Saturday, 20 July 2013

Thoughts On A Year After Graduation

I graduated a year and a day ago.

This time last year, I was pottering around in Cardiff the day after my graduation, laughing at my hungover friend J and discussing the future with the lovely L- how quickly the past three years had gone, how strange it was that we were all moving on, how we may never live together again, and where we saw ourselves in the future.

In case you can't tell, I'm the one in the stripy dress
My friends think that I've done incredibly well in the past year. I walked straight out of university into a well-paid summer job in an office. From this, I move straight into a good role within a very large national organisation. And when my contract was due to expire with no potential for extension, I moved straight into my current position. And this contract has just been extended, which is wonderful news and an enormous relief, and I had a really positive appraisal yesterday.

On paper, I admit it sounds successful. I've never been unemployed. I have a job guaranteed until January 2015 if I would like it. I have some absolutely brilliant experience to put on my CV, and great references to call upon if and when I decide to move on.

In other ways though, I really don't feel very successful. I don't think I'm where I thought I would be this time last year. I think I  thought that a year after graduating, I would know exactly what I wanted to do, and would be working towards getting there. Instead, I'm working in a job that I am comfortable in, but perhaps not passionate about.  
I'm still living at home, and I don't have any concrete plans to move out. I looked on this cool tool on the BBC the other day, and worked out that I would be no better off renting in the town I work in that I am living at home and commuting. I don't want to be at home. I'd love to be independent again, but it just isn't happening right now.

Roath Park, Cardiff

Then I look at my younger brother, who finished university two months ago, who is in a fantastic job in the field in which he studied, who is living in a beautiful home with his girlfriend of six years, and I am so proud of him. But in comparison, I do not feel successful. I feel like a failure. I'm nowhere near this.

Leaving university is terrifying. Yes, it's exciting to not have to study any more, to join the "real world", to be a proper fully-certified adult. But it's also the first time in your life that you do not have a logical "next step"- you could do anything. And if you have no idea, this is the single scariest thing in the world. 

I'm starting to gain more of an idea about what I want to do, but I am still a very long way away from achieving it. Whenever anyone asks what I want to work as as a "career", I flippantly paraphrase Ryan from The OC, answering that I'm likely to have to work until I'm 75, so I don't want to rush into any decisions- which normally makes people laugh and changes the subject. 

So to all of you who are graduating now- huge congratulations. Welcome to the rest of your life- The Real World is exciting, and exhilarating, and terribly frightening, and involves bills and taxes. I hope to god that you are better off than I am in a year's time- because feeling lost a year after you felt so found and grounded and like you could achieve anything isn't the most fun in the world.

And for those of you who are about to start or return to university- the biggest piece of advice I would give you is to think now about what you want to do. Use your summer breaks wisely- you have the rest of your life to go to Full Moon parties, and watch sunrises in Australia, and road trip across America. You only have three years to gain experience when you're getting "free" money. Obviously, enjoy it too- but really try to be sensible about this. 

If you've recently graduated, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this?


  1. I just graduated this Wednesday and am already missing uni! I'm getting married and moving abroad next spring so it feels like I have my "next step" but I don't have a clue what I want to do career-wise. I'm currently working part time to pay my post-uni bills and living back at home after 3 years of independence. The sad thing that I've found is that with a humanities degree, you just can't get paid internships/experience and people won't hire you without that experience. Thankfully I worked for nothing in my uni summers but that's just not an option any more. It's also scary knowing that your former fellow students are now your rivals in the big scary world of work and with 80-100 people applying for every single place, it's just so disheartening.

    But I definitely wouldn't see you as a failure. You've achieved things that many graduates would love to have in terms of stable employment in your first year out of uni. That's a success to me! I also like to think that even if you're working in a sector that you never intended to be in, it's all great experience and can give you contacts and references for when the time comes, or help you discover something you love that you never even knew about. I try not to think it terms of huge life plans any more because they've never worked out exactly as I thought but were always better. I'm sure the same will happen for you.

    Congrats on a year of employment!!
    Holly xx

  2. You're definately not a failure - just getting a job, any job that's fairly secure after university is a huge achievement. I work at a university with Masters students and so many of them are unemployed after graduating, there's just too many people going for too few jobs.

