10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated University

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated University

Logging onto Facebook this morning and shamelessly looking at the memories page brought me back to my graduation day and all the memories of my last few weeks of university came flooding back before I officially put on my cap and gown and walked across the stage to collect my University diploma. I studied Graphic Arts at Buckinghamshire New University and am incredibly proud of the 2:1 I achieved. I was 21 when I graduated and was so unsure of what life had in store for me next.

Although I decided not to take a break like most of my peers after we graduated, instead I threw myself into full time work. Throughout college and university I had always had a job, being independent was very important to me and I decided when I finished university even if it wasn’t my dream job I would prefer to be working. I got a supervisors position in House of Fraser working for Dune London. I decided to use this opportunity be be a little more selective on what position I would take as the starting point to my career. Taking the supervisors position also gave Jack and I the opportunity to become home owners!

So here goes, what are some things I wish I knew when I finished univeristy:

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated University

Its okay not to have an exact plan. Society makes you think that you’ve failed if you haven’t secured a full time job or you aren’t immediately going into an internship by graduation. Newsflash: It’s Okay!  When I finished university I didn’t have a clear plan for my career I was just pleased I was leaving with my desired grade. Graduating university is stressful enough without the adding pressure of worrying yourself about “whats next?”. Plus, you never want to rush into a job or accepting something just because you are feeling pressured by timings. Its okay to take some time to think things through and make the right decision for yourself.

You can change your career path. I must say, if someone had said to me back at university that I would be working in the Pharmaceutical industry once I graduated from a design degree I would of probably just giggled at them; but I love my job. Its challenging in so many ways and no where near what I expected I would end up pursuing when I graduated. There is nothing wrong with deciding to take a new path. Do not feel like you have wasted your educated or university years if you decide to pursue a different route after graduation. You learn so much more in university than the information you have read in textbooks. A lot of the skills you learn in university are often translatable across industries, I can say this from experience. Its all about how tailor your experiences to suit your current role.

Making your own money is the best feeling. Whilst it’s wonderful when your younger that someone else is paying for everything, it’s so much more rewarding and the feeling of accomplishment you’ll have when you can finally cut the cord and stand on your own two feet. It focuses you and in many ways pushing you to grow up and hold yourself accountable but at the same time it gives you incredible satisfaction and extra motivation to excel in your career and life.

There’s nothing wrong with taking time to travel or save money by living at home. I will admit I opted for the latter, after graduating university I focused all of my energy into saving as much money as I could, staying at home where my bills were minimal. Although I am very grateful to own my own property I think I forgot that once you start a job you are at the mercy of allocated vacation days. If you are considering travelling, after graduation it is the perfect time. As you get older your responsibilities begin to increase so consider both options weighing up the pros and cons before committing to either.

Taking an intermediate job or an internship after graduating does not make you a failure. Sometimes after you graduate you plateau, the thought that those summer internships or part time jobs suddenly doesn’t feel like enough to enter the workforce. Full time entry level jobs are very competitive, and its sad to admit but just because you have a bachelors degree does not automatically put you to the top of the pile. Taking an internship or even a an intermediate job role after graduating doesn’t mean your a failure! It shows hustle and that you’re willing to work unpaid or at an hourly rate to build a better portfolio. By doing so, you will also find that when interviewing you have more to bounce off of then solely your university experiences.

University doesn’t prepare you for the workforce. Don’t freak out, but it doesn’t. University opens your eyes to a vast array of experiences and pushes your boundaries alongside teaching you practical skills such as writing, time management, critical thinking and working in groups etc. but its honestly impossible to learn what your career path entails without actually doing it. This is why universities and individual tutors support internships so heavily. They are an important eye opening experience to the type of entry level jobs you will be entering after graduating. Though remember every industry is different and its good to research and tailor your resume to suit the chosen industry you have decided to apply for.

Don’t expect the same type of social life that you had in university. University is a unique time of life where you can party like there is no tomorrow and still feel awake enough to turn up to class the next day. While it may of been easy to fake a hangover when you were at university by hiding in the back of a lecture hall you will find its not so easy once you enter the workplace. Unfortunately your manager probably won’t be quite so forgiving if your results at work start to slip due to a few to many late nights. Learning to adapt your lifestyle may be mind boggling at first but creating a good work, life balance is important once you enter the workplace.

There are no safe spaces once you enter the workforce. With the whirlwind of accepting your first job its easy to forget just how different entering the workplace will be from the cushion of education you have previously experienced. If you have a rough night, you can’t just call in sick the next day and make up the work by asking one of your peers for their notes. You will still be expected to delivery the same quality of work you were employed for. Beginning my career, I have found and learnt that being easily offended or allowing yourself to take something personally is a trait that you do not want to bring into the workplace. Education does not prepare you for that not all personalities mix, you may find that you do not always get along with all your colleagues. Of course, its great to get on well with your colleagues on a personal and professional level but its important to remember you have been employed to act on behalf of the company, each individual employee will always have the companies best interests at heart even if on some topics you may not be fully aligned.

