Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Finishing University: 1 Year On, #TheGraduateDream?

On Monday 29th September 2014, I woke up completely free from full-time education. At the time I felt overwhelming relief because this meant my 15,000 word dissertation was handed in but it didn't take too long before a whole new set of worries emerged. I soon missed the security of being a student, knowing exactly what was next and having the 'student' title to describe what I was doing with my time. I took on more hours at the part-time retail job I'd had since my second year of university, which was a welcome change from an intense year of studying. However over this past year I've experienced periods of feeling low and negative about myself, which has hit me hard. The graduate dream hasn't worked out the way I thought it would for me so far but I've learned to be more positive about myself, so this is what I've learned:

Job Hunting Isn't Easy

Hunting through job listings, where you need years of experience for an entry-level position, possibly to be fluent in French and preferably have your own transport - oh it's soul destroying. An even worse situation is when an interviewer claims to have thoroughly read my CV but looks disappointed about my lack of experience or quotes completely incorrect information back to me. 

In reality, I already have a job that gives me enough money to live comfortably and save for the future. It also has given me invaluable confidence when it comes to communicating with others, transferable skills and respect from my seniors so I know it has been extremely helpful. I've had a range of different people look down on my retail job, whether people of a similar age to interviewers, just because they don't class it as a 'proper' job or believe it is easy, which I believe to be unfair. That's why it is important to not let other people affect your choices or make you feel badly about yourself.

Appreciate the Positives

Working shifts in a retail store can be unpredictable and anti social at times but I know I'd miss having my days off during the week. I also earn enough at the moment to fund my car, which has given me so much freedom, a few treats and also save a decent amount towards moving out in the future so I'm not doing too bad on a part time contract. Working part-time and being able to choose when I add more hours has also meant that I can get more experience that will hopefully help me get the job I want. Currently I help out the North East area of Oxfam shops with their social media which I'm really enjoying and being flexible helps. 

My parents have always said that you're in work a long time  (ever increasingly longer in the UK) so you may as well do something you enjoy. Also I've been strongly encouraged not to settle easily for something that doesn't feel right. There's no point in taking a job just to be able to tick that imaginary box in my head that says I've achieved my goal, especially because further along down the line I may wish I hadn't jumped into it all so quickly.

Embrace Your Free Time, Interests and Those Around You

When I was at university  (especially during my masters), university was my focus. That helped me in achieving high marks but left me totally lost when I had to move on. I've found a love for cooking, which has become a great stress reliever and helps me to feel like I've achieved something. 

Later on this month I'm starting an online digital marketing course. I saw the email in my inbox one morning and just thought I'd go for it so out came my credit card and £29 later I was signed up. Hopefully it'll give me more confidence in the different areas involved in the industry I want to be involved in, while using my free time to do something beneficial for my future. 

The people around you are also important. I've seen first hand good friends become too self-involved to care about those around them and let their efforts go unappreciated, and personally I don't have time for people like that. I prefer to be around people I can be myself around and speak with honesty and not have to put a happy front in order to compete with them, and to more importantly be that person to others when they need support.

And Most Importantly... Be Happy in Yourself

Finishing university was a contributing factor to depression and problems with low mood that I've been experiencing this year. By talking through my feelings and anxieties with a professional I discovered that it all comes down to how I feel about myself and also how others view me, so that's why my other lessons have involved not being so bothered about how others view you (or how you think they might). Stop focusing on what you don't know, what might happen or what you think people may think, and focus on the positives in the here and now.

A year on from finishing university, I'm still trying to find and secure the right job, all while attempting to stay positive and take my own advice. I'm definitely not the first person to feel like this and I won't be the last.

Love Georgia xxx

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