Illustration by Joanne Sally Mero

Do not be afraid to take time off after college

By Shani Berenholz

As a graduating senior, I am very familiar with the question “What are your plans after you graduate?” However, my answer has started to raise a few eyebrows. The truth is, I do not want a job after college.

It feels like the normal consensus among college students is that you immediately have to use your degree and get a full-time job, which inevitably leads to a lot of twentysomethings having full-blown panic attacks about their future. It is a lot of pressure and it can feel like there is a lot on the line. There is a social expectation that if you do not immediately have a job then you will not be successful. In addition to that, there is still the stress of our parents trying to tell us what to do with our lives. However, it is important to realize that this path is not the only option and is also not always the right option.

I have recently come to realize that, like the majority of students at Lewis & Clark, I have been in school my whole life. In a lot of ways this has made my life comfortable and stable. School is easy because everything is set out for you. I have not had to face the burden of having to make major decisions about my future. Not being forced to ask myself the hard questions of what I want to do with my life, what I like or what I want to do next has left me feeling unprepared for the “real world.”

My main reason for not wanting a full-time job after college is that I want to give myself the opportunity to explore and think more about what I want to be doing with my time right now. After school, there is a window where I do not have any obligations other than to myself and I want to use that time to actually be selfish: to learn more about what I like and want, and also to learn more about the world.

In taking a full-time job after school, you risk getting caught in a series of short-term gains and then realizing you are not actually doing something that is important to you or your career.

Of course, not everyone has the freedom to not work. There are obligations such as student loans and an overall state of being in debt hovering over us like the black plague hovering over us like the black plague. I am no exception to this. However, I think that even taking a little time off, even just the summer, will not derail my —  or anyone’s — whole life financially. Taking the time to not have a high paying job will probably mean moving back in with my parents, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

Another concern that came across my mind when contemplating this unorthodox choice is the fear that having a gap in my resume will make me unemployable in the future. With the job market being so competitive, not having that initial job after school could make me look less appealing to some businesses. However, taking time off does not mean that I will be doing nothing. In fact, it is a time where I will have the energy to work harder and crazier than ever. It might mean taking on multiple part-time opportunities, internships, volunteer work, classes, travel and so on, all of which could benefit me in a future position. The extra experiences could give an edge to my resume and there is always an opportunity to explain the gap during interviews with employers.

Most of us do not have an exact path in mind, but it is important to have an understanding that our future is our own choice. Not having a full-time job after school can lead to further learning opportunities that college did not teach us. It can seem daunting not having an exact plan or job, but students should not be afraid to take a step back and re-evaluate the free window after graduation.

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