Life After Uni – Things We Have Learned Since Graduating
Finishing your degree and graduating is such an exciting point in your life and there are so many different directions you can take. The period after uni is a time for figuring out adult life, working on your career and growing as a person. We spoke to some recent graduates who have spent the past couple of years navigating life after uni, to hear their very different stories, including what they have learned and what they would tell new grads.
Sophie – Local Government Spending Advisor, HM Treasury Graduate Scheme
The main thing I wish I’d known when I graduated is that it’s OK not to know what you want to do! It’s OK to try out your first job and know it’s not your end goal. It’s OK not to have a set career plan because really, you’ll likely end up somewhere entirely different!
I would tell my graduate self to try and move past imposter syndrome when starting my first job. The sooner you realise that you got the job for good reason, that you deserve to be there, and that your ideas and thoughts are interesting and valid – the better! It can be massively daunting working around intelligent people and feeling like you don’t quite fit. But you need to take a step back and realise that you were hired because you can add value, so go ahead and make your voice heard.
Another reflection is that the end of uni is not the end of fun. If anything, it’s the start of a period of freedom where you can experiment with all kinds of hobbies and jobs, try your hand at music or art or writing, and just keep going until you find what sparks a light in you.
The last and most important thing is to not compare yourself to others graduating alongside you. Don’t think you’re not succeeding because someone has a bigger salary or flashier job than you. The rat race – in London especially – doesn’t equate to happiness (far from it in a lot of cases). So don’t try and rush your way to the top – just focus on where you are now, sit back, and enjoy it!
Charli – Content Creator/ Videographer & Photographer
I graduated from uni over two years ago now and since then, a lot has changed! I moved home for a few months over the summer and then went travelling, as I was ready to have a break from London. After living at home for a while, I had a bit of a panic that I wouldn’t find any work in Kent (where my family live) and once my friends went back to uni, I would be trapped and alone!
So, I made the bold decision to move back to London with no job and no plans! Somehow, through taking on freelance work, I managed to pay my rent until I landed a more secure content creating job. Since then, I have continued freelancing in the TV industry and as a videographer and have even started my own wedding film business. I also managed to get some more travelling in!
There were times when I doubted my career choices, with family members questioning when I was going to get a ‘proper job’ with a defined career path and more consistency in my monthly earnings. But the longer I have worked, the more I have learned about myself – and a 9-5 in the same place every day just isn’t for me at this point in my life!
I quickly realised that, for me, the most important thing is to be happy with what I am doing in the present. It is always important to plan for the future and to have goals, but sometimes it can take a while to figure out what those goals are! What I want to do has already changed in the two years since leaving uni and I have learned so much about what I do and don’t like. I think this is what a career path is – not necessarily a ladder where every step up is more responsibility and more money, but more of a squiggly line, where every step leads towards finding something you are good at and enjoy!
See more photos & videos by Charli:
Charli May Videography & Photography
Louise – Staff Engagement & Equality Officer for Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Foundation Trust
I feel I have grown up a lot in this first year of life after uni. Despite moving back in with my parents, I have worked in several ‘real’ jobs and gained a true sense of adulthood, which you just can’t experience in the university ‘bubble’. I loved uni, but I was done with that lifestyle after 3 years, so moving back home was exactly the right thing for me at the time.
I wouldn’t say I had any particular expectations, other than to get a job, and it did take me over 6 months to secure something worth having. But I was well aware that job hunting was never going to be easy.
I’m just about to start a new job, which I am very excited about. I worked really hard to get it – I sent countless applications had 25 job interviews. Although the job search was SO soul destroying at times, before I started, I didn’t even know roles like Staff Engagement and Equality Officer existed, and I wouldn’t have found my way to pursuing such a career without having to trawl through all the jobs sites, spend time in roles I didn’t like and finally discover what I truly was passionate about.
I cannot stress enough the importance of stepping-stone jobs. We can’t all be lucky enough to jump straight into our chosen career, so working in something like administration in the meantime is so worthwhile, whilst you still search for that dream job. My main advice to those just graduating is to apply to everything, because no experience is bad experience. I have now secured a job related to my degree, but the experience and skills I gained from my year working in admin are what landed me this role.
I am so happy with where my life is right now. I’ve been very lucky that I enjoy living with my parents, and that I have found a job so relevant to my degree, which I can’t wait to start!
Rory – Production Coordinator, PLP (Premier League Productions)
After graduating from uni, I decided to stay in London as moving back home wasn’t really an option for me. I was a bit worried about paying rent without a student loan, but luckily, I was offered an admin internship at my university. Taking that job was mainly to give me financial security and experience of a stable job, because I’d never really had that before. Building interpersonal skills and administrative experience helped me get my current job at PLP. The course leader at uni left, so I took over the whole course budget and that impressed the company!
What I would say to new graduates is don’t expect too much right away, but also keep an open mind on where you want your career to go. Opportunities can lead you in unexpected directions. A lot of my colleagues started in TV doing something totally different from what they’re doing now, so don’t get tunnel vision on where you’re heading.
Cassie – Illustrator
After graduating, I came back home. It’s a weird adjustment going from independence at uni to moving back in with your parents, and I’m looking forward to doing my own thing at some point. However, I got used to it very quickly and home does offer a lot of comforts, so I’m happy to be here just while I work things out!
I think it’s hard being a graduate in coronavirus times! I studied illustration, so had expected to go down the internship route, working my way up to a permanent job. But with most internships on hold, this hasn’t happened. Job hunting has become a slow process and I think it’s a waiting game to see how industries react to the pandemic.
On the plus side, I started my own business during lockdown selling illustrated prints and accessories, which might never have happened under ‘normal’ circumstances. Although I’m definitely out of my comfort zone and learning along the way, I am loving it! It would be great to build it up so I don’t have to rely on a job to earn a living. I guess I’ve always liked the idea, and although it isn’t what I expected, it’s a definite positive to come out of not being able to find a job.
Life after uni is daunting as you are thrown into the unknown, but things will work out, even if not in the way you expect! If I could give any advice to new graduates, I’d say don’t feel that you have to go down a conventional path just because that’s all we have ever been taught to do at school and uni! There are so many things out there that you might not even know exist yet. I have found opportunities through my job search that I had truly never heard of before, but they sound great! Keep an open mind.
See more prints & accessories from Cassie:
Kirsty – Neuroscience MSc
When I first graduated, I had no clue what I wanted to do, so thought I might as well do a masters to fill a year and give me more time to decide, and see whether research/academia could be a potential path for me.
Since completing my masters, I would say I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to do straight away, or forever. If you can get a job, whether it’s hospitality or literally anything, that doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘proper job’. If you can earn enough money to live where you want and have enough free time to actually do the things you want with friends, then that’s all that matters. Throughout my masters degree, I have mostly worked in hospitality and as a lifeguard, and I ‘m hoping to do some travelling as soon as possible.
I think people put too much pressure on themselves to know exactly what they want to do once they graduate and it’s unrealistic, which is why students get so stressed contemplating life after uni. So, I would say I’ve learnt it’s fine to not have a plan straight away. It’s OK just to try out a few jobs and see what you like. I am making sure that I’m not putting pressure on myself to commit to anything that I’m not passionate about.
Life After Uni – Summing Up
Everyone’s route is different after graduating from university, and there is no set path, nor right or wrong decision. Be open to opportunities, they can lead you in a direction that you might not have thought about. What is most important is to do what feels right for you at the time, and learn and grow from each experience.
Find out more:
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