Leaving university is a very difficult time for everyone. We have felt the security and comfort of education and its structure from a very young age, and then are thrown out into the ‘real world’ without much practical help. It is frustrating that after trading in scheduled classes, being graded on all of our work and extensive support, we find ourselves applying for job after job and facing a lot of failure before seeing any signs of success.
Once, we were told that going to university can open up doors and enhance our career prospects, because after all, “we will most definitely land our dream job the second we are handed our degree certificate”. But that seems an extreme idea now I have my degree. So what happens when it doesn’t work out how we’ve been told?
Many of us move back in with our families, work in the job we had at 17 and face rejection after rejection for the jobs we set out hearts on. From these feelings of going backwards, I’ve worked out a few ways to keep the feelings of unease and fear at bay, and I’d really like to share them with you, because it isn’t easy and we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking it is.
1. Have realistic expectations and learn to pick yourself up
It is great to set yourself big goals and work towards them, as long as we know that we’ll face hardships in the process. Tell yourself that you will get that amazing graduate job where you are doing the things you love every day, but be aware that it might take longer than a few weeks or months. Have the confidence that your CV will stand out for the job that you tick all of the criteria for, but be aware that there may be someone else with an extra year’s experience.
When you apply for a job, you are allowed to get excited at the prospect of getting it — it shows you know that the industry you’re aiming for is for you. But if you don’t quite make it and fall down, learn to pick yourself back up and try again. You’ll come out the other side a lot more resilient and glad that you persevered.
2. Don’t worry if you don’t get things right first time around
Once I’d graduated, I applied for whatever jobs appealed to me, but I knew deep down they weren’t in my long-term plan. I opted for this approach rather than setting my sights on a dream job and not going for any other role that would get in the way, as I just wanted to get my foot in the door anywhere that I could.
It’s okay if your first job isn’t quite what you’d imagined, or if you can’t see yourself there for longer than six months. I even couldn’t see myself in my first role for more than one month! Also, don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re working a job just to make ends meet. It’s not permanent and there is always time to change.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others
This one is so crucial, but it can also seem like the most impossible in the age of social media.
When we graduate, we all have this amazing achievement under our belts, but now what do we do with it? Maybe you thought about travelling but decided not to, and now you feel really upset every time you view pictures from your course mate’s trip around Asia. What’s more, it might be hard to hear the news about your friend’s first graduate role when you’re still slogging away over applications, but your time will come.
Have faith that things will work out for you! If you don’t seem to be going at the same ‘pace’ as your peers, don’t worry. You get to decide what speed you want to be running this marathon called life.