The 13th July signified that two whole years had passed since I crossed the stage at my graduation ceremony from Nottingham University, and it got me thinking about the things I’ve learnt during that time.
If you’d have asked me two years ago what I’d be doing with my life right now, I think my answer would have been far, far different from what the reality is. I had different dreams and different plans, and I’m pretty sure I said I would be travelling America by now.
There are so many things that I wish I’d have known back then that I know now, it might have helped the transition into adult life that bit easier for me. Never the less, here are some of the key things I’ve learnt during the last two years. Hopefully, if anyone reading this is experiencing the same kind of feelings, they might help you realise that you’re definitely not the only one who feels lost and confused in post-university life.
1) Unless you’ve done an incredibly specific degree, your first job won’t be your dream job
Sadly not everyone knows what they want to do when they pick their degree subject. Hell, I didn’t even know what I wanted to do as a career when I picked my GCSEs, let alone something that I was paying £9k a year to study. Some people are lucky, they know they want to be a nurse or a doctor or an architect, and they have their whole life planned out for them as soon as they leave university. Others aren’t so lucky.
I never really expected to wind up working in marketing. I mean, all my education was leading up to that career path, but deep down part of me longed to be working on a TV set or writing away to my heart’s content and somehow making money out of it. I’m just lucky that my degree gave me enough transferable skills that, when it came to packing in my part-time retail position, I was able to hit the ground running in an industry I was somewhat interested in.
Do I want to stay in marketing forever? Who knows. Eventually, I would like to make the most of my degree and be able to spend my time working on improving the Film and Television industry, whether that be through marketing, through production, or through commentary and reviews, but I know that this is always something that can also be a side-project should I chose to stay in my current career path.
It’s important to not be discouraged if your first job isn’t your ideal job – the most important thing is accepting that if you do hate it then it’s not the end of the world. You’re still young and there’s still time for you to find your place in the world.
2) Everyone feels just as lost as you do
For a long time, I thought I was the only one out of all my other graduate friends who felt lost and confused and wasn’t really sure where they were heading with anything in life.
Boy, I was wrong.
In reality, I think I can list the people who are content with their graduate life on one hand (and no they’re not all people who had a prescribed career path thanks to their degree). I know more people who have dipped their toes in multiple projects already, and we’re only two years post graduation.
I have a friend who actively trained to be a teacher and has already decided it is not for her. I have a friend who moved all the way to London for a job that she’s not even sure is worth the hassle. I know people watching their friends live out these amazing lives and wishing they could do the same. We all feel as lost as each other and that’s ok. Even the people who seem like they’ve got everything worked are probably feeling just as confused as you are.
3) You may think you’ve cracked budgeting while living off your student loan, but you haven’t
I thought I’d definitely got this budgeting thing cracked. I’d managed to support myself with less than what I was earning per month at university, so I definitely would be able to put so much money aside for my savings as soon as I started getting a regular monthly income, right?
I had all the best intentions when my first pay check came in – but I somehow still find myself living paycheck to paycheck. Being at home means as long as I pay board, I don’t need to pay for food and gas and water, but especially since starting working as a Marketing Executive, I have less money than ever before.
The downside to having more money entering your account each month is that the temptation to spend it is also there. Clothes I’ve been eyeing up for weeks are no longer being pitted against a fortnights grocery shopping, instead, I can buy them without feeling guilty or having to sacrifice something basic for a couple of weeks to make up the difference. The only difference is that my outgoings are increasing quicker than my salary is – £30 for petrol here, £20 towards my phone contract there, it all adds up!
The only difference is that my outgoings are increasing quicker than my salary is – £30 for petrol here, £20 towards my phone contract there, it all adds up! Buying a car has been the biggest change to my financial planning, purely because I have to use it for work purposes as well as personal. Once you consider road tax, insurance and petrol, it ends up costing a fortune!
I am getting better at budgeting and I have managed to book a last minute holiday to Stockholm, but I’m convinced that actually sticking to financial planning takes a lot longer than three years at university! Slowly but surely, I bet I’ll find my method of managing my finances and I won’t still feel guilty if I do splash out on something a little more than I would have in the past. That’s part of the learning curve of adult life.
4) Balance between a social life and a working life is hard to establish, but amazing once you do
I know exactly what it is like finding the balance between showing your dedication to your job and still maintaining some form of social life. For the first year of working in Marketing, I felt like it was one or the other. I felt like I was expected to work all hours and forsake any form of social life, or have an active social life and come across like I was lazy.
It takes time, but it is possible to get the balance between the two. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to work unpaid overtime to show that we’re dedicated to a position in an industry, and we’d be able to rock up at 8:55 am and clock out at 5:00pm without any raised eyebrows.
I feel that my generations problem is that, because we’re working in an ‘always on’ world, we’re supposed to take the same approach to employment if we want to show our dedication. No one wants to be labelled as a lazy millenial after all, or come across like we are entitled, and as a result, we work ten times as hard for half of the glory. But this can’t be the only thing you use to determine your worth.
The best thing I did for myself was accepting that sometimes you’ve got to put in that extra bit of effort and time to gain the recognition that you are trying, but you can’t let it be the only thing you do. Things as little as offering to stay late to help a colleague with a presentation that you’ve not even been involved in, or offering to help out on some jobs if another colleague is absolutely stacked, can leave as much an impression as getting in early and staying late every day. It’s all about finding that balance.
5) Social media is your best friend and your worst enemy
Social Media is both a blessing and a curse leaving university. It’s great because you can check up on your friends pretty much wherever and whenever you want to.
For the exact same reason, it can be a nightmare. If like me, you had a few friends who spent their post-graduation months travelling the world and embarking on exciting adventures, you can begin to feel pretty inadequate. Course-friends who have stumbled into a dream job in London can make you feel like you’re not living your life to the fullest potential, or that you’re wasting your final years of being young.
But, at the end of the day, you’re not. I firmly believe that you’re only as young as you feel and it’s easy to get sucked into the trick of comparing your life to others. It is always important to remember that, whatever the situation you find yourself in currently, that it is the right thing for you to be doing for yourself. If you can’t afford to travel right now, that’s fine – save up and go on some nice holidays when you’re older, because I promise you Thailand and Australia aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. If you’re stuck living with your parents because you can’t move out, just remember how much money you’ll be saving because of that. There’s always a silver lining, no matter how much you might feel like you’re not doing as well as everyone else.
However, I would say that Social Media has made my life so much easier than harder. I’m so bad at staying in touch via text. Chances are if someone sends me a message I will either forget about it or read it and tell myself to reply and talk myself out of it. I get really anxious maintaining conversations over text, so sometimes it is so much easier for me to just open Facebook or Instagram and check up on people that way. As long as they’re sharing content and seem happy, that’s enough for me on some days.
Graduate life is scary and uncertain, and I know that it’s easy to feel completely out of your depth. I know that I did. Just because two years have passed and I’m writing this blog does not mean that I have everything figured out at all. I still overthink every text message I send and I still doubt my own judgement on a lot of things – but doesn’t everyone?
I don’t think you ever really come to terms with being a graduate, do you?