For some people, the end of university is now approaching. With three-or-so months left, I would imagine there’s a lot of note-taking, dissertation planning, and caffeine-fuelled evenings going on.
A year ago, this was me.
I remember feeling quite stressed about life, focussing on getting myself organised enough to hit those approaching deadlines.
And, when the time came and I’d finally finished everything… I couldn’t quite believe it.
I had such a great time celebrating the end of lectures, essay writing, and Harvard bloody referencing that, for the most part, I was distracted from thinking about life after graduating.
Because, really, I hadn’t a clue what to expect.
Why? Cos no one really properly prepares you for it.
(Which is cool x)
So, there I was, with my friends, thinking, hey — we’ve just BOSSED uni and we’re about to land the best jobs ever RIGHT AWAY!
Okay, I wasn’t totally ignorant (I knew it was going to be tough), but I honestly wasn’t quite prepared for graduate life, which I speak about here.
So, to help those who are about to leave uni, or to raise awareness for those about to start — I thought I’d offer some advice…
1. It’s okay to feel a bit lost
Life as you know it will change. There’s no stopping it. Of course, this is bound to be a little unsettling. For me, I moved back home to Staffordshire to live with my parents and at first, it was okay.
But, after a few weeks, the weight of responsibility started to settle itself quite heavily on my shoulders. The days seemed to merge into one giant loop of job-searching, CV-building, and Netflix-watching. I’m not going to lie, it was boring.
Plus, all my friends had gone back home to what might as well have been the opposite side of the world, and I didn’t really know if I’d see them again, which saddening.
Now, this does all sound a bit doom and gloom, but I’m just giving you an idea of what my situation was like at the time.
I was in limbo.
I’d apply to multiple different jobs and not hear back from the majority of them, despite the hours of work I’d put into writing cover letters, filling out application forms, and rearranging my CV.
Throughout your whole educational life, you’re told that the WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER!!!!! and that you can do anything you wanted, achieve whatever you wanted. So, naturally, this is what you expect — to a certain degree. But, when you leave university, it doesn’t feel like this at all.
2. It might feel like you’re ‘back to square one’
‘Back to square one’ is a phrase that I used a lot to describe this time. It was as if I felt so overwhelmed by not knowing what to do next, that I thought I was starting right back at the beginning.
Which is so not true, by the way.
It can feel like you’re unprepared, but just look at what you’ve achieved over the past 3 or 4 years — you probably aren’t the same person as you were when you started uni.
So, focus on this: You have A DEGREE. You worked SO HARD. You learned SO MUCH.
You’re definitely not starting back at square one, no matter how much you may feel this way at first.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others
It is SO GODDAMN TEMPTING, but don’t.
Everyone tackles post-uni life differently. I reverted to panic-job-searching, while others take a more chilled approach, and some aren’t phased at all.
You may find that some walk straight out of uni and into a perfect job, but most of the time, that doesn’t happen.
You’re allowed to feel a little put-down by those who look like they have it all worked out (we’re all human, after all), but please do not worry excessively about where you’re at in life compared to someone else.
It’s just not worth it.
4. Keep going
Take a job at a restaurant. Say yes to working in retail. Go ahead and accept bar work — it’s okay.
In fact, it’s more than okay.
Fill your days up with something — this is what I failed to do.
I thought that if I took up a part-time job doing something I didn’t really want to, I’d get stuck in it.
The truth is, it’s better to take a position — any position — than nothing at all. Why? Because employers don’t want to see any gaps in employment on your CV.
I know, right? What are we — robots??
But, it’s just the way things are.
So, take my advice and just start doing something, even if it’s just to get some money in your pocket.
5. Get yourself out there (I know, scary)
Good things come to those who wait… NOPE!! Good things come to those who get off their arses and WORK FOR IT.
I had to learn that.
It’s terrifying at first, I totally get that. Plus, where do you even start if you haven’t got a clue what you want to do?
Well, I’d highly recommend getting yourself on LinkedIn (here’s my profile (hehe)). I connected with quite a few people who had jobs I thought sounded interesting.
It was a starting point.
I also searched for cool companies and interesting industries and requested to connect with directors, company owners, and employees. Some even accepted.
When you’re ready, send a direct message. Ask people how they got that awesome job, what advice they have, and what you can do to increase your chances. Some may not reply (don’t be put off), but you may get someone who does! Plus, what have you got to lose?
Because of getting out there and contacting people, I actually got an interview at a book publishing company.
So, it can work. It’s nerve-wracking, but it can work.
6. Where I’m at now
Nine months after finishing university, I’ve now landed a permanent job. And I really like it.
I actually ended up registering with a recruitment agency, who were really helpful. They would ring me up fairly often with jobs that had come up, asking if I was happy for them to send off my CV. To be honest, it took some of that weight off my shoulders.
As I said in this blog post, I wanted to move back to Cheltenham, where I went to university. And this recruitment agency helped me to get a temp job at a marketing agency in the area.
After five months of temping and wondering what the heck I was doing from one month to the next*, the marketing agency offered me a job as a Content Writer.
(*I’m not going to lie, this part was stressful, especially as I was also dealing with finding and moving into shared accommodation)
So, here I am, doing just that. It’s taken a good long while (and a lot longer than I thought it was going to take), but I have finally got a position I’m really happy in.
For some, it may take longer than nine months. For others, it may not.
And that is totally okay.
Remember, everyone has different paths (I know — vom — but it’s true).
There is no set time to achieve things by; as graduates, we’re no longer regulated by deadlines.
So, if graduation is coming up for you, please don’t put yourself under all this pressure. I realise this is easier said than done but, honestly, it will all work out.
And if it doesn’t EVER, EVER work out, and if you die at ninety-years-old, having NEVER had a job — still, in your final days, scrolling through Indeed.com, then perhaps ask Student Finance for your money back.
…You’ll be fine.