Author: James Middleton

In this post, I’m keen to provide a bit more meat to the dilemma that many graduates face around whether to study further or take a full-time post, and so will be telling the story of a graduate that we have just been involved with. Interestingly, she faced this exact question of whether to study or work.

The dilemma

To set the scene, this graduate is a very talented young lady that joined us as part of an internship. Internships work wonderfully for both parties because we get a few extra hands on deck and she gets some incredibly valuable experience in the “real world”. The complication arose when we decided that she is very talented, a very good culture fit and would be incredibly useful to have around full-time. At the same moment though, she was offered a good amount of money to further her studies. Here she was with a good job offer (in her own words, an opportunity to “adult”), but also with the chance to further her studies and live the student dream for one more year! Now, before I enthral you with the details, let me just say that while this type of situation sends many graduates into a spin, the logical way to interpret it is positively as opposed to being stressed out. It is a good thing to have options, as many people in our country don’t have anything, let alone a choice. Anyway… I digress.

The unfolding…

So… how did the events unfold, and more importantly, why did they unfold the way they did?

The first thing that we advised her to think about when it comes to making a decision between studying further or working, is what she really wants to do? If she is bored of university, over exams, sick of all the free time and generally looking to do something that goes “out there into the real world”, then work is definitely the correct option. However, there’s no shame in wanting to keep your free time, shy away from work responsibility (at least for another year) and stay with all your friends that are continuing to study. The most important thing is to just be honest with yourself and admit which of the two sounds more appealing to where you are right now.

In my opinion, that “gut feel” is most important factor and only then should all the other variables be included. For example, are you comfortable delaying earning a salary for another year? Or, to mirror her situation, are you comfortable letting go of a bursary to study further? Do you love the people that you’re currently working with (or the people you would be working with if you got the job)? Do you still desperately want to learn more about your field? Are you likely to get the job that you want were you to apply? Are most of your friends continuing with their studies (and how does this make you feel)? Would studying further actually better prepare you for work? These are all the practical, peripheral variables that need to be taken into account, but won’t necessarily carry as much weight as the gut feel I wrote about earlier. Together, these will either confirm the gut feel that you have or overpower it in a way that allows you to feel comfortable about going the other direction.

The area of study

As a disclaimer, I will say that an important variable is your field of knowledge or what you have studied. If you are going the route of a professional (i.e. lawyer, doctor, accountant etc), then a more advanced qualification has more clout (and is often legally required) than if you are going into a more “creative” arena (e.g. graphic designer, videographer, copy writer, animator etc). It may be my personal preference, but I would much rather hire a young creative that has a professional portfolio, carries a few project battle scars and has worked in the real world than a creative that has spent extra years learning about the theory underpinning their particular field. I would assume that the former would be more rough and ready, less idealistic and ultimately more willing to get dirty and get things done. From a work point of view, the former is better suited to making stuff happen, knowing what to do and how to do it in the work context while the other would need more investment and training. I’m not saying that studying a creative craft further is wrong, but it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to work like some good, old-fashioned experience does.

So in conclusion, like most things, there is no hard and fast rule about studying further and getting work experience. The situation is always unique and I would say trusting your gut and being honest with yourself about what you really want is most important. Don’t lie to yourself about what you want… You’ll only be upset when you get it and admit you don’t want it. And for interest’s sake, the talented young lady ended up coming on full-time with us. She enjoys the culture, is acquiring new skills rapidly and was also ready to leave university. I am happy to have her!

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