Recent Graduate Life: what might happen to you

Funny hat throwing picture © Helen Kitley
Funny hat throwing picture © Helen Kitley

My mind boggles at the thought that nearly TWO YEARS ago, I graduated from university with a 2:1.  Recently on Facebook, I’ve noticed a lot of acquaintances and friends have just finished their degrees, and are waiting for their results.  I’m sure they’ll do fabulously (if they’ve worked their socks off).

But, to all you graduands out there, I want to warn you about what MAY well happen to you as you enter the big bad world.  I found out many of these the hard way.  Beware.

1)            Graduation day will be euphoric.

Whatever your result, wearing a mortarboard (which you end up praying won’t fall off during the ceremony) and a flowing (but heavy) gown on a (hopefully) sunny day, will feel EPIC.  If your parents are anything like mine, they’ll make you feel like a celebrity.  It is fantastic.

2)            But brace yourself for the continuing job search (or starting it)

I delayed this stage, because I started a voluntary church scheme a month after graduating, which I knew would happen for most of third year.  But every other student I spoke to found it so hard applying for graduate schemes and jobs.  I don’t think I knew many people who had something lined up for them immediately after they graduated.  It took some people months to find something in the relentless job hunting competition.

3)            If you know what you want to do – great! But it won’t be easy!

I’m so envious of people who have known what they wanted to do all along, and are so focused on researching companies, talking the talk and walking the walk (if that is possible).  But they haven’t found it plain sailing.  I know people who went to Oxford and Cambridge who have found it difficult and discouraging.  Unless you get to work for Daddy’s company, it’s very likely you will find it tough.  There is no easy industry to succeed in – every area is hard, unless you’ve studied engineering, and you’re a woman.

4)            And if you have no idea what to do, it’ll be even harder

Interestingly, it does seem easier.  At first.  It’s quite nice applying for jobs you like the look of, and as you’re less picky, you will find a job more quickly.  But you’ll have to deal with well-meaning people (and horrible ones) who ask you what your long-term career goal is, or what career you want to pursue.  And if you do something which someone without a degree can do, people will ask you, ‘Oh, how long are you going to do that for?’  Or ‘What do you really want to do?’  or ‘But surely you can do better than that!’ or ‘You’re too clever for THAT job!’  Your parents may pressure you to choose a career, and offer to pay for the necessary qualification you need, even if you’ve only mildly shown an interest in it, and you know full well that the qualification doesn’t guarantee you a job in that career.  Be prepared for the moment (which I’m praying will hopefully happen soon for me) when you bite the bullet, and decide to narrow your career down to one direction, tenaciously going after it with all your might.  And after you’ve made your decision, be prepared for people to grill you about that choice, and make you doubt you’ve made the right decision.

5)            If you didn’t live with your parents at university, there’s a high chance you’ll have to move back in with them, especially if you’re from London AND trying to get a job in London

This is one person who didn’t want to live with Mum and Dad after graduation, and thought that financially it would be fine.  But it wasn’t.   Unless you get married to a millionaire, (or to someone who earns a significant sum), or immediately start earning loads, or win the lottery, you might have to move back in with them.

6)            Money will limit you

Even if you have a job, you won’t have as much as you anticipated.  Most of it will be snuffled up by something called INCOME TAX and NATIONAL INSURANCE.  And if you want to do anything to advance your career, you’ll have to pay for it – no more student loans and grants to sort you out (unless you’re exceptional).

7)            Commuting will be exciting at first but then will CRUSH YOUR SOUL

Oh hurrah.  The good old London Underground.  The best thing about it is all that free literature – Stylist is my favourite, and picking up a copy on a Wednesday morning is a highlight of the week.  But apart from that, it’s FRIGHTFUL.  Planning to read a book on the Tube on the way to work?  Forget it if you work 9 to 5.  It’s squashed, claustrophobic and the majority of people’s resting faces are just depressing.  And many people lack basic Tube etiquette.

8)            Social Networking won’t seem that great any more

Because you’re not at university any more, less people will view your statuses and less people will like them.  Then a majority of self-restrained peers will either delete their Facebook account or barely use it at all.  Or (if you’re like me) you’ll use it to vent about how rubbish your day was, and find it really hard to stop checking it every hour.  Or, you’ll use social networking constantly 1) as part of your job 2) to get a job 3) swot up to progress in your job.  And LinkedIn will become even more terrifying:  if you look up people out of curiosity, you will forget (after a few minutes) that they can see you’ve checked them out, and then feel like a complete stalker.