    And you shouldn't worry about not knowing what to do. I graduated 9 years ago with a degree I kind of enjoyed (tourism) but after I'd left, I realised that it was nothing to do with what I actually wanted to be - a librarian! I've had lots of work in libraries but it's only now, 9 years on that I'm actually studying (a Masters degree) for the career I want! :-) x

  3. Just having a job is so great at the moment. I am like you, I am back living with my parents and it is like moving backwards. Previously I was living with my boyfriend now I am back in the world of "no, Emma! You can't have your dinner on your lap" and "Where's the cat? Probably suffocating in Emma's dirty washing pile". It's just life. I am saving up and I will get my own place. I guess I am lucky because my sister is older than me and is moving out in a month, for the first time ever, so there is no stress for me to leave. Except the stress of my own making. I want to leave and be independent. Then again, I too work for an international company- what if they offered me a chance to live where their base is? How could I say no to Canada, I am young, have zero responsibilities, no kids, no house to pay for, why not leave opportunities open!? Goes back to your baby post I guess.

    Can we be friends in the real world? I think we are freakishly similar?

    Also, your graduation pictures are lovely!! You got a hat, and for that I am jealous.. 1, because of your lovely face and 2, you got a graduation hat.

    Em xx

  4. College is a little different in America - we have 4 years, and graduate in May (and I'm sure the differences don't stop there, but I know very little to nothing about University in the UK).
    But I imagine the feeling if being finished is much the same. I have one year left, and I'm so terrified already because I have NO idea what I'll do when I'm done.
    You have a good start though - you have a job, now you just have to find the career you want - which I think might be one of the hardest parts for all of us. Good luck!

    This was a wonderful post
    <3 Kiersten

  5. Take this time lovely to really think about what you want to do in life. I rushed into doing a PGCE, spent two years of my life hating what I was doing and crying most nights about where my future was heading. The best thing I did, although it meant I was broke, an official bum and scrounging off my mum, was to jack it all in and start again. I spent 8 months unemployed and volunteering here there and everywhere. Now I'm in a job, in a sector that I love. I still don't feel like I'm doing my ideal job. In a perfect world I'd live near the sea, running my own tea room. I'm at the dreamer stage now. But at least I'm doing a job that makes me feel good, I feel like I'm appreciated and making a massive contribution to the world. And for now, that will do nicely. Use this time wisely Miss Alice.

    Jenny | sunny sweet pea xx

  6. I just graduated recently, so I completely understand the feeling of figuring it all out. I am lucky to have found a wonderful job in a career that I love. However, that doesn't mean that I am in a perfect place in life. I am living with my parents as well to save money. I think that most important thing I have realized and embraced would be that there will always be a way for me to move forward in life. I used to wish those things to happen right at that moment, but the truth is we have to celebrate where we are in life. You have accomplished an incredible amount of success and happiness in since graduation. Why not celebrate it? Now, where do you see life heading? Set those goals, and enjoy the journey to accomplishing them. I am more than convinced that at this point next year, you will be writing a blog about how far you have come in the second year of post-graduation. I wish you happiness in EVERYTHING that you do. Enjoy life!


  7. Hejhej, I just graduated last week, and yes I'm a little terrified, but most of all I'm trying to make myself realize that it's ok to take a little time to figure out what I actually want to do and not rush into something, just to have a job. Have you heard of the book "Business Model Me"? I found it a little helpful (it's supposed to help you figure out what to do in life), but I think it's of limited help before you've actually started working, but maybe you would find it interesting/helpful?
    I think one of the reasons so many people don't really know what to do after uni, is that uni is soooooo far away from the real world! I did a business degree, and it's all so theoretical! For example I hated HR because it was all about academic papers and not being allowed to have your own opinion if you hadn't found an academic who had already written about it, but in reality, I could potentially like it?
    I think it's just a very strange time for all of us, but I'm sure with a lot of hard work, we'll eventually find what we want to do! I think it's just important not to just settle for anything, but to be willing to keep searching until you've found something that you're happy with :)
    I hope all of this rambling makes sense (probably not), but yes, I thought I'd comment :)

  8. I finished uni this year (although my graduation isn't until November) and I'm terrified, I have no idea what I want to do and I'm currently looking for just any job that will pay enough so my boyfriend and I can start living together again after doing so at uni. It's so difficult to find anything though xx


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