Start your new chapter in life

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This is it. You have completed your A-Levels or diploma programme. Are you ready to embark on your next phase of life?

As your family members start asking “What’s next?”, you might feel lost because you aren’t sure either. Whichever step you decide to take next, it feels scary knowing that your decision is going to affect your career, financial stability and future. 

As American game developer Ken Levine said: “We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.” 

Before you decide what to do, here are some things to consider first.

HEAD BACK TO SCHOOL

Don’t just go with the flow

Everyone, especially parents, loves reports of school rankings and accreditations. There are also popular degree courses that your friends are keen on. But don’t make your decision based on what others want.

Assess your options and be certain of what you want out of an undergraduate study. Then, you can make an informed decision about what, where and how you are going to pursue your preferred degree.

Find out what you enjoy doing

Not all passions match the realities of the job market. The hard truth is, if you’re passionate about things like pottery, you might find limited career opportunities in these areas. 

Though it’s everyone’s dream to be able to turn their passion into a career, it’s also important to check if the degree you want to pursue is in demand by employers. 

It’s risky to plunge into a career with very low demand, or one with a large number of competitors.

Do your research
There are other degrees besides business, law and medicine. How about industries that most people overlook, such as human resource or tourism?

Explore your options and visit open houses to find out about other possible degrees and careers. While you’re there, you can also form your own impression of the institution to see if it’s a good fit for you. Some things to look out for include campus environment, location, length of study, costs and prospects after graduation.

DIVE INTO THE INDUSTRY

Gain experience

Internships are a great way to try out an industry that you haven’t had the chance to explore before. It will give you first-hand experience of what the job entails. 

Having prior working experience will also look good on your resume and give you an edge over your peers. What’s more, not only are you bulking up your portfolio, you are also building up funds for your future studies. 

Start on your career first

With their diploma, polytechnic graduates can get a head start in their career, among other benefits. You’ll have work experience and time to figure out what you want in your career. This allows you to hone your skills early and work your way up. 

If you still feel the need to further develop your skills and knowledge after working for a few years, you can go back to school full-time or part-time.

Work full-time, study part-time

Having a full-time job and taking up a part-time degree course are ways to gain experience while pursuing your studies. Doing so will also enable you to gain theoretical knowledge, apply what you learn in school and work, and scale the career ladder concurrently. 

Many institutions offer students pursuing part-time degree programmes the flexibility to plan their study schedules. They may also offer online courses and weekend classes.

GO ON A JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY

See the world 

Travelling is like a crash course on life. It can be a transformational experience when you get to explore the world, learn about new cultures and develop your independence. 

It’s one of the best ways to discover what you want, what you hope to achieve, and what kind of person you want to be — all of which help when it comes to choosing a university course, and ultimately a career.

Take the time to see the world and expand your views before you start to worry about the future.

Be a Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to change your perspective on life, especially if you haven’t had many chances to take on voluntary projects in the past. The options are endless. You could go on an overseas expedition to teach children English, help build a school in a third-world country, or volunteer at your local animal shelter. 

Whatever volunteer work you choose to take, helping people or causes you care about builds your character and soft skills — and it’ll look good on your resume.

Take short courses

This is a good time to finally pick up a foreign language, baking skills or even coding knowledge that you’ve always wanted to. 

Whatever your interests might be, taking a gap year can give you time to learn new things and develop passions you haven’t had time for before. Best of all, it’s not graded, so learning is stress-free compared to your regular classes.

This article is published in the Sept 2017 issue of The First Degree, a publication of TODAY, Mediacorp Press.

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