9)            You won’t be able to see your university friends as much as you thought

Almost everyone goes back home after graduation (unless they’re staying put), and if you’re at a university town, it’s guaranteed everyone is from different parts of the country.  And train tickets are EXPENSIVE.  And people suddenly become busy, and you have to book ages in advance to see someone.  Texting someone at the last minute if you’re passing through their town, will probably not mean you’ll be able to see them that day.

10)          When you get a job, it’ll probably be boring.

You use your brain, but in a different way.  And unless you’re lucky enough to do something which is totally unpredictable and scientific, I guarantee you’ll spend day after day sitting at a desk, and going through the motions of the same old routines and procedures.

11)          Your body will start to age, and you will start to think about death more

Say good bye to being able to stay up till 3am, get drunk without getting a hangover and feeling full of beans.  You may just be about to turn 22 or 23, or even 24, but YOU’RE GETTING OLD.  AND YOU WILL DIE.  YOU REALLY WILL.  AND YOUR PARENTS WILL DIE.  AND YOU WON’T KNOW WHEN.  AND YOU DON’T KNOW HOW.

12)          But, people are still nice, wherever you go

Yes, there are still horrible, stupid, ignorant people you will meet, but there are more decent, kind and down-to-earth who will counteract them, and keep you sane and have your best interests at heart.

13)          You will be able to see university friends, and make new ones

Just not as often as you like.  But you will still be able to see them.  And, hopefully you’ll make new friends at work and in whatever social activities you’re involved in. (If you’re not meeting people outside work, then for goodness sake try and meet some.  I go to church, and sometimes to an orchestra.  Some people use Tinder and other dating websites.  Whatever floats your boat).

14)          If you loved reading before university, but hated it whilst in university, you will enjoy it again

There’s a strong possibility that an English degree will kill your love for reading.  That happened to me at university, and I thought I’d never love books again.  But then, when I didn’t have to read, I LOVED reading again.   And now I want to read absolutely everything.

15)          You will probably enjoy culture and creativity even more than you did before

Hated school trips when you were younger?  Now that it’s not compulsory to visit art galleries and theatres and libraries and museums, it’s inevitable that you’ll enjoy going.  And after a boring mundane day at work, you’ll be gagging for some culture and the opportunity to use your imagination.  Even if it’s just Youtube, you’ll find yourself wanting more and more entertainment.

16)          If you save, you will be able to have money in the future… someday

It seems a bit miserly, but there are these amazing SAVING ACCOUNTS which mean that you can gain interest (i.e. get more money) on whatever amount of money you put in.  And if you keep on doing it, you get more money.  And then one day, you’ll have enough money to go and DO SOMETHING.  And, as long as it’s legal, it’s yours to do with what you like.

17)          Living with your parents does NOT mean you are a failure.  It can actually be great!

It’s definitely not the worst thing in the world.  So many graduates do it now.

18)          Your life is more than your career, and you will get somewhere eventually.

Nowadays, you don’t have to stick with one career for the rest of your life.  And I firmly believe that your career does not have to define you.  Whatever you do, don’t give up applying for jobs. The more vacancies you apply for, and the harder you work at the applications, the more chance you have of getting somewhere.

19)          Most people don’t know what they want to do anyway, and are dissatisfied with their current job

I’ve only met a few people who are career-driven ALL the time.  Even successful people I’ve met, admit that their jobs are not perfect, that they think of changing careers every so often and wish they didn’t have to work at all.

20)          Holidays will feel fantastic

When you have to work fulltime, you will miss those long university holidays, and end up wishing that you were a student again.  So if you only work during the week, you will be so unbelievably grateful for the weekend, bank holidays and annual leave.

21)          Your time at university was not a waste

In dark times whilst job hunting, you will wonder whether it was worth doing a degree.  People even might say to you, ‘You should have studied x instead of x’.  And you might despair, and question why you chose to study what you studied.  But, if you made the most of that time, it was not a waste.  There are so many transferable skills and things you learnt (hopefully) about life which can’t be learnt in a lecture theatre.  If you had fun, and made friends, and grew in self-confidence, independence and life skills, it certainly was not.

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