

Embrace uncertainty

Even in the pre-Covid era, graduating could seem like a daunting milestone. As we move on from our formal education and move into the workforce, we might feel like we’re not quite ready for the different stresses and expectations as an employee. However, having completed three full-time work placements since September, I have found that there’s a lot to gain, a lot to learn, and definitely a lot of opportunities ahead. Even though transitioning into the workforce might be uncomfortable at first, the learning curve is necessary to help us grow as professionals.

Regardless of what field you’re in or what your post-graduation plans are, take time to understand yourself, your goals, and purpose. Rather than focusing on what you can’t control, focus on the things that will be valuable regardless of what the job market looks like. For example, enhancing your professional and interpersonal skills (especially transferable skills), may set you up for success in the job market down the road.

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You can make a difference

As a student, sometimes I question whether I can make sustainable and meaningful change in my community. Because my commitments are so diverse, I sometimes feel like the effect I have on the wider community is small. For example, when I showed up at my hospital placement I was introduced as “just a student.” The “just” comment certainly diminished a lot of my confidence when interacting with a patient or communicating with another professional. However, after a lot of self-affirmation and experiences where I intervened to improve a patient’s care or prevent a serious health condition, I now understand that regardless of our roles as an “entry-level” or “student intern” there is an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to our communities.

Don’t be afraid to do what’s needed and speak up for yourself. As I transition into the workforce, I’ve noticed that many students are timid when it comes to asking for what they want. We’re used to the status quo and miss out on opportunities to be effective because of our predetermined titles. Give yourself the affirmation that your work will affect others, even if it feels like it does not.

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Rethink traditional work

Industries were experiencing drastic transformations even before the pandemic. The pandemic simply hastened the rate of change of digital adoption, and has highlighted some problems that existed in traditional industries. Industries that didn’t need to change or adapt now have to transform at a rapid pace. For example, it’s beneficial more than ever for traditional retailers to offer a robust ecommerce platform. Work during and after the pandemic may look very different for graduates. Instead of full-time employee status in an office, students might opt for flexible, remote contract work instead, or even part-time office work supplemented by freelance work at home. The pandemic has shown employers and employees that full-time remote work is possible, so it might be time for employers to adapt to a new reality.

Be realistic about the job market. The job you thought you were going to get might look a little different during the pandemic or in a post-pandemic world. As traditional work evolves, it may be very normal to have multiple part-time positions that can be just as rewarding and important for your professional development. The key is to take each position seriously and learn from your professional work just as you would from school.

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Be open to change

In light of the pandemic, many students have delayed co-op work terms, taken time off school, adapted to new routines, and changed their expected graduation dates. I’m here to say that this is normal and internal or external pressures to do things differently are not necessarily the right decision for you. Follow your intuition and plan ahead, but it’s okay to change your plans and accept the barriers that come with graduating during the pandemic. One thing that has helped me in the past is to always have an alternative option available. Even if you think that you have an internship lined up after graduation, things may change in a short span of time. If possible, have a second idea available in case the first option falls through.

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