Essay: It is OK to continue searching for a career after graduation

I thought my career path would be sorted out by the time I became a senior in college, but I have just one semester left and still do not know what career path to pursue. That sounds daunting at first, but I have come to realize that the end of college does not need to be a deadline for finding a job I love.

I studied as an English major with a pre-medicine track when I came to GW, thinking I would head to graduate school afterward. But as I headed further into my studies, I struggled in some pre-med courses and was finally told by my adviser that I am not a good fit for medicine. Feeling directionless, I turned to friends and family to help me figure out how I should spend my time post-graduation.

Now, I plan to graduate college and spend one or two gap years preparing for the medical school admission test and gaining more hands-on experience in the field by shadowing physicians or working as a medical tech in a hospital. The time off is not what I originally anticipated, but I know these opportunities will help me better prepare for the career in medicine I have always wanted.

It is easy to feel nervous at the idea of being jobless after graduation, but I have realized that it is better to spend time navigating my interests than to dive into a path I may not be ready to pursue. I spent time volunteering at the GW Hospital and interning at health care advocacy and policy organizations, but I still felt that I lacked enough perspective to take on a job right away. Some of my peers who are currently in medical school pursued research, some worked in the hospital, some pursued teaching and others went to graduate school. Knowing my friends knew their post-graduate plans made me feel pressured to continue on the path I set at the beginning of college, but I know some time off will ultimately be more valuable for me.

It is OK to not know what you want to do immediately after college. The caveat is that you should be vigilant and diligent about finding a suitable passion. Use your time to find new opportunities instead of waiting for a job to come to you. Before the summer begins, I plan to publish a book about pediatric cancer patients and would like to participate in medical missions overseas to determine whether I really want to help others through medicine. It may not be what I originally wanted a few years ago, but taking on these opportunities could help me become more confident in where I want my life to go.

My church ministry leader once told me to “stick it out once you commit.” I realized that I lost confidence in my abilities after a bad grade or a discouraging comment and always thought about giving up. Rather than basing success on how fast it is achieved or on how many traditional steps are taken, I think success should be based on my own timeline. If more skills and certainty can be built with a gap year, then take a gap year. College is already a handful of growth and learning but post-graduate life is also another handful of experiences. I am still unsure about my future but I think that I will find answers with each small step I take. I might still be apprehensive, but I am excited to meet a new phase in life.

Jina Park, a senior majoring in English, is an opinions writer.

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