If you've graduated, here's Catch 22. You might have done everything right or wrong or half-way, but you won't know the results 'til later. By then you'll have your failure options open and a chance or two to screw up some more. About everybody's in the same boat in case you're worried. With a bit of luck you'll succeed in something or other.

It's not an overly pessimistic view according to both Joseph Heller and the better known, but ficticious Murphy of Murphy's Law. But they didn't invent the absurd. For all you non-English Majors, and some of those too who skipped classical allusions, you won't recall this 2500 year old Greek chestnut: "Call no man happy until he is dead." It's not the first citation of absurdity in human history, but you could Google back further and write a dissertation yourself if you're going nowhere on Punctuation in Middle English.

Sounds like a degree isn't much of a guarantee. Depends. Sure, Harvard beats Okiedokie Law School and even if you have no aptitude for law as a lawyer, it won't matter, except to your clients who'll never know that lousy lawyers graduate too from Harvard OMG. Always room for one more lawyer too. So there is a future at least in prestigious degrees and the Bar. Make that a Whisky Bar.

If you're in a serious quandary about what to do now, I beg your pardon. I've been there myself. Oddly I never got any good advice either. Of course good advice can be wrong, so luckily I didn't have to go through that. Bad advice was the big thing. It was everywhere.

The best bad advice I ever got at university was from three profs who independently agreed that there was no future in teaching as the competition was fierce, openings few, and even if you got in, tenure would probably be dangled forever like a carrot, leading you deeper and deeper into the infernal muck of extremely petty university politics on campus and the equally absurd descent into a meaningless social life at home, entertaining and toadying colleagues to death to score some points before you were dismissed for a trifle. Something downright Dickensian at best. They were right about a lot of moldy ivy colleges, but also very wrong to meddle in someone's future. What made it worse was they were all brilliant in their fields. Like Darwins telling you you had no future in Evolution.

So stick to your guns if you're still aiming for a teaching position or anything else of value to yourself. Ask around. Maybe you'll get some good advice. Not from people with a professional and sometimes secret egomania. They can do it. Nobody else can. Now with the economic meltdown, you'll probably hear the same thing from everybody. Don't waste your time trying to get a faculty position or a fellowship. Better odds with Powerball.

On the practical side you should have some passion and aptitude for your chosen field, beyond a high GPA. Here's where Oprah's Gut Feeling might make sense.

But most of you with your first degree are wondering what to do next, not sure you've landed in the right ballpark or in the right team. A BA or BSc doesn't open many doors. It opens personal ones at least, so there's always value in education even if no one else sees it.

Going on to a higher degree would seem best if you can. This I'd say is foolproof. You're bound to win as you've already got a minor degree in beating the system. Here too you might be able to change or refine your career focus. A complete change of direction is only for the brave. To go from Arts to Medicine via another Bachelor's Degree and wing it for another decade is OK if you're sure you're going to win the Nobel too.

But should you? If you're a nerd, get all the credentials you can. You'll need them. You might even grow out of this phase by working hard or at least convince everybody that you're some kind of genius. It could backfire if you go for multiple PhDs. Then the truth will probably come out, that you're a professional nerd. There's a nervous breakdown hazard too. A nerd space develops.

If you're happy-go-lucky and lucky to boot, there's not much you can't do if you've got some talent and ambition. In any field these are the people who make it. And they make it look easy. But if you want to be a rocket scientist you need a Master's at least. For an artist you can do just about anything as long as you produce. There are some rules.

If you're still not sure what you want to do, then play it safe and stay in school, but browse around and sit in on other classes you're curious about, until you hit something great. It's a U Turn that might work. If you're in a big rut it might be your school or the people you hang out with. Take a higher degree where you want to be, like trading the snowbelt for California.

Packing in education for awhile, to get a job or travel and get back in school later, is also better left to the brave.

Easy to get sidetracked if you can get a decent job by falling into the standard routine of making a living and going into more debt to make yourself comfortable, to reward yourself for working. Often a fatal career move, but if you're lucky you could discover something worth doing and do it. Here you'll be making it on your own. You're bound to get little encouragement and help if you're not so lucky. Your best chances are counting on the family fortune or the family spa business you can take over just in case. If not, you might wind up married with kids before you know it, and slaving away to make it work.

If you are working you'll be the junior and that means everybody will try to steal your ideas and get the credit for your work. Watch out for mentors who say they'll keep you under their wing. Nowadays they'll use you like the bosses you hate, but you won't know it 'til it's too late. Of course there are exceptions, but if you're not as astute as some writers of fiction, you'll be embarrassed at how gullible you can be.

Odds are if you leave school you're not going back, so think about it carefully. If it's too difficult to continue your education for financial or other reasons, then you could make something of your future if you're entrepreneurial or a budding impresario who can manage people and get them to work for themselves and you. Otherwise it's likely to be a 9-5 world.

Then there are those who are tired of school and want a break. See the world while they can. For dilettantes or artists, travel's a good way to find out where you stand. Others might fall in love with the Grape and go into viticulture. History comes alive when you travel and you could find that magic place and period that fills you with wonder. Architecture is best lived too in some fabled old city. If all you know is your own backyard you're likely not to have been exposed to much beyond a dry museum culture. The decaying beauty of Ancient Rome is still in Rome and could inspire you to be a conservationist, a restorer of antiquities, an antiques dealer or historian, maybe a romance novelist or why not an architect? Travel is about discovery.

The trick though about travel is if you save your money for that, you might not go if you have to work for it. Thousands in the bank. Should you go or spend it on an Alfa Romeo Spider? On an extreme makeover? If you want to breeze through Europe or check out some other fantasy for a few months it's expensive and exhausting. It's worth it in the end, but consider working abroad. In a lot of places you can teach English if you have a degree and the easy to get before you go TOEFL certificate. If you don't have these two, you'll be stuck on starvation wages tutoring and washing dishes.

So you've got options. Take one and investigate it first. Make a move when you get that gut feeling.

--Alan Gillis