Life after university: my advice to recent grads.
Graduating from university is daunting. If you’re as fortunate as I was, university was such an enriching experience and changed the trajectory of my life. Suddenly, it came to quite an abrupt end. My lectures, long days/nights studying in the library, vibrant social life and evenings in with my housemates ended. I packed my bags, looked around the empty, lifeless house and thought about the incredible memories that will always live with me. The next stage didn’t feel like progression— moving back in with my parents, without a full-time job, that would motivate and challenge me.
If you’re a recent grad, you may also feel a little panicked like I did — not sure what job you’d like to do, where you want your career to go and also, I had friends who were looking at me as if to say, ‘I told you so, university was a waste of time’.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a waste of time and it paved the way for a really rewarding career for me. But for recent grads, in particular in a world which sees a global pandemic sweeping the planet and lock-downs, saving lives but at the same time damaging world economies, more than ever they need to prepare.
Here’s my advice to when graduating with no clear career path:
Make the most of your university careers service.
The vast majority of university careers services will help their graduates into employment — in particular, graduate-level opportunities. It’s in your University’s best interest to get their students and graduates into graduate-level jobs. They employ careers advisors, have links with various public and private organisations from various industries and understand the job market. Utilise this service, take on their advice and take up the free opportunities they have available. Universities may hold employability sessions, mentoring programmes for recent graduates and events with employers. Find out what your university offers.
Be open to jobs you wouldn’t consider in the long term.
You may need some extra cash. If you were like me, you’ve spent the last 3+ years blasting your bank account with nights out with mates, and could be a little hard up on cash. Carefully research the jobs available and consider what skills and experience you can gain from those job. It may really surprise you. There are plenty of graduate careers websites out there, acting as a central hub for employers looking to recruit graduates. Some of them include Target Jobs, Graduate-Jobs.com and Prospsects.
Consider training for a particular career.
Some postgraduate qualifications act as conversion courses, training you in certain jobs. You may consider conversion courses in teaching, quantitative surveying, health careers or IT. I would look at a website called Prospects and search for ‘conversion courses’. It might be another year out of work, but there is now funding for postgraduate qualifications which could support you into work whilst you consider what you want to do long-term. This will allow you to access jobs in professional and highly regarded areas, gain desirable skills and experience.
Some careers suit graduates very well, but the job adverts ask for additional requirements such as work experience. If you were really prepared, you may have had the chance to get some under your belt whilst at university. But if not, it’s not the end of the world. You do need to be proactive and resourceful. Find out what’s going on in your local community, organise yourself and contact local organisations to see what they can offer. It is important to research the volunteering opportunity carefully. Ask yourself, before you give up your own time, will this opportunity help me gain the skills and experience I am looking for. There are central volunteering websites that post local opportunities, it just requires a little research.
LinkedIn can be a really useful tool, but sometimes it’s about keeping in contact with your university friends. They’re likely to come from all around the country. Find out what they are doing, how they got there and any advice they could give to help you out. If they’re a good mate, they will bend over backwards to help you.
Look after your mental health.
You’re in a bit of a vulnerable position at the moment. Your life is likely to have drastically changed in a few days. You don’t have assignments to work on and no more student finance coming into your account. Think carefully about how you manage your mental health; be kind to yourself and not judge yourself too harshly. Being kind to yourself also means taking action. You might be feeling a bit anxious about what the future holds, but that feeling of anxiety is an alarm bell that can be used for good. Hopefully, you recognise the alarm bell is there to kick you into action.