Life After Graduation: 1 Year On, Here Are The Lessons I’ve Learnt

by Maddie

I’m writing this post for those of you who have graduated mid-pandemic. It’s a scary time. I’ve just reached a year since graduation, myself, and I’m not 100% settled in the career I want, either.

I’ve learned a lot of things this year, and I want to share these lessons, because if there’s one big, fat takeaway from this post it’s: graduating University might be a given, but graduating into a settled life takes time. And as much as society likes to make you believe that’s not the case, it’s 1000% normal and it’s 1000% okay.

Before we get started on the things I’ve learned (of which there are many lol) let’s take a second to explain where I’m at. We’re talking an entire year after graduation, here.

Time has FLOWN

Firstly, I was very lucky to be able to secure a full-time job which meant I could move down to Bristol last September with my boyfriend, two months after graduating. It was something I desperately wanted to do, and we worked hard to make it happen.

Although working full-time, my initial plan was to have a ‘year off’ in a sense, which meant I wanted to take a year just for myself to relax more after University without the pressure of entering my dream career. Therefore, I got a job as a Marketing Assistant – still a creative role, but not the journalism industry I want to ultimately get into.

To continue to build my journalism experience and purely because my graduate role paid pretty poorly when it comes to trying to build savings, I got a freelance job on the side for when I moved. So, I freelanced on the side, alongside my full-time job, as a copywriter and sub-editor for various brands. Still closer to journalism than marketing, but not quite within the industry, wholly.

Dis us now

And then the coronavirus pandemic hit, I got furloughed from my marketing job and managed to cling onto my freelance work, luckily.

From that unfortunate happening, it meant I had a chance to freelance a little more. I had endless time, so I continued to freelance for the marketing agency I was doing work for, and because I had more time to give them, they had more time for me – and out of the blue in August, they offered me a job. I now work 4 days a week in a Copywriting role (so much closer to journalism, but not quite there still yet) and I work four days a week! This leaves me with time for the things I want to turn from passion to career, such as pitching to magazines, freelancing on further journalism work and starting ramping up work on this blog!

A bit of a whirlwind even though this was going to be my ‘year off’ – and absolute proof that even a year after graduation, I’m not where I want to be with my career. And I know that all of my friends are still just finding their feet a year on, too.

I miss my friends so much :((((

And another big lesson to take: when you hit unemployment, furlough, redundancy – whatever a lot of us are going through right now, see it as an opportunity. Take a crap situation and work out what you REALLY want: I decided freelance work would get me (mentally) through furlough and it turned out to be a job waiting for me at the end of it – something I never, ever thought would ever happen. Out of challenges, come opportunities.

So, that’s me. What about the lessons I’ve learned over the last year – and how can they help you grads who are trying to enter a difficult world right now?

Everyone is on a different path – and that doesn’t discredit yours

When we’re at University, we’re in a little bubble of discomfort (in that Uni is STRESS) but it’s comforting, because all of you are in this together – in exactly the same boat. You graduate, move up and down the country from your best pals, and suddenly you’re all going different ways.

Some are taking a ‘year off’, some are travelling, some are working full-time, some are living at home, some have moved to new cities, some got a job really quickly, some struggled to get a job… The list is pretty much endless.

However, just because someone got to a destination you’re aiming for in shorter time, or just because your pal is living a wildly different life to your own, it doesn’t mean that your own path is ‘wrong’.

We’re conditioned to look to our peers for support and reassurance, which is hard to do when your paths are wildly different, so trust in your own progression and instead of having those ‘ohmygodsaaame’ conversations with your pals, now you can support each other and get excited together in a whole new way – which is lovely.

Lean into those moments where your paths cross with others

Clifton’s a beaut place to be all contemplative and write this blog haha

One of my best friends recently secured her first apartment, all by herself. It’s scarily similar in some ways to my apartment in Bristol and it shares some of the features I was most excited about with mine, and the parallels between our lives at this time is such a beautiful experience to share, and I keep getting so excited and butterflies-in-tummy for her because I remember exactly how excited I was to move to Bristol.

These exact moments where your paths cross and you find yourself in that same boat again are to be cherished, because it’s a beautiful thing to have each other to lean on and share a special moment with.

Your career most likely will not flourish during the first year after graduation – and that’s NORMAL

We’re conditioned to believe our one-way ticket out of University is through a graduate scheme. However, the idea of a grad scheme personally terrified me. I couldn’t imagine being tied down to something for 2 years.

For some, grad schemes are awesome. For others, it might not be for you.