There is nothing wrong with moving on from your first job. Sometimes the role you imagined you would be entering doesn’t fully live up the expectation you had. It may be that you don’t feel like it’s the right fit for you or you simply aren’t enjoying the work. It’s okay! The only way you will ever fully know if a role is right for you is to try it. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to figure that out. Sometimes for the better but on occasion not. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Although it is also important to remember to not make any hasty decisions. Be professional and give it a 100% if you are still feeling the same then seek other opportunities. On that note, don’t ever shut yourself off to new opportunities even if you are enjoying your current role. You never know what could come along that would allow you to take a step forward in your career. It’s also good to remember that in this climate to take that desired salary bump could require you to leave your current role.

The best days are yet to come. The hype of university can sometimes damper the after experience but honestly since leaving university these have been the best years of my life. The last few years have taught me that I can do anything I want to do! Leaving university has given me a wealth of independence and career growth which far beats prolonging your education. There is so much more you can achieve outside of education and partying with a minimal schedule and responsibility. I have found a love of achieving life goals whether this is personal or professional, the outcome is so much more rewarding. Saying this, I loved my university experience and in no way would I change how I lived my early 20s! However taking charge of your own life I can truly say is so much more satisfying.

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15 Comments

  1. September 7, 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Such an insightful post, really helpful to undergrads! I graduated in 2014, I continued in my job I already had for a little while then got a graduate scheme. What I found most strange after Uni was not having those ‘goal posts’ anymore. When I was at school I couldn’t wait to finish. Then I was working towards my BTEC at College for two years and then Three years at Uni. It’s extremely goal oriented. A few years after uni I felt a bit like, okay what next? The thought I could potentially stay in my graduate scheme job for the rest of my life made me feel uneasy. I ended up leaving and am now in a different role, but I still wonder what the next steps are. Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown as the education system has very clear goal points. This year I have really focused on setting myself goals and figuring out what it is I want from life. It is too easy to let time pass you by.

    Hayley | hayleyxmartin

    • September 7, 2018 / 9:39 pm

      I’m so glad you found my blog helpful. I agree it’s very difficult when you leave the educational bubble. Setting yourself personal and professional goals is key and the perfect motivator!!

  2. Deb's Decorative Life
    September 8, 2018 / 1:47 am

    I like your thought about, don’t expect the same social life you had. That is so true for me and about 85% of my friends. We went through that also.

  3. September 10, 2018 / 8:39 am

    This made me super excited to graduate! There’s a lot of apprehension and fear around when it comes to finishing university, but I also like to think of it as a time of freedom and choice.

    Megan // https://pixieskiesblog.wordpress.com

    • September 10, 2018 / 9:47 am

      I can honestly say, your best years are after you exit education. As I mentioned in my post you gain so much more freedom and the satisfaction of accomplishing career jumps, personal life goals Is totally worth it!! Try not to be scared, enjoy every moment 🙂

  4. deannasstilwell
    September 23, 2018 / 9:08 pm

    I’m graduating in December and couldn’t be more excited. I have a plan, but who knows if it’ll change within the next few months. Loved the post especially with not knowing what you’re going to do and your social life changing. I definitely relate to your social life changing because you’re working all the time now and you have more important things to worry about.

    Deanna from deannastilwell.com

    • September 23, 2018 / 9:27 pm

      So glad you have found my post helpful. For me, it was more of a life style change but in a good way. No matter what though enjoy each stage!

      • deannasstilwell
        September 23, 2018 / 10:02 pm

        Definitely enjoying each stage as it comes!

  5. November 2, 2018 / 4:23 am

    Very insightful post i really wish if I knew it too.

  6. November 2, 2018 / 5:49 am

    I love your reflections, especially the last point! I have always loved school, so college was a dream come true. After receiving my bachelors, I immediately went to grad school to delay the “real world” as long as possible. And I must say that the first couple of years after finishing grad school were really tough. I was depressed, felt I had no purpose in life, and went from being a star student to being on welfare and barely making ends meet. But now that it’s been almost ten years since completely finishing school, I must say it DOES get better! I’ve grown so much as a person and learned so much about myself, much more so than in the rigid confines of a classroom.

    • November 2, 2018 / 10:59 am

      It’s so lovely to hear that you relate with my post. I felt the last point was a very important element to add. Also lovely to hear that ten years on you can see just how wonderful being outside of education can be

  7. Brittany
    November 2, 2018 / 3:52 pm

    I agree with every single one of these! We took some time off to travel, we took jobs that were not what we expected, we learned so much after graduation! And I learned that everyone is a little lost and no one really figures it out right away.

  8. November 3, 2018 / 10:07 pm

    A very insightful blog. You can change your career path. Sometimes many of us end up doing jobs we did not plan for. It is the nature of life. And as you so rightfully claimed, there is nothing wrong with deciding to take a different career path. In doing so that person’s would not have not wasted his/her university education. Many times skills are transferable and a person can feel equally fulfilled in this unexpected career as he/she would in the career they had envisaged.

    • November 3, 2018 / 11:31 pm

      So glad you enjoyed my post. It’s a very scary time when you finish university and I wanted this post to reflect the fact that change does not have to be considered a bad thing nor that what you have studied is going to waste if you opt for a different direction

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