Three years at university, although it goes very fast, tests you in a lot of different areas; patience, concentration, the ability to remember and recite key information, presenting, reading, writing etc. I could go on! What it doesn’t test you in or prepare you for is transitioning into a new routine, seeking full time employment in something you love or how to deal with loneliness and anxiety, after you say fair-well to the people you just spent the past three years of your life making friends with.
Personally, the biggest life lesson for me was the change in or lack of routine. Handing in my dissertation (30,000 words including appendices, may I add!), graduating with 1st class honours and finishing university – created such positive and happy feelings! However, moving home, facing unemployment and feeling anxious about creating a ‘new life’ were causing a mixture of negative emotions – fuelled constantly, by various people asking ‘what are you going to do now that you have graduated?’ or ‘Have you secured a full time position yet?’
Secondly, from a young age we are encouraged to continue in education, through college or sixthform into university, only to be faced with a lack of support/guidance surrounding our future career choices. There is sometimes miss-understanding from parents about our studies and loneliness or confusion during our application processes to companies who provide minimal or very basic details.
My thoughts: Why have I just spent three years studying at university, gaining a 1st class honours in a subject I love, to then apply for a job, that sounds somewhat related to my degree, at a company who can’t be honest about the hours their employees work or how much they pay and aren’t very clear about the job they want you to do?
After securing full time employment, which is highly likely that you are over qualified and underpaid for*, you are not taken seriously because of your age and ‘lack of experience’. The enthusiasm and positivity that you built up during your time at university, slowly starts to get sucked out of you and leaves you feeling very unfulfilled and demotivated. (*desperate times – there are thousands of graduates, fighting for a minimal number of roles).
The final ‘life lesson’ is dealing with money. Before graduating, I was quite responsible with the little money I had, I created budgets for the month for food shopping, rent payments, bills, the nights out, petrol and university resources. This was supported by a monthly income from a part time job, where I was working around 10-15 hours a week on top of my full-time studying. The element of ‘saving’ however, was impossible and very unrealistic.
Fast forward three years, you have successfully secured a full time job and you have been given your first months’ salary - which would equate to roughly 3/4 months of my university student loan, where I would be desperately waiting for that famous SFE text, towards the end of a semester - If you know, you know. It can be quite daunting because, you suddenly have an increase in disposable income, your bills have changed depending on your living situation, you have no clear goals on what to do with your money and it seems totally impossible to be able to secure a mortgage on a house in the future. This is due to the lack of information about graduate financial planning and help or guidance on first time buying or investments. That’s enough to send you in a downward spiral and allow you to think that retail therapy is a good idea. It’s not.
Things you can do to aid these ‘Graduate Blues’:
1) Invest in yourself – I opted for life coaching, which really helped me to set clear and achievable goals and highlight what my ideal work environment would be, in relation to my values, likes, interests and degree. ‘Dream big – you are the talent of the future!’
2) Relax – Take as much time out as you need, just because most people leave university and get a job straight away as its seen as the ‘norm’ to do so, doesn’t mean that you have to.
3) Do your research & network - I purposely chose to attend a university where my cohort was small, to minimize this problem as much as possible, by ensuring that my lecturers knew me personally and were aware of my strengths and area’s that needed developing. It’s not always about what you know, but also who you know. Shout out to the SBM lecturers at Hartpury University, class of 2018!
4) Daily routine – to ensure you have an element of structure in your everyday life, practice doing daily tasks and sticking to it. Whether that’s working out, eating healthy or being grateful for what you have around you. It will set you up for the day and make you accountable.