If you are nearing the end of your degree, few questions are more annoying or nerve-wracking than “What are your plans after graduation?”. However, with a bit of preparation, you can offer a swift response, regardless of whether you have any plans or not (yet).
- Why “What are your plans after graduation?” is such a daunting question
- Why you should prepare an answer to “What are your plans after graduation?”
- Answers if you don’t know what you want to do after graduation
- Answers if you don’t have any concrete plans for after graduation
- Answers if you do have plans for after graduation but don’t want to talk about it
Why “What are your plans after graduation?” is such a daunting question
Finishing a degree, regardless at what level, is hard work and time-consuming. If you find yourself in this position, the expectation to finish a degree and simultaneously figure out some of life’s biggest questions can be stressful.
The question “What are your plans after graduation?” triggers or increases stress, because it asks for certainty in an extremely uncertain time.
Many people who graduate will experience an unprecedented amount of change: Soon, they will close one chapter of their lives. Their daily activities will likely change considerably. Job applications are nerve-wracking, and many will move away from a familiar environment. On top of that, financial insecurities are common at this stage.
(So if you are curious about someone’s plans after graduation, ask this instead: “How are you managing to finish your degree, and is there anything I can do to help?” Soon-to-be graduates will start the conversation about their plan if they want to talk about it. If not, be kind and supportive, and don’t push them to reveal anything they may be uncomfortable with.)
Why you should prepare an answer to “What are your plans after graduation?”
If you are one of the lucky ones who have everything figured out before graduation: congratulations! If not, just know that this is completely normal and that you are not alone.
Regardless of your situation, you may want to have a snappy answer up your sleeve in the (almost inevitable case) someone asks you about your plans after graduation.
The best answers to “What are your plans after graduation?” are prepared in advance. Preparation allows you to consciously share an amount of information that you are comfortable with. Know that you are under no obligation to share your (lack of) plans after graduation with anyone.
Preparing an answer in advance will allow you to stay composed and in control. Furthermore, it will be easier for you to end the conversation if you are not up for it.
If you feel confused and anxious about your life after graduation, starting to ramble and trying to come up with a good answer on the spot will make you feel worse. Therefore, the following answer options and examples can help you to develop your perfect personal response!
Answers if you don’t know what you want to do after graduation
Many soon-to-be-graduates do not know what they want to do after graduation, or they have a rough idea but no concrete plans set in motion. This is absolutely fine, and if you are one of them, you will find your way!
That said, if you have no idea what to do after graduation, the question “What are your plans after graduation?” can feel like a punch in the gut. However, you have several answer options at your disposal.
Keep it vague
If you don’t want to get into a lengthy conversation, one of the best strategies is to keep your answer vague. Furthermore, actively try and shift the conversation away from the topic.
|I could imagine working in tech and am keeping my eyes open for traineeships. By the way, how was your trip to Washington last weekend?
Honesty can be a good way forward, too! Many people may remember how they felt when they graduated. So you may be surprised by the support and lack of judgement in case you open up.
|I am not sure yet. I am working very hard to complete my thesis right now, so I do not have any time to figure out a concrete plan. To be honest, I find this whole situation kind of overwhelming. So for now, I focus on finishing my degree. I will figure out the rest after graduation.
Shift the conversation to your interests
Another way to answer is by displaying confidence, which conveys that it is okay that you don’t know what you will do yet. (Which is okay.) If you don’t make the impression that it is a problem, others will likely also not consider it a problem.
|I am very interested in marine biology and like both academic and practice-oriented research. There are many opportunities in this field, so I will look for a position that fits my interests as much as possible.
Talk about one option you may consider
When people ask about your plans after graduation, they look for facts and details. Especially if they are not familiar with your studies or discipline, they can have a hard time imagining the types of jobs you could do. One way to give them something concrete is to simply talk about one option that you may consider.
|Many graduates from my programme work in the non-profit sector, as it is a good match to apply the knowledge from the degree. I worked with young people before, and really enjoyed it. So I could imagine working for a non-profit organisation, potentially focusing on teenagers.
Answers if you don’t have any concrete plans for after graduation
Many graduates have a rough idea of what they want to do after graduation. A postgraduate degree in particular is often started with a vision or career objective in mind. Putting this vision into reality, however, is a different story.
Sometimes, there is simply no time to apply for jobs while finishing a degree. Other times, many paths can lead to a certain career, and you haven’t selected one yet. Or maybe there were already some rejections from a ‘dream job’, and you have no interest in sharing this with the person who asks about your plans after graduation.
Explain different possibilities
A good way to answer “What are your plans after graduation?” is to explain the different possibilities that you have once you complete your degree. This satisfies the curiosity of the person who asked the question, while also protecting your process of figuring things out.
|My degree gives me a skillset that is useful for many jobs. For instance, I could start to work in government, and particularly focus on public budgeting. My finance background also opens doors to work in large businesses and I have come across several suitable starting positions at multinational companies. What I also find quite fascinating is working for a startup. So there are many possibilities that I am currently exploring.
Talk about your ambitions
Maybe you find it hard to think ahead for a year or two, but you have a clear vision of what you want to do in the far future. There may be many ways to get there. So why focus on the nitty-gritty right in front of you, if you can share your ambition instead?
|My ultimate aim is to work in family law, and handle my own cases. I just love the idea of arbitration and helping people through difficult cases. For instance in family disputes or when it comes to child custody cases.
Explain that you will figure it out once you graduate
When someone asks for your plans after graduation, it can also be a good occasion to pat yourself on the back. Share how hard you worked, and that you do deserve some time after graduation to figure out what to do next. Because you do deserve it.
|I’ve worked really hard in the last few years and hardly took any breaks. I don’t want to rush the decision of what to do next. Therefore I decided to first complete my degree, and then give myself some time to figure out a concrete plan.
Say that you want to keep your plans a secret until they are confirmed
If you are really not up for a lengthy conversation about your future plans, simply state that you do not want to share anything until it is confirmed. Don’t worry if you have actually no pending job applications or anything like that. This is a totally accepted ‘white lie’ to protect yourself.
|I am exploring several options, but I don’t want to share anything until it is official. I hope you understand.
Answers if you do have plans for after graduation but don’t want to talk about it
Even if you have concrete plans for after graduation, it can be annoying to be constantly asked what you will do. Especially if the people who ask are prone to judging your decisions, which can make you feel insecure. Therefore, it can be smart to set boundaries.
No one can force you to talk about anything you don’t want to. And at times it is better not to listen to others’ opinions about your future, but to just start with your chosen path after graduation.
Don’t reveal that you already made a decision
One way to avoid a lengthy conversation about your future plans is by not revealing your choice, and pretending that you are still considering your options. Again, this is an acceptable ‘white lie’ to protect yourself.
|I have some options lined up but I’d rather not talk about them until I make a final choice.
Tell the person to be patient
You can also decide to be mysterious, and leave the person asking about your future plans hanging. Once you start your new position or activity, people can obviously find out what you do. For instance, when you update your LinkedIn page. However, the conversations will be very different at this point: there is a smaller chance that people will question your choice. Instead, conversations will likely center around your new experiences .
|I received an offer but I did not sign the contract yet, so I cannot talk about it yet. So you need to be a bit patient. I will let you know once it is official.