|Two graduates ...|
First of all, unless you are returning to school at mid-life, you have been asked to peek into the future and decide your career path very early in life. Chances are good that over your lifetime you will have as many as three to five careers ... not jobs, but careers. That is the way of the world we live in today. As such, let me tell you now that if you are not in the career you expected to be in five to ten years from now, the career you have the brand new diploma for, you have NOT failed. Your education has NOT been a waste of time and effort. All of the study you put into that degree will stick with you (well, not all the details per se). That discipline you studied for will give you a useful lens through which to view an often confusing and chaotic life and make sense of the world. Celebrate that as not everyone has such an advantage. You will transfer your skills from one career to the next and that next career will be richer for the special knowledge you bring to it. I know as I am currently on my second career and the knowledge from the first has helped me write far more insightful books and articles than I could have without it.
Second, be a friend to yourself. Transitions from one career to another are often hellish experiences involving lots of uncertainty about the future. Let's face it, we hate change. Yet one of life's great constants is ... life ALWAYS changes. When you are in that period, make sure you are a friend to yourself. Do not let that small, mean inner voice beat you up and tear you down. Reflect upon what that voice is telling you and ask yourself if you would treat a friend or family member in such a demeaning way (if so, PLEASE get psychological counseling right now because that just isn't healthy). No, you wouldn't. So stop treating yourself that way. Remember, three to five careers is the norm!
Third and final point: somewhere down the road your university's current department head may give you a call and ask you if you are still in the career you studied for. If not, and that person is so tactless as to say something like "Oh, then your degree was a waste, was it?" ... my advice to you is to give the smug, thoughtless SOB hell. I know I did ... and it felt great. That response comes from a university system geared to count success based on how many people have received public acclaim for the degrees they minted and want to use those accolades in their next ad campaign for new students. It really has nothing to do with you or the quality of the life that you lead.
Congratulations graduates. May your futures be bright and full of possibilities.