By the end of our degrees, most of us are desperate to be finished, whether that be because we want to get out in the big bad world to finally earn some pennies, or because education has simply begun to lose its appeal.
However, the question that most graduates fear answering is the “so…have you started job hunting yet?’’ Combine that with the inevitable ‘’Well what do you want to do?’’ and it’s enough bring you out in a cold sweat. Right on cue, the quick mumblings of ‘’oh well I’m not sure, I’m sure I’ll work it out’’ surface, and you will then get flooded with a barrage of suggestions of far flung careers that you may be suited too. Thanks, I always knew I might have wanted to work in [insert ridiculous job title here].
As if you didn’t have enough to think about with the looming dissertation, excessive amounts of reading and exams. As if you weren’t already crying inside about leaving your friends behind, you’re now being forced to think about the real world. It’s like reliving the dreaded final year of sixth form and being badgered about university and UCAS – oh the nightmares! Only this time, there aren’t any teachers to help you, no one to draft your personal statement for you, and suddenly it seems, nowhere to turn when you realize you don’t have the foggiest what’s going to happen come July and that lovely graduation hat lands on the floor in front of you.
Having done a law degree, the response to my ‘’I don’t know’’ was always the same. ‘’Well you’ve done law. You’ll make loads of money anyway. Just be a lawyer’’. The constant asking soon ground me down, and I suddenly starting heaping pressure on myself to do endless graduate applications. So off I toddled, to the university careers fair in the hope that I would be struck with a sign from above about what career I might want to pursue. It soon became abundantly obvious that I did not want to work at any of the companies, with the worst stalls being the ones that had given ordinary jobs glorified names. Did I want to be an analyst of some far flung sector? Which was really a fancy way of saying you can come and work in a call center? No. More importantly, did I want to work in any of these industries or professions? No. Was I tempted by the glossy brochure and the salary on offer? Likely yes. So why was I even bothering to waste my time filling out the form?
Then you realize that applications (especially graduate ones) in themselves are immensely time consuming. They take hours; as you painfully enter each individual GCSE and University module mark at a snail’s pace. If you manage to get past the dreaded form, you then have to face mounds of maths tests, situational judgement tests as well as psychometric assessments. That’s without even accounting for the long assessment days and final round interviews, plus the travelling time to and from them. The above goes for graduate entry level roles as well. You can spend hours slaving over a cover letter, attend an interview, to not even be given the courtesy of a rejection post interview. Or worse, you get to the interview and realize the job isn’t what you thought it was at all. Combine this with the fact that most entry level jobs want mounds of real life work experience, and it’s easy to feel completely desperate.
Eventually – you get to the point where you look at interviewers like this – hoping that they might take pity on you.
So, if I could give one piece of advice to 2016’s batch of bright eyed, bushy tailed graduates, it would be the following:
It doesn’t make you a failure to not know what you want to do after you graduate and it doesn’t make you a failure to come out of university and not have a job secured.
I take my hat off to fellow graduates that get onto graduate schemes, and that can survive the long assessment days and do so because they believe it’s the career they really want. But the one thing that I wish someone had told me? Don’t waste your last year of university applying for jobs just for the sake of it. Don’t be tempted by the masses of money on offer, the company car, the private health care, if it isn’t even a job or sector you really want to work in. Be absolutely sure it’s what you want to do before you waste precious minutes you won’t get back.
Equally, post university, don’t waste your summer slaving over applications for jobs that you aren’t even sure about, and don’t feel you have to take the first job you are offered because you feel you should. Take some time out, because you didn’t spend time at university to leave and do a job you hate. Most people change career 4 or 5 times in their life anyway – why stress about it in what’s meant to be some of the best years of your life?