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.