Your first job out of University will most likely not be your dream job – and I’ve read in articles multiple times that your first few roles won’t be the ones you dream of. So although we’re conditioned to believe we’ve got to get that high salary, high-flying job the second we leave University, that’s not the case.

Life is so much more than a job. And for those of us who are working class, such as myself, getting that killer role in London isn’t possible instantly.

Universities often forget there are roadblocks in the way. Go slow and steady – that’s an achievable way to work towards goals for the majority of people.

There is no RIGHT way to achieve anything

I think this is often what on a first glance makes the working world so terrifying. There are so many ways to achieve one career.

But, when you really think about it: it’s freeing.

For most roles, there is no one way to success. As long as you keep in mind your aims and work towards them in your own way and at your own pace, you’ve got it sorted. You’ll get there in time.

Remember to SLOW DOWN and appreciate the ‘now’

I really struggle with this one, to be honest. When you really want to achieve something, it’s good to be passionate, but sometimes your passion and determination can turn toxic. If you don’t feel settled ‘now’, it can be so easy to work hellbent on gaining that security you’re after as quickly as possible.

However, this can lead to burnout and an inability to live in the moment.

There are always going to be goals we want to work towards in life – after securing that career, there are worries of maintaining it, building it further, securing a house, a mortgage, that holiday, marriage, children… The list goes on.

I think we desperately want to reach that stage of adulthood where we feel truly adult, but as many adults have said, life’s about winging it. You never feel truly ‘accomplished’. So try to slow down, live in the moment, appreciate the things you can be oh so grateful for right now, and you’ll be able to deal with any uncertainty graduation brings up easier.

Appreciate the time before you get a full-time job – because it will come – and then you will have no time

I wish I’d done this. It’s so hard to do, though. When job and flat searching, I felt so terrified that I’d be unable to secure either of those things that it ruined my entire summer last year. I was stressed, unable to enjoy abroad holidays that would be a blessing to all of us in 2020, and couldn’t relax until I secured the job and the flat.

However, before I knew it, I was working 9-5 with little time to take off just for ‘me’. So, if and where you can – perhaps it’s by allocating yourself a day or so in the week to really worry and get on with the job hunt and then taking the rest of the time for ‘you’ – appreciate this time before employment.

Every little achievement is a big one

At University, you’re so used to feedback. To criticism. To achieving grades for every action and task you complete. It’s how we’re conditioned throughout education. However, reach the workplace, and you’ll be lucky if you get a ‘thanks’ from your busy manager most days.

It’s a different way of working. Everyone is so busy, and completed tasks with no response are a given you’ve achieved – it doesn’t mean you’re subpar. If you don’t get feedback, that’s a good thing. Remember to mentally reward yourself for every single day of hard work – because you really do deserve it.

You will feel inferior in the workplace – battle that emotion away

You’re the lonely graduate in a workplace of older, more experienced people. Even if you have a good idea in a meeting or you feel you’re getting through your workload okay, it’s okay if you can’t bring yourself to speak up to share that idea or you struggle with bigging yourself up to your manager in your 1-1. It’s okay to feel nervous. And it’s okay to feel inferior.

Just don’t let these feelings cripple you. You have every much a right to be there than everyone else. You got this job! You’re awesome. You’re just young – but it means you have more determination and fire in you than tired colleagues who’ve been working for decades. You got this – even if you feel you don’t.

Keep in mind what you love and what you strive for – even if there are challenges that make you question it

When everyone’s following wildly different paths, when there’s no rulebook for surviving graduate life, when the job market in your dream industry is shrinking by the day – don’t lose sight of your aims.

Even if challenges come along to knock your confidence, it doesn’t mean you don’t still have those goals or passions.

Find what it is that motivates you: maybe it is money (which is totally fine) or maybe it’s a passion for a certain creative outlet – and do what you can to go get it.

Keep that fire lit, because it’s important to do something you love if you have the privilege to do so.

If you really, really want something – you can DO IT

As much as I’ve struggled with my ‘route’ to journalism over the last year – as much as I’ve had cry sessions because I believe someone like me can’t get there – as much as I still struggle with self-belief – I still have this small voice in my head that reminds me that if you work hard at something long enough, you will get it.

Those colleagues or individuals you admire and look up to, those who are pinnacles of success in your chosen industry, felt just like you at some point. And they probably feel imposter syndrome STRONG even now.

It’s just people are idiots and they don’t like to talk about difficult feelings and emotions. If we’d just open up and admit we feel imposters in the workplace, we all have confidence struggles and we all face challenges, it’d make us grads feel a lot more comfortable with entering the adult world.

You can do this – just keep going!

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