career development

Life after university: ten things I’ve learnt the hard way

Turning in your dissertation, sitting your last exam, and breathing a sigh of relief… you leave university on a high, only to enter the unknown of adulthood. You need to decide where you want to work, what career you want, where you want to live, and how you’re going to pay for it. There are a lot of significant life choices here. Even more so if you graduated during the pandemic, making everything more confused.

Applying for Jobs is Hard!

It’s likely that you will experience a period of unemployment after graduating. Before I was hired at my first job at the neighbourhood Starbucks, I had been applying for about a month. After university, it can be quite difficult to find employment, and it’s almost a given that you’ll experience periods of unemployment throughout your life. It’s doubtful that you’ll get hired for the first job you apply for despite having a degree, because competition is at such a high. It’s a good idea to apply to jobs in large numbers in the hopes that some of them will respond (I call this ‘the shotgun approach’). Getting the foot in the door is the aim of the game here.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, if you want something in life, you have to work for it. The dream job won’t fall into your lap; you must fight for it (and that will take time).

Living Away From Your Friends Hurts

Life changes after university can be challenging

Moving away from your companions after several years of having lived nearby or even in the same house hurts. Sadly, due to the nature of university bringing students from all areas together, it’s a given that this is going to happen when everyone leaves. It’s completely normal to feel a sense of loss and loneliness after leaving university, so allow yourself some time. The transitional stage of adulthood that comes after university can make you feel unprepared, anxious, and disoriented, but you are capable of more than you can ever fathom.

Your mind will try to convince you that you are incapable of achieving your goals or that your dream job is unattainable, yet anything is attainable with the correct attitude.

Saving Money is a Must

We could all use an additional cup of coffee, drink, or takeaway, but the truth is that saving that money is always worthwhile. EVERYTHING is so expensive, including food, cheese, cleaning supplies, and council tax so it can be hard to skimp but one way to save money is to be resourceful. Turn things off when you’re not using them. Don’t get that extra coffee. Put the money aside and start saving for your future now.

Travel (If You Can)

The last couple of years have been tough for everyone. With the Coronavirus pandemic, no one was allowed to travel anywhere. And today there are still some restrictions still in place in many countries. Frequent travel is healthy, giving a new perspective and allowing you to recharge. If you can get out every weekend, discover new places in England, and see the sites.

Just make a commitment to travelling and exploring new areas close to you; it need not be abroad or even a “major holiday.” Both are calming and beneficial to your mental health.

Networking is Scary

Networking can create opportunities you never expected

It might be really intimidating to put oneself out there. It’s much simpler to stay at home. But facing your anxiety can be very rewarding because you never know who might be there and what they might be able to do to advance your career. Maybe try going to local networking events or events on subjects you enjoy. Putting yourself out there to be seen. Careers fairs, alumni events or roadshows are all great ways to get out there.

Every Day is (Still) a Learning Curve

Your educational journey never ends. You continuously learn about new professions and sectors, as well as other people’s jobs and ideals. Even though your official education may be over, you will always be learning and evolving, which is both thrilling and fascinating.

Invest in Your Mind

Find a new passion

We’re not specifically talking about money right now (though you can invest that as well). This is referring to fresh information, abilities, and interests. Learn to cook, finish the book you’ve had on the shelf for a year, or start networking. Your brain will start to miss being stimulated by novel information after a while. Finding a fun new passion will be essential to avoiding boredom.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Graduate life is confusing. When you navigate around social media, you’ll see individuals doing all sorts, making it difficult to assess anyone’s level of success. Furthermore, social media fosters the negative habit of making us believe that we’re inferior and that, if we are not performing at their level, we’re slacking.

Remember that their feed is merely a “highlights reel” of their best moments; in reality, they will be experiencing the same difficulties as you. Don’t care about what other people think, because they’ll only be comparing themselves to someone else in the same way you do them.

Career or Job?

Some people complete their education in a field they are passionate about and stay in it for the rest of their lives. But, let’s face it, a sizable portion of graduates find employment in a field unrelated to their field of study. Don’t think that just because you studied science, you must pursue a career in science. Now is the time for you to branch out and consider the possibilities. You’re not lost just because your path is a little different.

Mistakes Are Learning Opportunities

Consider mistakes as “learning opportunities”. Everyone makes them, so when anything goes wrong, step back, evaluate, and try to fix it so it doesn’t happen again. You have so many possibilities open to you that even years after receiving your degree, you could still feel unsure of your future. Remember that it’s natural to feel that way, and you’re not alone.

Millie Fuller graduated from the University of Gloucestershire in 2018 with a degree in Psychology. Her two loves – thinking and creativity – led her to pursue a career in marketing, and later, become a freelance writer.

One thought on “Life after university: ten things I’ve learnt the hard way

  1. Moving from University into the world of work is a daunting prospect and a big change. In my experience working with career finders and career changers, it is very common for graduates to leave University not knowing what they actually want to do for a career. Rather than feel overwhelmed, there are other ways to think about this big step.

    First, remove the pressure off yourself. Your career will start whenever you are ready for it. You don’t need the extra pressure of setting deadlines or comparisons against others. If you need to earn (most people do) then you can find a “stepping stone” job. This is not your career job but a job that pays the bills whilst you are figuring out what you want to do.

    Stepping stone jobs are great for buying yourself some time and gaining experience. The best jobs are those that you enjoy and gain some skills that will transfer well into another role – this can give you a leg-up when it comes to going for your career role. But, a word of advice… don’t get too comfortable and stop looking for the job you want to do as your career. If you do, the job will turn from a stepping stone to a dead end job if you are not careful.

    Above all, work is about finding something you actually enjoy doing. If it pays the bills and you find work rewarding, then that’s not a bad way to start (and continue) a career.

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